[ConCulture] Best Practices in Formal Convention Dances


Originally posted as a private Facebook status update. This editorial by Craig “Brain Age Guy” Yamaguchi is on best practices on how to run a ballroom and formal dance at an anime convention or related event. Re-posted for Scarlet Rhapsody with written permission. Brain Age Guy has also organized panels and lessons on ballroom dances at major anime conventions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Also as of note, Scarlet Rhapsody is no longer affiliated with Traveling Valentine. Photos used on this report were before the downsize.


This is how I believe a formal ball/dance should be run at events if it were at a convention (Anime Convention, Sci Fi, etc). It’s my personal philosophy if I were to run an event like that at other cons. Not everything I do or how I think is perfect if I were to pull them off. Keep in mind this is my personal style if it were for me. That means I have no intention to take over any formal dance/event like Fanime (they already do a great job), Sakura Con, and ALA.


Fanime 2012 – one of the most highly rated ballroom dances in the anime con circuit

ALWAYS have a dance lesson when you do a formal dance at the event. Depending on what day I would do multiple dance lesson before the actual ball/dance happens to cover as many dances as possible. If the ball/dance were to set on Day 1, I would probably recommend at least do 2 hours before the event happens and cover as much as possible and keep it simple (no one can become a pro in 2 hours). Doing it less than 1 hour is really tricky and you’re gonna end up rushing it and can’t cover a lot of dance areas. I’ve seen dance lessons that are run by actual legit dance instructors and people believe it should be that but to me I think anyone can do it as long you have the right type of people. Although I am not a certified dance instructor, I had experience when I helped out with Fanime’s B&W Ball and took dance lesson at community college with very good passing grades. I’m good already to help set up a dance lesson at any convention as long I get a space, time slot, and the right audience.


Anime Expo 2003 masquerade ball

Dance should last at least 3-6 hours depending on the size and how popular is the event. For smaller conventions, I think 3-4 hours is good enough. For bigger conventions, PLEASE let it be at least 4-6 hours depending on how big it gets. Doing it less than 3 hours would alienating the people who tries to get in the event if they don’t get in on time. I personally think it’s a BAD idea if the event went shorter than 3 hours when done at a huge convention and I’ve seen the results and I wasn’t fully satisfied.


Fanime 2011 – Dances are typically held in hotel ballroom spaces. Occupancy is dependent on the size of the con.

I make sure the place is big enough to have people dance with each other and also very convenient for most people to show up to. I seen event like this forces us to transport to another very far hotel just to check out the ball/dance (*cough*AX 2009). I’d make sure if the location is spacious and very convenient for most people to show up.

Do not conflict the major events with this one. I would TRY to avoid setting up these events with “cosplay contest”. Because I wanted to see their awesome cosplay in these type of event and convince them to show up. I would rather coincide with major Rave dance hour than cosplay contest.


Anime Expo 2009 – the last masquerade ball AX ever held

Decorate the event to make the scene nice like you’re having a romantic time or trying to make it feel like prom. Depending on how spacious the area is. Make sure you provide enough chairs so most of us can sit back and relax or rest. If it were held in a huge room, it shouldn’t hurt to add tables with nice decorations. ALWAYS provide enough water to provide everyone in the dance floor so you can reduce the risk of injuries. Snack would be a nice touch for replenishment but the drawback is it will cost us.


Anime Expo 2010 – Brain Age guy hosted a ballroom dance meet up at the LA Convention Center

I always have a dress code check at ball/dance. If there’s no dress code established, it would defeat the purpose of what the event is all about. More people who don’t dress up and they get in. The more other people randomly jumps in and ruin the experience. Plus it will make all the people who dresses up for the event feel cheated. Advertise the event and put the dress code. If I were to do the event, I like to keep the dress code on the outfit and just skip the shoes depending on the dance floor. As long you dress formally good, I’ll let you in. Don’t care about the shoes as long you’re wearing one so you don’t get hurt being stepped on. The only time I don’t care much about the dress code is if the event is dying like the last few hours of the ball/dance that we’ll just let them slide.


Anime Vegas 2010 – This ball had a Silver Millennium theme to tie in with Sailor Moon.

Set an organized music list using songs requested from attendees and then double check it to an experienced ballroom dancer or someone who has ran a formal dance/ball event. You can’t satisfied every the person who attend but it’s better to try to satisfied most majority and both sides. As a dancer myself I can pin point which song does not go well or are undanceable. Not many people know what song is “waltzable” or how to make the event like a “formal ball”. But sometimes if a person who has no knowledge of dance scene, they picked the most random song making the event awkward for some. For me I carefully hand pick of what feels like a formal ball/dance, get mostly request from people, then get a some feedback with the beta songlist to a experienced ballroom dancer or person who has ran a event then I feel like I’m good to go!


Anime Vegas 2010

Aside from dancing. It would be nice to have a nice kick to the event by having a break with having a small demonstration, cosplay contest, or even a dance contest. Not recommended if you’re going to put those in anything less than 3 hours that you’re wasting most people’s time. If it were more than 4 hours, I don’t see what’s wrong with having them. But don’t use too much demonstration which bores the people since they also go to the those event to dance but not watch someone else do it. I would personally would like to balance them to have one slot for demonstration, cosplay contest, and dance contest if I were to do a 4-6 hours event. Need to keep it simple, I’m not trying make another “Major Cosplay contest” nor “You think you can dance” type of event.


Fanime 2009 – Formal versions of characters from Bleach

Always have couple experience dance assistance on the dance floor available to offer assistance to make everyone available. If you feel too shy, they’re there for you. They also just randomly ask a person to dance with them and will help you.
Note about the Dance Assistance: For those who are in a relationship, please keep in mind they are doing their job if the event introduce them to you. If you feel uncomfortable having your love one dance with one of them, please let them know and talk with it in a civil matter among both of them. If you the main dance assistance resist after you talked with that person, you can report him. There’s so much miscommunication that causes conflict and been mishandled. If I have to be the one who have to run the event, I have to keep it civil and understand what’s going on first.


Anime Expo 2010 – will we see the return of the masquerade ball?

If I were to set up a first time formal ball/dance at a con. I would personally never charge them as long they get inside the convention. If I have no choice to charge people, this is what I have to make sure I provide to make the people who pay to get in happy:
Replenishment, food, snack and drinks
Make the place VERY nicer than other cons (MAKE IT LIKE PROM!)
Good source of entertainment
Give out goodies

If I were to be an attendee and I have to pay extra to get in, I want my money well spent for this one! Please meet those expectation from those.

So hopefully with these kind of thinking of mine. I hope to build more of my experience and then hopefully been dreaming to establish one around here in the future. I have so much ahead of me.


Brain Age Guy – East Coast expert from the West Coast. Hire this guy to host your next ballroom lessons.

– Craig “Brain Age Guy” Yamaguchi


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