Every big “Urban Dance” dance team* – which we will refer to in this post as an “Urban dance team” – operates somewhat like a proper business organization. For all intents and purposes, a dance team is a professional organization: a group of like-minded people who work together to accomplish a shared goal. Dance teams have leaders, rituals, rules, and expectations – major components of professional companies.

Of course, not all dance teams were fully developed in the beginning. They were largely groups of friends coming together casually to create dance routines for local performances. Over time, leaders of these teams figured out which goals, values, artistic choices, and leadership structures resonated most with their dancers. These decisions became the organizational foundation for the Urban dance team framework.

When you read the stories of these teams, you might notice that success as a team is independent of location! You don’t have to live in Los Angeles or another major city in order to lead a dance team of comparable size and impact.

However, you may find little guidance in operating an Urban dance team. There’s an overwhelming number of moving parts and you might be unsure where to start or how to do certain things.

So I’ll break it down for you.

I’ve been a dancer on 220 (San Diego), The GOOD Project (Irvine), Mischief Makers (Los Angeles), and Culture Shock LA (Los Angeles). The following are the things I’ve learned from being on different dance teams along with tips I’ve picked up from other directors in the community and from our instructors on STEEZY Studio. There are many ways to run an Urban dance team – hopefully this guide will provide some insight on many of the important elements of a successful organization.

 

The Complete Guide to Directing an Urban Dance Team

urban dance team

1. Structuring Your Leadership

Some teams are able to operate with just one or two directors. If you’re putting together something simple – let’s say, a medley of your own choreography for a video or performance – then you’ll most likely be able to handle it on your own.

But if you want your team to expand, you’re definitely gonna need more help.

Most of the teams I’ve been on have a whole board of operations that handle the different facets of the team:

Executive / Creative Team

  • Directors – typically the founders of the team or dancers that were chosen to become Directors through an internal application and interview process after several years of being a team member.
    • Responsible for producing the choreography performance set by deciding on what theme, music, costumes, pieces, and props to use.
    • Choreographs pieces in the set themselves or delegates choreography responsibilities to other team members (or externally-hired choreographers)
  • Artistic Advisor – if Directors are the writers, then the Artistic Advisors are the editors.
    • Responsible for overseeing the creative elements of a set (choreography, formations, costumes, music mixes, etc.)
    • Many teams may have previous Directors stick around as Artistic Advisors (or whatever they choose to call them) to assist the current Directors with anything they may overlook. Arguably, there’s no one better to consult than the people responsible for building the team in the first place!
  • Dance Captain – the Dance Captain (or Rehearsal Director) helps runs the rehearsals.
    • Responsible for warm-ups, stretching, announcing the rehearsal agenda, and cleaning choreography.
    • Basically, they Emcee the whole rehearsal. (See 3. How to Run Rehearsals)
    • At times, this role may be fulfilled by the Directors themselves!

Administrative Team

These people work behind the scenes to make rehearsals, performances, and activities/events possible.

Responsibilities include:

  • Booking studio space
  • Planning auditions (See 2. How to Hold Auditions)
  • Applying for competitions
  • Planning rehearsal itineraries
  • Organizing fundraisers (See 7. Operations and Fundraisers)
  • Budgeting the team’s money
  • Facilitating communication within the team leadership
  • Facilitating the team’s communication (See 8. Internal Communication)

Media Team

When I was on 220, my teammate Jeremy Fabunan would bring his camera to rehearsals to record our run-throughs so that we could all watch and critique the set. He also took candid photos and captured funny moments to meme-ify! Now, he’s a professional cinematographer & editor. You might recognize his work for Keone and Mari’s concept videos (including their wedding video!)

If you have people on your team who are already interested in media, then this is the perfect role for them.

If not, you can scale down their responsibilities to make them more manageable. For example, using an expensive, high-quality camera is not necessary! They can use readily available tools like smartphone cameras, tripods, and simple editing tools to record run-throughs and take fun photos.

Responsibilities include:

  • Taking photos and videos at rehearsals, performances, and events for the team
  • Designing and editing marketing materials like flyers, apparel, and promotional videos for the Marketing Team
  • Composing video collages to preserve and display team memories

Marketing Team

These people get the word out on what your team is up to! They work with the Media Team to manage the team’s online brand presence.

Responsibilities include:

  • Creating and maintaining the team’s website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts (and other platforms too!)
  • Posting promotions for:
    • Auditions
    • Upcoming performances
    • Fundraisers
    • Workshops and classes where team members are teaching
    • Team member birthdays & other personal events

Social (Internal) Chair

This is the social butterfly that always gets the team to eat out together after rehearsals. (See 9. Rituals)

Since all teams have unique personalities and unique activities they prefer, the following are some examples of this position’s responsibilities:

  • Planning team retreats and bonding activities
  • Booking hotels or AirBnBs where the team can stay after performances
  • Creating and implementing season-long rituals such as:
    • Secret buddies / gift-giving
    • Team chants
    • Ordering custom team memorabilia

Utilizing Your Talent

Don’t limit your leadership to these roles or this structure! Utilize the talents of every single person whether they have an official title or not.

For example, Culture Shock LA has DJs on the team who always mix the set music. I used to do special effects makeup for our performances. The GOOD Project had a prop manager who helped transport and set up the props. I have friends who are fashion stylists that create lookbooks for their team’s costumes and take everyone’s measurements to buy/make the costumes themselves.

Responsibilities can also be fluid! For example, if the Artistic Advisor is more qualified to design the team apparel than the Marketing Team, then they should be given the opportunity! Ultimately, it’s more important for everyone to use their strengths to support the team regardless of what their official positions are.

Interning / Shadowing

The process of passing on these roles plays a huge part in the team’s longevity. You don’t want a dance team that dies out in 3 years because the one director who did everything decided to leave without grooming a successor.

The teams I’ve been on implemented some type of training for the next person taking over a role. These intern/shadowing opportunities are a great way to smooth over the transition as duties are passed on from one person to the next.

There are a couple of approaches to these transitions. You can either take applicants for general leadership and have a selected group sit in on meetings or directly mentor specific people to take on each job.

However you help the next person learn, make sure they feel confident to jump into the next season on their own!

 

2. How to Hold Urban Dance Team Auditions

Planning for Urban Dance Team Auditions

Step 1: Book a location

  • This can be the studio where your team usually practices.
  • Gyms and parking structures work too!

Step 2: Select teachers

  • Choose choreographers from the team who will be teaching the audition piece(s).
  • The teacher(s) are typically the directors or other prominent choreographers from the team.
    • You want to choose choreographers who embody the team’s style and serve as a good example for other team members.
    • Those auditioning should be able to demonstrate their ability to execute and adapt to the team’s style through the piece(s).
      • For example, GRV wouldn’t teach a ballet piece for their auditions since that wouldn’t show them who can execute their hard-hitting style.

Step 3: Create promotional materials

These may include, but are not limited to:

To attract the attention of more people, have your team members share the promotional materials on their social media accounts as well!

You might also consider using on the oldest and most reliable marketing technique in the world: word-of-mouth. People hesitant about auditioning but feel like they’ve made a connection with the team by speaking with someone on the team are more likely to give it a shot.

Step 4: Make an itinerary and get supplies

An audition is an event so plan it like one. Visualize every single part of it and make a shopping list of what you need to bring or prepare.

Supplies may include, but are not limited to:

  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Clipboards
  • Speakers (if none are readily available)
  • Audition forms
    • Include basic demographics: name, date of birth/age, e-mail address/phone number, etc.
    • You should also ask questions regarding past dance experience, availability, schedule conflicts, and other questions to get to know them.
  • Critique forms for the judging panel
    • Include quantitative feedback (i.e. a 1-5 rating system or a “strongly recommend > do not recommend” scale)
    • Also include qualitative feedback (i.e. space for comments)
    • Numbers help make a quicker yes/no decision and comments help the deliberation process if someone is a “maybe”
  • Liability waivers
    • Teams may not usually do this but it’s a good idea to clear it with whatever studio or space you’re using.
  • Number tags and safety pins
    • Have people put on their numbers after they finish learning the piece or else they fall off way too early!
  • Water for the choreographers
  • Cameras to record each group
  • Tape to mark where the dancers should stand for groups

Step 5: Delegate roles and responsibilities

Some teams have a “once you’re in, you’re in” philosophy where you don’t have to audition again after being accepted. If that’s the case, then you can ask any of your teammates to help with the next season’s auditions!

But if you want all or some of your dancers to re-audition, then have your leadership team run the event.

  • 2-3 people to run the registration table
    • Hand out forms and number tags + safety pins
    • Take photos of each person auditioning
    • If necessary, collect the audition fee (auditions can be great fundraisers for the team!)
  • 1 person to Emcee the whole event
    • It’s important that people know what’s happening – auditions are already nerve-wracking; be transparent about the process!
    • Introduce the leadership / judging panel
    • Keep up the energy and morale for auditonees
  • 1 person to play music for the choreographers during teaching AND for each audition group
    • This is actually very important to have – both the teaching and audition process goes a lot smoother without someone running back and forth to play music.
  • 1 person to be the liaison between the judging panel and auditionees
    • Call up the numbers for the dancers in each group
    • Collect and organize the audition forms and judging forms

Urban Dance Team Audition Day

An audition is a test to see if someone is a good fit for your team. You can choose to do this in a way that best demonstrates for the specific qualities that your dance team is looking for.

For example, if you want your dancers to have fast choreo pick-up, teach the audition piece more quickly. If personality is important, implement an interview. If your team is based on freestyle, allocate more time to a cypher.

Registration

  1. Set up a table where auditionees check in.
    1. Give everyone a number tag to wear when they are in groups.
    2. Hand out audition forms (you may find it useful to upload it online and have people fill it out beforehand)
    3. As they turn in their forms,
      1. Mark the paper with their number as they turn it in
      2. Take a photo of each auditionee holding their number
  2. Start with an ice breaker or warmup – this helps get everyones’ jitters out!
  3. Teach the audition piece(s).

Groups

  • After the auditionees are finished learning the piece, you can either have everyone sit down in the same studio or funnel everyone into a different room (for more privacy).
    • Having everyone in the same studio is great for energy but might make people more nervous.
    • On the other hand, isolating each group can help remove distractions but increase the pressure from the judges– I’ve seen both work equally well!
  • Call up groups of ~5 auditionees at once to perform the piece(s) in front of the panel of judges.
  • Have the group switch lines.
  • When performing the piece(s) a second time, let the music play for an additional 2 8-counts and have the dancers freestyle.

Blocking Projects

  • Some auditions have their auditionees break off into different groups of ~5-10 dancers and block the audition piece with a minimum amount of formation changes.
  • This helps you see how each dancer works in a group – who takes charge, who comes up with ideas, and who is not a team player.
  • Give around 30 min. to 1 hour for the blocking and then go through the same Groups process as described above (without switching lines & freestyling)

Cuts/Callbacks

  • You can have everyone go through the entire audition process or you can implement sequential cuts.
    • This works well if there are too many auditionees and you want to focus on certain people.
    • If you are on the fence about some dancers, you might consider using callbacks to see certain people dance again
  • A cut can happen after the first round of groups.
    • Call out the numbers for dancers that made it to the next round.
    • Thank everyone who didn’t get called for showing up and encourage them to keep training and audition for the next season (or mid-year auditions, if you plan on having them).

Freestyle / Cypher

  • You can also set aside time at the end of the audition process (after groups and/or blocking projects) for a freestyle circle.
  • This is a great chance for people to shine if they messed up during groups or are stronger in freestyle than choreography.

Interviews

  • Some teams have interviews in their audition process to learn things about the auditionee that you can’t learn through the audition form or from their dancing.
    • Questions can be about their future goals, potential scheduling conflicts, or to just scope out their personalities.
  • Interviews are great if your team has a specific, defined culture.
    • For example, someone who is sensitive and just dances for fun would not do well on a super competitive team.
    • Although you may try to be as objective as possible, we’re all ultimately human – you should be honest and subjective when it comes to assessing people’s personalities and how they may or may not fit with the team!

Audition Results

You can announce who made it onto the new team in a number of ways.

  • Post the roster online
    • As a text post on Facebook
    • As a graphic on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
  • Call or e-mail individual members and congratulate them!
  • Invite individual members into a Facebook Group (or whatever medium you primarily use to communicate with the team) (See 8. Internal Communication))

Or a combination of any/all of these.

For example, when I made it onto 220, I got a phone call from the directors and was invited into the new team’s Facebook Group that same night. For Culture Shock LA, the roster for the new team was posted on Instagram!

3. How to Run Urban Dance Team Rehearsals

Rehearsal flows vary drastically per team depending on your goals.

For this section, we’ll focus on tips for running rehearsals when your dance team is creating a performance set (See 4. How to Make a Performance Set)

Tips for Organizing Urban Dance Team Rehearsals

During meetings with the Creative / Executive Team, establish your long-term goals. This means creating monthly and even yearly plans. Having a calendar at each meeting is very helpful.

Write down every single performance the team plans to do and work backwards to set dates.

Hypothetically, let’s say a show is on December 5 and it takes your team ~3 months to create a set.

Plan to start rehearsals in early September and prepare a schedule for each rehearsal.

For example:

September 16 – Choreo Day to showcase team’s choreography and decide which pieces to use

September 18 –  Learn pieces 1 & 2, announce set theme to team

September 21 – Cast piece 1, review piece 2, learn piece 3

October 22 – Block and clean Piece 2, rest of team review, full cast run-through

Some teams have “full cast” rehearsals where the entire team is expected to be present at every rehearsal no matter what.

Other teams may utilize “sectionals” – rehearsals that only work on the cast of a specific part of the set. If other people are going to be sitting around feeling like they’re wasting their time, then it may be better to funnel their energy into the rehearsals where they will actually be productive. If so, your schedule may look like this instead:

October 22 – Piece 2 cast sectional only, tell rest of the team to rest

Tips for Running Urban Dance Team Rehearsals

Establishing and maintaining a consistent yet adaptable rehearsal structure is key. It gives your dancers a routine and rhythm to adhere to, making it easier to prepare for each rehearsal ahead of time.

  • Start with some sort of introductory activity!
    • This helps everybody switch their mentalities and get on the same page.
    • For example, The GOOD Project splits its members into “tribes” of 4-6 members. At the beginning of each rehearsal, each “tribe” performs a fun and unique roll callthis kickstarts the energy and also helps Captains keep track of attendance!
  • GET A WHITEBOARD!
    • Write down what the rehearsal plan is and keep it visible during rehearsal.
    • Announce the agenda to the team and discuss it in more detail so everyone is well-informed.
    • Transparency gives your dancers a sense of authority and helps keep everybody accountable.
    • Feel free to add other things to the whiteboard like inspirational quotes.
  • WARM-UP AND STRETCH TOGETHER!
    • This is critical for optimal performance and preventing injury.
    • You can kills two birds with one stone by drilling foundational techniques for your warm-up (i.e. grooves, popping/hitting drills, house techniques, etc.)
    • You may consider more intense conditioning (i.e. core workouts, running, etc.) for warm-ups as well.
    • You can also use this to generate positive momentum – play some hype songs that people love and have everyone actively engaged in this preparation!
  • DANCE!
    • Lead the team in training foundational techniques or reviewing choreography.
    • Teach choreography, lead improv/freestyle exercises, or cypher!
    • Clean/block pieces! If you’re cleaning pieces, use this collaborative method.
  • End rehearsal together by circling up.
    • Thank the team for a productive rehearsal or suggest ways the team can improve on their work ethic.
    • Make announcements!
      • Plans for upcoming rehearsals
      • Cover logistic issues like fees, costumes, etc.
      • Notify members of upcoming workshops or events
    • Consider opening up time for members to make personal announcements unrelated to the team.
    • Team chant/call-out!

This is just a general layout of how a typical rehearsal may be run.

Take the initiative to try out different agendas and experiment with what works best for your leadership and your members!

4. How to Make a Performance Set

Building a performance can and should be a fun process! How it turns out will depend on the resources that you have available and the motivation you inspire within your team.

It’s crucial that you take a step back and assess things such as choreographers, creative direction, props, etc. Brainstorming amongst your artistic leaders doesn’t always have to be draining and extensive.

Putting pressure on yourselves to conjure up brilliant set ideas can hinder you. The best ideas come when everyone is open-minded and enjoying the discussion. It’s also possible the a simple idea can become an unforgettable set with the right elements.

Here are three questions to ask amongst your artistic team to get your creative juices flowing:

  • What is the goal for this performance set?
    • It’s OK to set goals like winning first place or placing in general! However, there are many more aspirations you can set up to help motivate the set building and your team members.
    • You can set goals like “we want the team to feel more connection with each other” or “we want to bring a controversial issues that need to be expressed in this creative format.”
  • How do we want the audience to feel when they watch our set?
    • Do you want the audience to feel excited? Hype? Happy? Sad?
    • Asking this question during the early stages of set-building is crucial. After all, a performance set is a creative expression and the goal is to entertain, connect with the audience, and make a timeless impression.
  • What are our strengths and weaknesses as a team?
    • Identifying these two things will help set a solid foundation and direction you want the set to go.
    • Figuring this out might be a long process if you have a new team but it’s always great practice to be observant and analytical at rehearsals.

From there, you can delegate choreography, block / stage the set, and work on music, costumes, and props.

This process looks different for each team and may even change from set to set. The following is a general framework for how you may want to prepare the set.

  • Choose music and choreograph.
    • Choreograph to music you like or that fits with the theme of your set.
    • Prepare your choreography ahead of time!
      • Make sure you are capable of executing it to your standards before teaching it to your team.
      • Understand the counts and various nuances of your own choreography to make it easier to explain to your dancers.
  • Teach the choreography!
    • You may consider teaching entire pieces in one rehearsal or only portions of the choreography depending on what you find most efficient.
    • Be patient and enthusiastic when teaching not everyone will be eager to learn at first if it’s new or difficult.
      • Take the initiative to inspire your dancers with your own positive energy!
    • Review the choreography – place expectations on your dancers to practice outside of rehearsal but take time if possible to review during rehearsal too.
      • This helps clarify details and establishes better bonds between the choreographers and the dancers.
  • Cast the pieces!
    • Not everybody can be in every piece. Hold mini-auditions per choreography or however you see fit in order to be more fair and selective with placing dancers in pieces.
  • PREPARE!
    • Having at least a general or even more specific plan for what you want to do with each piece never hurts!
      • Some may find open collaboration with the team during rehearsals is also an effective way to create choreography, formations, transitions, etc.
    • Finish your choreography if you haven’t done so already.
      • the sooner you finish, the more time you have to practice it yourself and get the details right. (See 3. How to Run Urban Dance Team Rehearsals)
  • PRACTICE!
    • Review choreography and clarify details.
    • Teach more choreography when necessary.
    • Block dancers into formations and set variations.
    • Revise! Analyze your progress so far and be open-minded to changes if they aren’t working for your dancers or for the set.
    • Clean! Precision and togetherness always help choreography translate better to the audience.
      • Cleanliness doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is hitting the exact same pictures and angles; cleanliness can also come from having every dancer execute movement similarly without necessarily looking identical.
      • You will also want to observe how your team performs the pieces (i.e. facials, body language, etc.) Cleaning can involve clarifying or boosting dancers’ performance value.
    • Do run-throughs of the entire set (or as much as you have so far). This helps Directors and Artistic Advisors get a real look at what the set looks like. This can also help build the team’s stamina and discipline.
      • Consider doing dress rehearsals with full costumes if they are particularly clunky, cumbersome, or inhibit movement.
      • Perform run-throughs with props! Anything can happen on stage – the more time you spend rehearsing with props, the more you minimize room for error.
  • FINALIZE!
    • Finish the set music mix ahead of time so you can make any last-minute changes if needed.
      • Making it available to your team helps them practice outside too.
    • Decide on costumes and order them ahead of time. These may also require last-minute changes.
    • Reinforce your team’s confidence in the set with positivity and build up their morale as the set progresses.
    • Declare that your team is ready to perform!

Again, these are just examples of how you could create a set. There’s a lot of trial and error involved, so stay patient. It takes some teams decades to build their formulas that continue to evolve every year.

5. Training at Rehearsals

Urban dance teams don’t only exist to make sets and perform them for audiences. They are also resources that help their members grow into stronger individuals and dancers.

Generally, what you want is to provide the team are various styles, perspectives, and knowledge. Set goals for your team and construct a training agenda that serves those goals.

Here are some training options to consider:

  • Internal choreographers
    • Having choreographers on your current team teaching other members allows them to learn and explore that choreographer’s style  this may help with set-building later on!
    • These opportunities also train the leadership abilities of the choreographer.
  • Outside choreographers
    • Outside choreographers can bring valuable insight to the whole team.
    • Seek out influential choreographers in your community or other knowledgable outsiders to provide new perspectives for your dancers.
  • Alumni
    • Bringing in alumni who’ve been in your shoes can provide guidance on how to become better dancers, teammates, and leaders.
    • This may also help foster a better sense of ‘family’ and connect newer members with the team’s roots.
  • Teachers of foundational styles
    • Not every dancer on your team will have “technical” or “foundational” training.
    • You can offer this to them by bringing in a credible teacher from different Street or Studio styles.
    • Training your dancers’ fundamentals will absolutely enable and empower them to execute newer, more difficult choreography.
  • Yoga teacher/Pilates Instructor/Athletic Trainer
    • It’s important to bring in people whose expertise is the human body to help your team avoid injuries and help learn more about your body mechanics.
    • This suggestion may or may not surprise you. Keep in mind that we put so much strain on our bodies. Taking care of our bodies is the least we can do so that we can keep doing what we love – dance.

 

6. Performing in Competitions & Shows

If you’re a new team, you may find it hard to find a stage to perform on, especially in the Southern California community. You need to bring attention to you team first  it’s OK to start small and build your reputation. 

The GOOD Project began performing at smaller shows such as Maxt Out, collegiate dance showcases, studio performances before performing at shows like Ultimate Brawl, Body Rock and Vibe.

It took the team 3 years to build that reputation as an exhibition team until finally, on their 4th year, they were accepted to bigger competitions.

Once you’ve built enough reputation as a team, you can shoot your shot by applying for the bigger shows.

Every team’s story is different. It may be a shorter for some teams and longer for others. This will depend on how you carry yourselves as a team and what value you bring to your community.

Once you get into a show, here are some tips for performance day:

  • Establish a call time when everyone should arrive by.
  • Make an itinerary for the whole day.
  • Make a packing list, including all parts of the costume.
  • Designate specific people to manage props.
  • Practice only parts of the set that you need to.
  • Leave ample time for the team to rest and eat.
  • STAY. HYDRATED.
  • Don’t be intimidated by other performers!
  • Be friendly and respectful of other teams to foster a healthy community!

Watch this video for more performance day hacks!

 

7. Operations and Fundraisers

Urban dance teams do more than dancing and performing.

Consider the following ideas for expanding the team:

Selling T-shirts or other merchandise

Selling team gear is a great way to market your team to others, instill a sense of team pride for members, get people on the team involved, and raise funds for the team.

  1. Create a design!
  2. Find a print shop or online service to order the merchandise. (we use Printful for STEEZY hats)
  3. Post that you’re selling gear on social media!
    • Include prices, color options, and directions for ordering.
  4. Set up an online store, have people purchase them at an event or studio, or have team members deliver shirt orders.

Hosting Workshops

This may be lucrative fundraising opportunity for your team. Kaba Modern has KM Kollective and The GOOD Project hosts GOOD Fridays to help dancers around the community grow together and get to know each other.

Consistency is key with these workshops to gain a solid clientele. It might start slow but stick with it and be persistent.

You may consider:

  1. Finding a local studio.
  2. Approach the studio owners with a proposal.
    1. Pay a flat fee to rent the space.
    2. Hold workshops and split the percentage of profits.
    3. Establish and maintain a good personal relationship with studio staff!

Fundraising Events

Hosting events or creating partnerships with local businesses can be a great way to make money for the team and give your dancers other activities to bond over.

Some ideas include:

  • Bake sales
  • Garage/yard sales
  • Car washes
  • Auctions (or even date auctions…)
  • Parties/banquets
  • Partnering with local business for profit shares

Your team may do all, some, or none of these things; you might even do things not included on this list! It’s up to you to decide what your team is willing and capable of and how they may best serve your goals.

 

8. Internal Communication

As with all relationships, communication is key! Here’s a quick rundown of helpful apps that my dance teams have utilized.

For Communication within Leadership

Slack

You no longer have to scroll through long threads of irrelevant messages to find the one piece of information you were looking for. (Fun fact: the STEEZY team uses Slack!)

Slack lets you…

  • Organize conversation topics by “Channels”
    • This is helpful because different people in leadership work on different things
    • Slack makes it easy to divide people into committees for more specialized projects
  • Upload media into the app
    • For example, the @MediaPerson uploads a flyer into the #Marketing channel to get everyone’s approval that it’s ready to post, then tags the @MarketingPerson who posts it on the right day

There are other apps that provide similar function but Slack is the most widely used among my circles.

For Communication for the Team Members

Facebook (for announcements and events)

Useful as a platform to blast official team business to a big group of people. This may be less effective as a discussion board but more efficient for spreading news and other important information.

Some things you might share here include:

  • Performance dates for the year
  • Performance tech times, lineup, and itinerary
  • Rehearsal dates and schedules
  • Costume moodboards
  • Music cuts and set mixes
  • Polls for the entire team (i.e. for scheduling, artistic decisions, etc.)

GroupMe (for more immediate news, socializing)

Useful as a general chat thread for everyone on the team.

Some things you might share here include:

  • The address for the restaurant everyone is eating at after rehearsal
  • Memes
  • Birthday messages
  • Asking quick questions like “can anyone bring Advil to rehearsal today because I have a huge headache, thanks Ben you’re the best <3”

For Sharing Photos and Videos

 Google Drive

Some things you might use it for:

  • Organizing all your files into folders
    • i.e. “Rehearsal Videos 2018” / “Photos from Retreat 2019”
  • A much quicker way of uploading rehearsal footage than YouTube
  • Creating custom sharing settings (make items viewable to all team members or just leadership)
  • Collaborating with others (change settings so anyone on the team can upload files)

 

9. Rituals: Building a Culture

The most rewarding part about being on an Urban dance team is the relationship you build with your teammates.

This will happen naturally throughout the process of creating sets and going to shows together.

Additionally, you can also implement systems and activities to help build those relationships and the overall cohesiveness of the team.

After all, a team never looks good on stage without good chemistry among its members.

Here are some ideas you can use to build your Urban dance team’s culture.

First Meeting

Every new season on two of my old teams (structured very similarly) would start with a “First Meeting,” usually at one of the director’s houses.

There was no dancing. We’d come in semi-formal dress and have dinner. We introduced ourselves to each other and played some icebreaker games.

Then, the directors (and sometimes, alumni / founders) would come, and talk about the team’s history.

We’d learn about how the team started, major events, and landmark sets we’ve made in the past.

I appreciated this so much. I believe that passing down history to new generations of the team is a necessary part of the team’s success and longevity.

It helps new members to not only understand the journey of the team but also see that their participation is something that spans across years and multiple groups of people.

The feeling of being part of something “bigger than yourself” doesn’t just come from nowhere. It comes from being able to see where you’ve come from, where you are now, and where you’re going.

 

Initiation for Newbies

Consider it a nice, fun hazing – nothing dangerous or embarrassing like some fraternities and sororities are known to do!

I’ve heard many hilarious stories about the way different teams initiate their newbies.

Whatever they decided to do depended on the team’s personality, as well as the individual newbies themselves – so get creative with however you want to welcome in the new dancers!

 

Taking Photos by “Class”

I still remember every single person who joined all of my teams the same years that I did.

Starting the journey on a team together is already a bonding experience – but we also strengthened our relationships with small acts.

One of those ways was to take photos as a “class” at every major performance or event.

Some teams even name their classes like fraternities and sororities do: Theta Class, Omega Class, etc.

The classes on your Urban dance team can come up with whatever names you want – just the act of grouping people together gives them a sense of togetherness.

 

Choreo Day / Friends & Family Preview Nights

I mentioned Choreo Day in Section 3; I’ll clarify it here:

Many teams dedicate a day or two to having their dancers showcase their own choreography pieces.

This may be useful for seeing which pieces the directors can use for upcoming sets or just for their dancers to have a safe space to share something they’ve created.

As many dancers on Twitter already know, 220’s Choreo Day, named “Sexy Day,” is a huge event. They invite alumni and film/post the pieces on their Twitter and Instagram channels. (This is a good opportunity for the Media and Marketing teams to use their skills!)

Urban dance teams also host “Preview Nights” to showcase their set, usually a few nights before a performance. They invite their alum, friends, family members, and even other teams to watch, enjoy and maybe even critique the performance.

It’s a more intimate way for the people closest to you to watch you dance, especially if they can’t make it to the actual performance.

 

Spirit Days for “Hell Week”

I’ve seen teams like Team Millennia and Kaba Modern implement Spirit Days for the week leading up to a performance.

There’s a prompt for every day, like Twin Day (where you match with someone),  Jersey Day, and even Cute Socks Day!

“Hell Week” has a bad connotation because it takes a lot of effort to rehearse every night.

These small traditions can lift up the team’s morale and make it a more memorable, rewarding time!

 

Dance Team Retreats

I have a lot of memories from rehearsals and shows but I remember just as much from Winter Big Bear Trips and Spring Retreats.

The Social/Internal chair (if you have one) should budget, plan, and host these events (with help from other teammates, of course.)

Here are some of the things they may entail:

  • Poll for teammates’ availabilities to find the best date
  • Create a budget
  • Book a place (i.e. AirBnb house, cabin, beach house, hotel, etc.)
  • Plan activities
  • Make a list of packing items
  • Arrange rides
  • Assign duties (cleaning, cooking)
  • Have a plan for any emergencies

 

End of the Year Banquet

This is the last hurrah of the season! I’ve been to dance team banquets that are casual dinners (similar to the First Meeting) as well as full-on galas.

Here are some ideas for your Urban dance team banquet:

  • Rent a venue (i.e. hotel event room, restaurant, etc.)
  • Get food catered or have a potluck
  • Create a program for the night
  • Rent a photo booth
  • Hire a photographer (or assign the Media person to take photos/videos)
  • Have directors give speeches
  • Announce new leadership roles
  • Give out awards like:
    • Most Improved
    • Rookie of the Year
    • Choreographer of the Year
    • MVD: Most Valuable Dancer
  • Give out gag awards
    • Delegate people who have a great sense of humor to come up with these beforehand.
    • They should be based off of each member’s individual personality or things they’ve done throughout the year. Be nice, though!

That’s it! Feel free to consult this article in forming and running your team. Take some of it or take all of it to heart – what’s most important is that you listen to your leadership and your team members and adapt to their abilities and capacity.

Please leave a comment or shoot us a message if you have any more tips on leading a dance team.

Let us know which topics in the “Urban Dance” world you’d like for us to break down next.

Have a wonderful season, dancers!

 

*Editor’s Note –
We did not assign the word “Urban” to refer to the culture of dance choreography teams, but are using the terms “Urban Dance / Urban dance team” for operative purposes only.

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