Host to Get the Most: Planning your Guest Artist’s Visit

by Kimberly Fitch

A few weeks ago, we explored the awesome advantages of bringing in guest artists to work with the dancers you’re molding. So,  you’ve decided to take the plunge. Whoo hoo!

Now, you need to decide who to bring in and how to make the most of their visit. This multi-step, foolproof guide will make it easy breezy! Learn how to choose your choreographer, how to make their visit most productive and what to do once they leave. Let’s go!

STEP ONE: CHOOSING THE RIGHT CHOREOGRAPHER

DIFFERENT IS GOOD

“Hire a choreographer who’s style is similar to yours so it’s easier to
win!” Yep, I heard that recently. Nope, I don’t agree. Why bring someone in to do exactly what you would do? If you bring in many guest choreographers each year, sure throw one in the mix, but if not branch out so you can challenge your dancers and diversify your repertoire. Also,
explore different genres. If your dancers don’t do theater pieces have a guest set a musical theater dance! Tap not your forte? Bring someone in. Shake things up a bit!

WELCOME TO ONLINE DANCE DATING

You Tube. Facebook. Google. Instagram. Email blasts. Answers 4 Dancers. dance.net. Look up who is teaching at the professional studios in NYC, LA & Chicago. See something you love on YouTube? Find out who created it and contact them. It’s the age of finding things you love online, cyberstalking and then “liking” “following” “connecting” “pinning” or “favoriting” them. Research and reach out to find your new love!

DON’T BE SHY

I get contacted by studios who have taken my convention classes or have
seen my pieces at competitions constantly. Don’t be shy! If your students loved a class or you enjoy a choreographer’s style go for it! There is an added confidence knowing that you already have an idea of what you are getting. Love a piece at competition? Who did it? Bring ‘em in! Ask other studio owners about their experiences. Young, eager choreographers are hungry so feed them! Don’t automatically assume they are too busy or outside your budget.

BIGGER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER

While speaking on a panel at the Dance Teachers Summit last month the question, “How are studios that can’t afford “Big Name” ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ choreographers supposed to compete by using “Small Names”?” Newsflash: the size of one’s name is not a direct reflection of their talent! Furthermore, choreography is not like heart surgery. If you did not graduate from med school I would not trust you with my aorta. If
you have not been on STYTCD I would trust you with my dancers. Remember, all “big names” were once “small names” and being a part of their journey kinda rocks! Of course, using well known choreographers is also a great option, but don’t feel limited to them.

CASE & POINT: In The Pros of Hosting a Pro Series I mentioned Andy Blankenbuehler in Pro #8 Developing Relationships. He visited Little Red Dancing School when I was in high school to set a piece on us. He was a friend of Ms. Lisa Allain (our studio owner) and at the time he was a
dancer auditioning and performing in NYC and choreographing at studios between gigs. Today he is one of Broadway’s most sought after choreographers, a Tony Award Winner and yes, he has been on STYTCD.

That same year, this guy Jason, who graduated from our studio a few
years prior, set a piece while he was in town visiting his family for Christmas, before he headed back to rehearse with a new company his friend Mia was starting. Nobody knew their names then, but today you may have you heard of Mia Michaels or Jason Parsons. Anyways, we won
1st Overall Large and Small Group with Andy and Jason’s two pieces, both choreographed by “small name” choreographers.

CONNECTION

Immediate connections are awesome! A personal connection is not a necessity for booking your guest artist though! When I visit Studio A I stay with the owner, we have a glass of wine at night and talk about everything under the sun. When I visit Studio B the owner’s assistant shuttles me between airport, hotel and studio and she pops in to see the piece and hand me a paycheck. I am perfectly happy in both situations. The connection that matters is the connection your students will have in the studio with the piece. You do not need to be a member of the choreographer’s future bridal party or go on vacay with them next year. I do consider many clients to be friends because we’ve built incredible relationships over the years, but they are built out of mutual respect for each other’s work.

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