It may be January, but May is on my mind. For those of us living in “dance-land,” New Year’s means more than resolutions—it means recital is coming faster than we think! Costumes have been ordered, dates have been set and themes have been announced.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The real recital planning is about to begin and January is the best time to do it.
So come on! Let’s get ahead of the game and plan our best recital yet! There’s no time like the present.
Here are 6 Dance Recital Tips to help you plan a great show.
Make it a date. When I am coaching dance studio owners, I am known for the following phrase, “Plan the work and then work the plan.” The job of putting together a recital may involve hundreds of decisions, but if you sequence the decisions, it will be a lot easier to stay on top of the work. Put deadlines on Google Calendar to hold yourself and your team accountable. For example, at our studio, recital music is due January 1. Parents have until February 1 to submit special requests for recital (school conflicts, etc.). On March 1, rehearsal information and show orders are released. Teachers know that choreography must be complete by April 1 and so on. The beauty of making a calendar is that you can roll most of it over from year to year as well as train your clients to be aware of predictable dates and deadlines.
Practice doesn’t make perfect. Remember the old saying, “Practice makes perfect?” Well, I don’t agree. Practice makes habits (which can be good or bad). Perfect practice makes perfect. If you want to make sure your dancers are actually practicing the right steps, start early by providing access to practice music, notes and/or private YouTube videos. Not every dancer will take advantage of it, but every dancer that does helps makes for a better performance in the end.
Music matters. Spend the time and money necessary to get quality edits of your recital music. If you don’t have the tech skills or software, it’s worth paying to have your music professionally edited and balanced. Even the most well-rehearsed dances will look off to the audience if the music is cut poorly or if the songs are not balanced for highs and lows. Give your students an advantage by cutting your music now so they can practice to the actual cuts of the music from day one.
Service what you sell. Wow your parents by hosting a Costume Construction Day where you make alterations available for no cost to parents. Jazz up the event by inviting your senior dancers to hold a hair and makeup clinic for little ones while they wait for their costumes to be serviced. We have been doing this for over ten years now and it has become one of the most appreciated events of the year for our families.
Step up your production value. Now is the time to identify one specific way you can step up the quality of your production over last year’s show. Maybe you want to run a smoother rehearsal or feature a new check in/check out system for backstage. Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to do a printed recital program or include business ads in the program book. Whatever it is, every new recital is a chance to sharpen your production skills. Pick one aspect of your show and make a memorable improvement.
In the spirit of over-communication….say it again. I didn’t fully realize how important it was to remind parents about important dates and events until I became a parent myself. I used to really wonder how some parents could miss obvious dates like recital ticket sales and picture day. But now that I have five kids between the ages of 5-13, I understand that keeping up with notices from school and events is a part-time job. Use all means possible including an e-newsletter, printed handbooks and social media reminders to keep parents abreast of important dates and information. Informed parents are happy parents. ☺
It’s the holiday season and your dancers are surely excited for winter break. No matter what their backgrounds, kids are always glad to spend time with family and friends and take a break from school! If you want a way to bring some of the seasonal spirit into your studio, check out our tips on fun holiday warm-up music for dance. Dancers will love to sing along to their favorite festive tunes while they stretch and practice the moves for the upcoming show.
However, the issue becomes playing songs that are both appropriate for students and, if yours is not a faith-based arts organization, nondenominational. The Street explained that focusing too much on religious music or decorations in any business can rub certain customers the wrong way and, in extreme cases, end up in court. Here are a few tips on how to keep your holiday cheer appropriate for all your dancers and their families.
Upbeat Songs From Pop Favorites
Many classic holiday tunes express religious sentiments, so they’re not the best choice to play in the studio. Instead, check out some holiday albums from contemporary artists for some holiday songs. These types of tracks usually have lyrics that are relatable to everyone, as well as an upbeat tempo that’s perfect as warm-up music for dance. Women’s Health magazine recommended the following songs to accompany a workout:
“Underneath the Tree” by Kelly Clarkson
“All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey
“My Only Wish (This Year)” by Britney Spears
“Santa Tell Me” by Ariana Grande
Another option is to use instrumental tracks of songs like “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland” or “Deck the Halls.” However, be sure to respect the wishes of any parents or students if they ask you use different songs.
Don’t Forget about Licensing
It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit, but don’t forget you need the proper licensing to play music in the classroom. You might have bought holiday songs through iTunes or another music site, but they’re not licensed for “public” use. Check the details of your blanket business license to see whether your favorite holiday tracks are included. If they’re not, you can always search through royalty free music databases for some comparable tunes. Either way, your dancers will appreciate the change of pace in the classroom, and everyone will get in the holiday spirit!
There are so many audio editing programs on the market, so how are you supposed to find the right one? If you’re looking to take your dance classes’ performances to the next level, you probably want to create some snazzy music mash ups and tweak some recital tunes (just make sure you have appropriate music licensing). There’s a music editing program for just about every skill level and budget that can help you achieve your audio goals. Use these steps to guide you through the process of choosing an editing program.
If you’re new to audio editing, there’s no need to drop big bucks on software. Video Maker explained that you should start out with a inexpensive or free program that fits your most basic needs. Make a list of the tasks you want to accomplish with the music editing program and look for those features. It’s also important to take into account the operating system that you’ll be using to do your editing. There are separate programs for Macs and PCs, and all applications will need a specific processor speed and space on the hard drive. The computer you use needs to be fast enough to run your editing software, else you’ll end up with a lot of frozen screens and headaches.
Try Free Demos
The workflow and design of a music editing program is just as important as its specs. Before you spend money on software, take advantage of any free trials or demos. Most companies will offer a limited version of the program or a timed trial, but you can get a good idea of how user-friendly the software is. You should be able to accomplish your goals quickly and efficiently, with limited help from the instruction manual. Look for a program that feels natural and intuitive for you – those are the ones that are worth spending money on.
If you’re not sure where to start in the search for editing software, ask other studio owners for recommendations. Your peers probably have valuable insight into the pros and cons of different programs.
In an interview with Dance Teacher magazine, Barry Blumenfeld, a dance teacher and professor at New York University, recommended that dance teachers check out the following editing programs.
It might be a process of trial and error, but as long as you take your time and do the necessary research, you’ll find the perfect music editing software. Before you know it, you’ll have the hottest tracks for your students and be the star of your next competition.
If you’re on a tight budget and can’t spare the expense for music licensing, you’ll probably turn to royalty free dance music or public domain dance music for your performances and classes. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get the latest Katy Perry hit, but you can find some fun tunes that your dancers will enjoy – if you know where to look!
Become the Queen of Royalty-Free Music
The key to finding royalty free dance music of high quality is to find the right artist. There are so many aspiring musicians out there that write their own songs, and these are the people you want to work with. For example, composer Kevin MacLeod started a website called Incompetech, where he makes his songs available for people to use. He has a variety of different genres, including pop, rock, jazz and classical. You can also sort through his selection by “feel” – bouncy, calming, mystical and more. There are lots of similar sites around the Internet, so do a little digging. You can also put some feelers out into your community. If there are any aspiring stars with demos out there, they might be willing to partner with you to gain some exposure. As long as their songs are original, they have full say on who can use them.
Another option is to search on Amazon.com, iTunes or Spotify. These music aggregates will often have playlists of royalty-free pieces. You can narrow down your options by song length, genre or cost. If you use one of these sites, chances are you’ll pay for the song. But it will only be a couple dollars, and then you can use the music as much as you’d like.
Or the Princess of Public Domain
Your other option is to search for music that is in the “public domain,” meaning that its copyright has expired. The Public Domain Information Project explained that many song or musical work published before 1922 are considered public domain. However, sound recordings are not. That means you’ll have to find a new recording of an old song. The Public Domain Information Project is a great resource to get you started, as it provides the guidelines of public domain music and an extensive list of songs. You may think that your students will stick their tongues out at such “old” music, but there are a lot of instrumental pieces you can use. Plus this is a great option if you decide to do a throwback performance!
If you’re in the process of planning a big recital, your mind is probably filled with concerns about finances, marketing, instructors, routines and of course, music. With everything you have going on, make sure you prepare ahead of time for the tricky legal issues that surround the music you use in your performances. Here are some basics you need to know about music performance rights in the dance world.
Performing Rights Organizations
The bottom line is that any music played in public is subject to royalties by whoever owns it – and your dance studio qualifies as “public.”
This means that you need to be paying royalties on any music you play during class, in the changing rooms and at performances.
In the U.S., payments you make for music performance rights will be going to one or more of the three major performing rights organizations (PROs), including the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) or SESAC (originally the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers).
Many studio owners ask whether they can choose to pay a license to only one organization, but that’s typically very difficult to do. You’d need to examine the copyright information of each song you play to make sure it’s only licensed through that particular organization, and there’s no guarantee that songs with multiple songwriters will be licensed through only one organization.
Reference links for the three U.S. music licensing organizations can be found below:
ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers)
You may think you don’t need to pay royalties because you already paid for your music, but unfortunately that’s not the case. The Dance Buzz explained that even if you purchased music for private use, when you cross over into public use, you have to pay again.
If you use music without proper authorization, you’ll likely receive a letter from one of the performing rights organization, or you could be sued for copyright infringement. The blog noted that you can be subject to a fine of up to $150,000 per song.
If you’re concerned about how you could possibly pay to use every song in your iPhone, don’t worry. The Dance Buzz explained that most dance studios buy blanket licenses from the different associations, which allow you to use any of their songs as much as you’d like.
Studio owners who are members of various professional organizations sometimes get discounted rates that are based on average class size. However, you’ll need to contact ASCAP, BMI and SESAC for specific prices depending on the music performance rights you need.
We’ve even heard reports that studio owners have been able to negotiate lower blanket rates for blanket licenses, if they reach out to the PRO and ask.
It’s the right thing to do
As a business owners in the arts community, dance studio owners are in a similar position to those who make their living in the music industry. As such, they are in a position to understand that artists of all kinds should be paid for their work.
Just as a choreographer deserves to be paid for their choreography, so do songwriters and performers deserve to be paid for the use of their songs and recordings. And, as noted above, it’s illegal to use someone else’s music without paying the appropriate licenses.
It’s true that some music doesn’t require royalties, and there are several databases where you can sift through royalty-free songs. There are a number of potential reasons why music wouldn’t be subject to copyright, according to the Washington State University.
Copyrights can expire or an author can donate his piece to the public domain. However, most songs are subject to copyright laws up to 70 years after the owner dies.
However you choose to go about choosing music for your studio, keep in mind the associated legal requirements. Honor the legal rights of other creators, and protect yourself and your studio by making sure that all your music is properly licensed.
Note from the editor: This article was updated on 1/17/18 to address common questions from studio owners.