Thursday, August 5, 2010

We All “Pay To Play” (originally posted on 3/18/08)

It doesn’t matter where you are in this community, we all “pay to play” and I’m sick of the phrase being used as a means to be a snide ass and downgrade events for any number of excuses.

From the student to the teacher, the vendor to the event producer, we all invest money for our art, there’s nothing free about what we do, whether we do it as professionals or hobbyists, for enjoyment, for profit.

A growing number of events *across the world* stipulate that in order to perform at an event, those who actively participate in the event, whether by taking workshops, vending, or volunteering, get first dibs at the performance slots. Why? Because those people are *actively* investing in the event – and not just monetarily. Why is this an issue? Because a LARGE amount of people see the event solely as a opportunity for them to dance. Not to learn something new, or network with others, but as a possible “free” means to showcase their asses on stage. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hafla or major festival, there are always those people who show up just in time to dance and then leave as soon as they’re done. For a very small percentage, there’s a good reason – family commitment, another gig that just showed up, etc….but besides that VERY small percentage, there’s no good excuse.

If you’re going to spend X amount of dollars to drive to someplace to dance for free, and claim you have lots of other paying gigs you have to attend, so you can’t take a workshop or watch anyone else, then perhaps you shouldn’t be dancing at the event in the first place. You really want to make a name for yourself in the community? Take an ACTIVE part. Watch other dancers performing. Take a workshop—the best dancers, those who have been dancing for decades, they STILL take workshops…if you think you’re too good to take a workshop, especially when you have 10-50 to chose from, then there’s no loss in your absence on the stage. If you don’t have $30 to spend on a workshop, then you certainly don’t have $30 in gas to get there, or $100 to spend on jewelry or pants. Yet, I’m amazed when I see people who harp incessantly about how broke they are, they can’t take a workshop, and then I see them uploading big bucks on costuming at the event.

I love the shinies myself, but no amount of shinies can replace knowledge. A single move or a new twist or thought process that can be added to your vocabulary, that improves and enhances your performance will last you much longer than a pair of pants or a pair of earrings.

Last year, I heard from several mouths that they didn’t even bother taking the workshop they had signed up for, they just wanted to dance. (In one or two of those instances, the individuals bought a workshop they knew they couldn’t attend, in support of that instructor, which is a nice sentiment, and I understand it, but the rest…) I don’t even have words for that. Just cringing.

Money is not an excuse if you’re an active dancer who wants to perform. Regardless of your budget. There’s always something to be done at a festival.

And if you have some sort of concept that event producers are just making money hand over first at events at your expense, that tells me you’ve never held a real event ever.

A large event venue, depending on where it is costs several thousand dollars to rent for a single whole day. Then there’s the lighting…because we know as dancers, we like to be seen on stage, and we want GOOD lighting, not crappy lighting that makes us look sallow and ill. That’s several hundred dollars easily. And then there’s the sound…you want your music to sound good? So that means at least 2 monitor main speakers and a subwoofer. Oh, you want to hear the music yourself on stage? Add two more monitors for the stage. You really want to hear the bass? Add another subwoofer. Plus the amps, mixer, and cd-players. Easily a 10,000 investment, and most places rent equipment out at 10-20% of the total retail cost, per day. And the guy to run it *who knows what he’s doing*.

As a vendor, I have never said, “you should let me in for free, because I’m the reason you make money.” So when I hear dancers say that for festivals line-ups, I’d like to enlighten them. As a vendor, I’m there to make money, and I understand that my investment helps pay for the space which provides the venue for the event to take place. No event, no place to vend, no money to make. It’s a communal system. We ALL contribute, from the paying attendee to the performer, vendor, teacher, and producer.

Everyone bitches about the Rakkasah call-in. But you want to dance for free and get in for free? That’s the system they use to decide who dances. And everyone bitches about the quality of dancing, etc. Did you know that people who sign up for the workshop series get a performance slot and first dibs (besides the teachers)? Most people seem to ignore that fact. Those that invest the time and money get rewarded. Sounds fair to me.

You want a better show? Then the performers are hand-picked by the producer. OR you can increase the chances of better performances by rewarding those who make the investment in the event. There’s nothing crooked about it. People who plan on performing months in advance are far more likely to put a lot more effort into their performance.

People who play an active part in an event show that they care, and these are the people who are known in the community. The majority of successful workshop leaders out there, who have been out there, and continue to be successful at it, they understand community. They foster it at home and abroad. Money isn’t the bottom line for them. We all appreciate money, and so does the electric and gas companies, and our landlords..but if we were doing it for the money alone, we wouldn’t be doing this very long. It’s our love of the dance and our commitment to it. It’s what drives us to be insane enough to hold events and try to foster community. Cause it ain’t the money.

So if you think investing in your dance career is “pay to play”, you’re right. No matter what the event is, we’re all paying in some way to be there – we pay for lessons, costuming, music, etc. All the money we invest, we get something for it – knowledge, adornment, the opportunity to perform and to grow.

If you don’t see that in any respect, then I don’t think I want to see you dance.

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