I am a coordinator for a dance team right now, but I'm scared that I won't be able to lead my team correctly. Do you have any tips on running practices or being a leader? Thank you!" Coordinately Uncoordinated
Dear Coordinately Uncoordinated,
Being a leader in any role has roughly the same steps, but will probably test you the most in a dance team. Being a dancer on a team is largely based on passion rather than obligation, so it may be a challenge to reel in some of your members. But fear not! Here are some tools I’ve picked up coordinating teams and people.
ALWAYS be prepared. Always. This can only be achieved by being on top of everything, or being on top of those that are in charge of certain areas. Never expect someone in their role to take initiative. Sometimes they will, but better to be cautious. In the many projects I have helmed if you don’t explicitly tell someone what to do, it will not get started. Have a good understanding of how you want practice to be run, what pieces you will tackle, or who will be teaching and make sure they know what they’re teaching. The more you micromanage, the smoother practice will run and you will look professional to your dancers.
As mentioned before, you will get last minute notifications that some integral part of your block cannot make practice, or that you need to change your sets theme. Be prepared to deal with excuse after excuse from school work, to jobs, to family functions. It happens, so take it in stride and power on. Even if everything looks set in stone, it helps to have a backup plan. Work on another block or work on improving your teams chemistry. The good news is there is always something to improve if you look for it, so strive to have some ideas if everything falls through for upcoming practice.
If you tell the team to be on time and people aren’t, enforce punishments. Make sure to be crystal clear with this, and make sure you lead by example.
The first person there to rehearsal and the last to leave should be you the majority of the time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a team and expected to be on time stretched and to be ready to go, only to watch to coordinator be off to the side not participating in anything, or missing practices on a whim, or to make final edits to mixes or whatnot. This only sends a resounding message to me: the director is unprepared and/or uninterested. As soon as this happens even once, BAM! I’m immediately less dedicated. Practice what you preach and strive to be the most dedicated to your team.
Ultimately, you call the shots. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t listen to suggestions. Sometimes, a weak dancer just needs that boost of encouragement to take them from back left of the blocks to core. Maybe a dancer has a great suggestion to help out in the set or the costumes. Like any team be it on the dance floor or in the workplace, every piece is what makes the big picture come together, and a director that can listen to their teammates is one that has success in their mind.
Make it known to your team that you are open to their suggestions and input because sometimes it can be hard to approach a leader that is too intimidating. Once the opportunity arises, learn how to effectively communicate to your team by using role models or past experiences after genuinely listening to the concerns of your comrades to assure them they are in good hands.
In my opinion, this is the hardest part for any coordinator. How do you find the balance between keeping the passion to dance alive and working hard to have a clean set? How much goofing off do you allow during practice, if at all? Have fun, but be on your game. If learning a piece and chatter is getting too far out of hand, take action.
You have to have what I call, “Mom Mentality”. A group of friends can’t be quiet? Split em up. Your choreographer taking all practice to teach a piece? Help them out. You can do this in a way that’s positive by being enthusiastic and offering help rather than dictating what to do. Preparing for an upcoming show can be pressing and you may want to drill set after set at the end of the night, but think about it: Do you really need that extra run through for your set after everyone’s dying? Your dancers could be doing anything else besides be at practice, but they are there devoting their time and putting their lives on hold to make practice. If you burn out your dancers for cleanliness, you may not see a large flock of returners the next season, and that’s a goal too, right?
Do you have any additional tips from experience you can share? Add to the list by commenting below! Another important thing to consider as a leader of a dance team is to cultivate positive relationships with your team. Check out how to do that by clicking here!