Dance Ambassadors enjoy PR experience at Ballet BC
By Beth Ackroyd and Theia Maldoom
As One Dance UK Dance Ambassadors and Dance Consortium Future Leaders we, Beth Ackroyd and Theia Maldoom, were given the opportunity to spend the day at Sadler’s Wells shadowing Simon Harper, the Public Relations Consultant for Dance Consortium, during the press day and premier night of Ballet British Columbia’s triple bill.
This is Ballet BC’s first UK Tour and the works presented are: 16 + a room, choreographed by Artistic Director, Emily Molnar; Solo Echo, choreographed by Crystal Pite; and Bill choreographed by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar.
Simon is a key figure in the touring of Ballet BC facilitated by Dance Consortium as he helps to promote public interest and media coverage of all the dates and venues across the tour. Initially training as a dancer, like us, Simon started to take an interest in the way theatre was promoted to new audiences whilst he was working as performer and transitioned into a press role at a time when he wanted his career to challenge him in different ways. He is now working as a freelance PR Consultant.
Due to his background in dance, Simon has a strong understanding of the work he is promoting and the surrounding environment, enabling him build up a strong network of contacts within the dance and media field. Additionally, by remaining within the performing arts industry, Simon commented he still finds the buzz of being involved in the dance community. The press day we experienced would constitute on average two days of a month for a PR Consultant; the rest of the time in-between is spent organising and preparing for such press engagements. Spending the day with him gave us an insight into how a career in the dance industry can develop and shift, leading you down new pathways, and we gained a deeper understanding of the various careers within the dance industry that we otherwise may not yet be aware of.
The first two nights of the tour started amazingly with both shows at London’s Sadler’s Wells selling out and receiving very positive reactions from the audiences. The tour proceeds out to other venues across the UK, including theatres in Brighton, Newcastle, Bradford and Birmingham. By covering a large range of theatres around the UK, Dance Consortium allows Ballet BC’s work to become more accessible to wider contemporary dance audiences across the country.
Some people may initially find contemporary dance daunting and difficult to connect with. However, when Dance Consortium present a tour the organisation works tirelessly to break down barriers of connection. This is aided by the use of social media promotion, the creation of video clips and outreach programs, including a variety of talks and workshops. Dance Consortium is attempting to broaden audience’s horizons and show the beauty and diversity of contemporary dance from around the world.
Our day started with the allocation of tickets to the press and special guests. With a sold out opening night and over 60 important tickets to distribute with specific requests, this was a task easier said than done. As a PR consultant, this was Simon’s time to manage and satisfy each request whilst maintaining a happy network and community of dance critics, reviewers, and keys figures in the media coverage of the arts. It was interesting to see the diverse range of newspapers, magazines and media platforms, that were not all dance specific, attending that evening.
We the joined Simon in managing the photographers’ photo call, in which they were invited to capture the movement within Emily Molnar’s piece 16 + a room. As Simon had warned us, the first curve ball of the day was the timings of the day becoming askew. With the dress run being delayed, Simon had to keep a cool head and manage the expectations of the waiting photographers. Eventually the piece got underway, and as it ran on-stage the photographers snapped away in the stalls.
Whilst talking to a few of the photographers, it was interesting to see what they desired within the performance environment for their pictures to match the requirements of their prospective papers. The photographers highlighted their general factors for a successful photograph such as the work being in a light setting, so that the body can be seen, and the presence of multiple dancers on stage for greater impact and power. Speaking with one photographer in particular, she emphasised the juggling of attempting to understand and convey the integrity of the piece, whilst maintaining a focus on finding the exact and rare moments of stillness and beauty within the work.
On the other hand, the rehearsal gave a different insight into the choreographer’s intent of time used for the press call. Molnar was incredibly focused on the movement and precision of her dancers and the images of the eye, not the camera. There was a need to prepare her dancers for the challenges of working in a new environment and the opening night performance that evening. It was a new experience for us seeing the work performed full out with corrections being spoken through a microphone and cameras flashing, but it was very inspiring to see Emily Molnar in action as both an Artistic Director and Choreographer in that moment.
Selling out on their first two nights, it was a wonderful start and a good sign for the rest of Ballet BC’s performances of the Dance Consortium tour. The press day drew in a wide variety of representatives from many media outlets, which wasn’t only great for Ballet BC, but also for dance as a community which often lacks equal coverage. The day gave us both an exciting glimpse into the backstage atmosphere and affairs of an international touring dance company. It allowed us to understand the role, work and profile of a PR consultant and interactions between other key individuals within the functioning of a major tour. It made us aware of the variety of roles, skills and jobs involved in the dance industry that we may not have previously considered and has given us the scope to research these roles and careers further. As advocates for dance and dancers ourselves, we could connect with what Simon was trying to achieve in his transition from a performer as ultimately; he wanted to reach areas of society that didn’t engage in the arts to keep the arts industry going and growing.
Simon’s Key PR Tips!
- Have a sense of humour
- Be flexible
- If you’re a dancer, carry the same energy and be as committed to your role off stage as onstage
- Build up relationships with people
- Network, network, network!
Thank you One Dance UK, Dance Consortium and Simon Harper PR for allowing us to experience this day. We are very excited to now attend our future leader days at Birmingham and Bradford to hear more from Emily Molnar and experience more of Ballet BC as a company.