Sunday, June 27, 2010

How to Ensure Chaos at a Year End Dance Show

Two years ago I blogged about creating chaos at a year end gymnastics show.  It was actually the most hits I ever got in a day on this blog because some rather well-known gymnastics coach, with whom I have no affiliation, posted a link to it on his website.

As one commenter, Annie said  "I think your gymnastics school and my dance school have the same business plan."  Turns out this year, Annie's daughter had a  painful experience at her dance school this year, due to the same organizational issues.

Little did I know, I would experience more of the chaos creating administravia.  So I am coming out with Chaos 2.0, how to ensure chaos at a year end dance show:

1. Make everyone thinks you are organized by sending a letter in September with the June dates of the dress rehearsal, technical rehearsal and performances. Make a big point of pointing out the importance of these dates. NO ONE SHOULD FORGET THEM.  MARK YOUR CALENDARS NOW.

2. Ensure that everyone at the dance school forgets about the dress rehearsal and has blank look on their face when asked about it.

3. Pretend that size matters when it comes to dance costumes. Have everyone measured in November for their June costumes.

4. Ensure that one small 6 year old who ordinarily wears clothes sized 3x to 6 gets a size 11/12 costume.  It also helps if you distribute the costumes at the latest possible moment, even though the costumes are on hand for  months.

5. When a size 8/10 becomes available for the small 6 year old and a seamstress measures for alterations, make sure that she only shortens the sleeves and legs.  The fact that the costume is 2 inches too long and 2 wide in the torso is of no consequence to anyone but the poor mother, who has so few sewing skills she staples or tapes hems rather than sews them, has to try to pin costume to fit.

6. Make sure the seamstress does not take the costumes home to alter so that the costumes are not available to try on any time before the fancy photo shoot. Also ensure costumes are in flimsy bags so pieces can easily fall out.

7. Send out email one month before the photo shoot weekend that the must be available for pictures in June, but don't tell anyone when they have to show up.  Make them block off the entire weekend because it's June and really no one should have anything else going on for any family member in June. If any agitated parents shoot any emails, first ignore them. When pressed make promises like "the info is coming out soon".  You can reassure parents by saying "we never send this information out early".

8. When the photo weekend arrives and costumes are finally available, if anyone sees a bag of "extra" costume parts which fell out of the flimsy bags, the MOST IMPORTANT THING is that every costume bag has three pieces. It does not matter that a little girl whose size 8 pants are supposed to be tailored down to a size 5 gets size 10 pants. What is important is that there are pants in every bag.  The pants don't need to match the top of fit the girl to whom they are intended.  Make sure if any parent is at all perturbed by the fact that her daughter has to again walk around holding her pants up, absolutely no one is available to deal with this.  You may not be able to help if the overworked seamstress and dance Mom does know what is going on and is able to facilitate a switch in pants.

9. Make an arbitrary rule that no one can get their individual photo taken unless their parent has already paid for it, but do not tell anyone about this rule. A few parents will hear about it from other parents in the know (Thanks C!)  but most will hear when it's too late. Do not let anyone pay for the photos early, like the week before.  This would reduce the amount of chaos that would happen when you have multiple groups of girls finding costumes, getting changed, getting makeup and false eyelashes applies and hair done up in specified formations. 

10. When anyone asks about the year end show, under no circumstances are you to tell anyone what night their child may be dancing, even if they might want out of town grandparents to attend.  Do not even know how many nights the kids will be dancing (or if you do, don't reveal that information). Or make guesses like "I think it will be just one night" or "I assume that she'll be dancing Thursday and Friday".

11. About two weeks before the show, send out a email and tell people where the show will be, but don't give the time.  Tell families they will have an initially minimal allotment of tickets, but don't tell them how many tickets are allotted. It's much more chaotic to require families to email requesting these details and for you to have to send a second email.

12. This part is very, very important.  Make sure that on the weekend when you are doing all the photos and  taking secret payments for the photos, make this the time when people must buy their allotment of tickets so the lineup will be snaking through the tiny waiting room. This ensures the staff, though giving it their level best, will be most frazzled.

13.  When people come to buy their tickets, do no give them a receipt or anything that acknowledges how many tickets they have purchased.

 14.  If you really want to be considerate of families, on Sunday night phone families who have not purchased tickets.  But call at least one family who DID buy tickets and tell them they should buy tickets before they run out.  Make sure you call the cell phone and not the home (main) contact number when anyone would be sure to get the message.

15.  When one of the families calls back after receiving the message that they should buy tickets, to say that they already purchased tickets, say to them "yes, you have 4 tickets for Saturday night" and when they say "no, 2 tickets for Thursday and 2 tickets for Saturday" express doubt. Confirm their name by giving them the name of someone else.

16. On opening night of the performances, have three lines: one to pick up tickets from the box office; one to check in dancers and one for people lining up to enter the theatre.  Have all these three lines going the same direction.  When people are streaming into the lobby, it is important that you have no one giving directions so people will have to wander around, even after the lineups have been separated, to try to divine just where they should be. Sure, families that have done dance shows before will figure it out, but it will seem and feel very chaotic for any families new to dance shows.

17.  Back stage, make sure that large numbers of girls are packed into one room. Don't have any official supervision.  Just hope that enough parents show up to keep the girls under control.

18.  At intermission, be VERY suspicious of any parents who want to go backstage and pick up their children, because taking a 6 year old home at 9:15 on a school night, instead of 11 p.m., is really something surprising.

19.  When that same parent goes to look for her 6 year old and she is not in her assigned room, or any other room or hallway, don't have anyone she can ask.  If a teacher does happen on the scene have her say very quickly "she should be in there", and point to one of the rooms the parent has checked 5 times, and run off. It's important that absolutely no one show any concern over a missing 6 year old.

20.  Allow at least one 6 year old to sneak out by "security" to see her grandparents in the lobby at intermission. This would be the same security that was loathe to let parents in to find their child. 

21.  Even with all this chaos you will not be able to help putting on a charming, funny and remarkable show.  The kids will make it so.  Despite the chaos.

[In the interests of full disclosure, by the final night of the show, they had the three line ups clearly delineated, and had the long queue for people lining up for good seats OUTSIDE the theatre. That meant much less chaos inside. Someone was posted at the door to direct people. And they have 2 people checking in the dancers.  So I give full credit for improvements.  Of course, this is not the first year of this dance company, and one might be tempted to ask why they didn't learn these things from last year]

1 comment:

annie said...

There are many problems with dance schools but the biggest is that they tend to be run by people who view it as a part time job rather than a full time one. The buck should stop with the studio owner and she - in my experience with two of the three studios Katherine has attended - should realize that being the owner means being organized, listening (even solicting) feedback and suggestions, constantly perfecting and not treating your customers as though they were a captive audience.

The last thing is crucial because in small towns, you are hostage to the one or two studios available and they know it. Hence, they don't have to try very hard.

Katherine will be taking classes at another school next fall, They run sessions and there is no competition or end of the year nonsense.

Oh, and the other thing is that most parents simply put up with the disorganization and being treated like a checkbook. No one speaks up or talks out of turn. It's maddening to watch grown women reduced to whispering mutinously amongst themselves instead of telling a teacher or the owner that they are wrong - or full of it - or even "no".