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DSM on dance show


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What sort of dance? Contemporary, ballet, hiphop, jazz? That will make a difference. If it's a ballet, and you read music, get hold of a score and use that as your prompt book. Otherwise, I suspect that timings are the way to go; either start a stopwatch EXACTLY with the start of each track, and call from that, or have the playback equipment next to you so you can see the display and watch the timings on there. If there are lyrics to the music, get hold of them as well. The other option is to get the choreographer to write out a simple version of the choreo - in terms that you can understand, not in "dance"! - and work from that.
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We used to use either:

 

Exact time, read direct off the CD player.

or, if the piece was a bit more "fluid" than that, we actually used to draw little "stickman" figures, or attempt a 4-word description of the "move" at that point.

 

It's a very difficult part of working with dance. Good luck!

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With dance and no score available I suggest you spend as much time in rehearsals as possible.

 

Learn the music by ear and the dancers counts.

 

Suss out who are the most consistent dancers and use them as a reference, once you know them, let them know how impressed you are with their dancing and tell them that you trust them as a point of reference and could they please let you know if they change their routine. (Particularly for couple work) they feel special and you get what you need ( harsh I know!)

 

My books for dance shows tend to involve a lot of "on the 3rd da da da boom" and "after 4x8s"

 

Unless you come from a dance background there's little point in trying to be technical, the swings and assistants will be able to write it in dancer language.

 

Conductors can be a big help too.

 

Last tip is to video run-throughs as they are an invaluable source for that point when you just don't know how to do it.

 

Good luck

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The last DSM I worked with on a dance show took photo of all cue points in rehearsals and put this in her book as well as putting down the CD times, as trying to block the dance moves was a nightmare with up to 20 dancers on stage at any time. Where possible she broke it into sections and gave it a Name so Kate "Jumps and Spins (DSR))

 

The suggestion of video is a great tool, speciality if you need to update your book post rehearsal, plus any lighting people will love it as they can work out lighting effects outside rehearsals and see if effects can work. Just get premission from the cast before you do it. I found it useful as a PM to watch and risk assess cause of my time in the production room dealing with the set build and the accounts.

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I imagine the sound would be played from a multi-track, with a channel of timecode on it.

 

Then the DSM has the cue times written down for each time.

 

You can then put timecode readers around the place wherever you need them (we had them at lights, sound and backstage)

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I'd hate to call that show - because you'd be a slave to the timecode (sorry - not meant as a joke) - distributed timecode or timecode cnveted to DMX would be show control, wouldn't it - and there'd be little point in a traditional DSM - Having a mins:secs:frame display and then having to watch it to call cues would be grim to do - you couldn't watch the action, and look at the display and look at the script with the cue points marked. All the DSM would be doing would be having to advance their brain a tad so they call call on the mark. I don't know any DSMs who'd enjoy this. If you have show control, then the DSM could still call the manual stuff - but much of their job would be automatic.
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  • 3 weeks later...

I know this is going to sound a bit old fashioned but, as far as calling a contemporary show goes; attend rehearsals, get a feel for the pieces and train your eye. The blocking for cue points can be recorded as with a cross for each dancer, pretty much the same as a play.

 

All performers can rush sections or miss parts out altogether which, if your relied solely on timings, would leave you high and dry. I feel that calling from timecode takes the human element out of calling a show - where would DSMs be if everything ran from timecode? I'm really proud that our Stage Management students don't rely on CD times but actually put the effort in and, as our student DSM showed last week, are more than capable of calling a contemporary show with 8 - 10 pieces, up to 30 performers in each piece and over 100 LX cues.

 

Anyway, just my 2 cents...

 

Good luck!

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I don't think it old fashioned at all - DSMs tend to be very 'different' to most other people on the production team. Some people just have the instinctive ability to read, watch and call in an appropriate manner. Being there at the rehearsal phase seems integral to the proper cueing of the show from an artistic point of view. I guess the real issue is when the person calling the show has just seen it once, and from the weird side stage position. In this case, their calling is not based on an artistic understanding of the piece, but whatever cue features are present. So they could be obvious physical action by the performers, musical hit points that both the DSM and the performers are aiming for, or other features that stand out as fixed points around which things happen. I needed to do book cover over Christmas, and as the show was pretty tough, I wasn't looking forward to it. I'd already worked out that the written info in the book seemed to be not based around events that I'd seen sitting in the audience - so knowing I had 4 performances to learn from, I took a script, a receiver for the comms line so I could hear the dsm, and then I sat in the audience and wrote my own book. I'd hear the standby, write it down, and then mark the script where I would hit the cue, seeing or hearing the result. After running a few times, I was pretty sure my version would work for me. After I did the two shows, I compared my book with his. I'd very often taken my cue from the action, but he'd got it on a word cue, or I'd use something the dancers did, but he'd counted 6 bars from an obvious musical cuepoint. I simply had to do it - no choice, but using my own method. I couldn't follow somebody elses - well not and get it right!

 

I'll not mention that he also wrote very, very small, and I've just started to need to wear glasses and some bits I couldn't have read, even if I'd wanted to!

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