[OpEd] Best practice at a formal dance at cons (Revised 2017)

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 and now I have hosted many formal dances and learn from how I ran them. Keep in mind that this is my own opinion. That means I have no intention to take over any formal dance/event unless I was asked to run them or give an opportunity.
Dance lesson:
The whole point of dance lessons is have the option that you want to learn to dance with people. You built not just how to dance but also build confidence and to feel comfortable with others. Without dance lesson, you will make the dances feel more exclusive to people who have knowledge and skills for dancing which would separate the new and the experience. Formal dance is meant to welcome people of all skill sets. It’s a highly recommended! Depending on what day and what time slot you’re are given, you should teach as many mutliple dance styles as possible before the limited of time. It is possible to cover at least 4 styles within 1.5 hours slot where I have seen it done at various few cons (Anime Boston). If you have a department dedicated in organizing dance lessons and manage to have your dance on Day 2 or Day 3 (4 day con) dedicate the day before with various styles within 1-2 hours each. For dance lessons that is limited to less than 2 hours, I would recommend limit your dance style to the basics so you’ll have enough room to teach other styles. When you do dance styles dedicated to that style (for example having a class dedicated to Watlz), you’re welcome to teach whatever is appropriate to beginners until the lesson ends. For finding instructors for the event, you can either hire a proffesional dance instructor or a dance group or you can do it yourself if you have experience in dancing. Make sure all instructor s at the lesson does what they came to do. Teach people how to dance. No matter the skill of the instructor, the attendee will gain something from the lesson regardless all depends on how it’s taught. At close to the end of the lesson, I would suggest everyone do a Q&A of dances and do a review and practice session.
Length of the Dance:
What is the most reasonable length to satisfy the attendees? It all depends. The size of the con does vary. Most majority of formal dances should be at least 3-4 hours . For starters at a small con, 2 hours makes sense. If the event gets bigger after that, extend your hour to 3 hours. If the con gets really big, be at least 4-6 hours. There was cons that is really huge and 2-3 hours isn’t enough. The drawback of those length at big cons means you won’t fit in many other content such as dance demo, cosplay contest, and limited announcements. Limiting event less than 3 hours would also alienate the people who tries to get in the event later but didn’t make it in time. It is possible to make a 2 hour dance enjoyable. You can make sure the content is really good such as mashing in many songs as possible (limiting songs 3-4 minutes max) and have mixer/snowball dance into the mix.
Having a place and size. Make sure the location is very convenient to get to. Avoid using venue that requires a shuttle away from the convention and make sure they are really easy to get to. If you have to put at a venue further away. Please make sure you have a guide and map to point out how to get to them. Bad location and no guide or sense of direction, less people showing up. And also make sure the place is big enough to have people dance with each other.
Timing of the dance
Most Anime Cons likes to put the event on Day 1 (SakuraCon, Anime Boston, AnimeLA, KatsuCon) so they don’t conflict the formal dance. However there is other cons that has it on the same time but they get away with it by having a longer dance time (FanimeCon 6 hours and Anime Central 5 hours). There is also cons that actually put them on the same time which forces you to make a serious choice (Otakon Vegas 2017). If you want most people to attend the event at it’s fullest, try to avoid conflicting major events with anything “Cosplay Contest” related. Because who doesn’t want to see amazing fancy cosplay and they would show up. It also helps build more options for who wants to be a cosplay judge for the formal dance (Something I did at Anime California 2016). I would suggest not conflict major events unless you want to hold it right after them.
The main priority is make sure there’s a area to dance on and provide enough chairs so most of the people can sit for relaxing and resting. Depending on the room, you should ask if it’s possible to add tables into the mix for putting up people’s stuff, food, and have interactions. You are welcome to have decorations as an option. You should also add an option to add a picture booth at the event for people want to make memories and take couple pictures. If you want to prep up the event it’s highly recommended to prep up 2-3 hours prior when the event starts.
You always want refreshment at the event. I would recommend allowing people to bring their own refreshments if we don’t require them. At every dance, ALWAYS provide enough water for EVERYONE. You’ll reduce the risk of injuries. Having complimentary food is very rare to have! The cons that has done that for me was Otakon Vegas and Anime Central. If you like to make it possible, please ask the convention if it’s possible to do that.
Dress Code:
The whole purpose of dress code is to keep the dance semi formal/formal. If there’s no dress code established, it would defeat the purprose of what it’s suppose to be. More people who don’t dress up, the more other people randomly join in. It can really ruin the experience and cuase more others to feel cheated about going through all that trouble to dress up. You are welcome to have mask included into the dress code if you want the Masquerade Ball approach (SakuraCon and KumoriCon 2015). When wanting to bring the word about dress code, please advertise the event including the dress code guideline. If you want to be more laid back in the dress code and let the people in, I would highly recommend adding the casual hour time. Put them at either the last hour of the dance or the last 30 minutes to make it more welcoming for everyone.
The important of selecting songs for the dance:
The key of making a very solid playlist is what people want to hear. Do not involve too much of your personal taste of music vs. what people want to hear. To get an idea of a well chosen playlist is go explore many formal attire dance event to understand how music is chosen and also undestand the music as a dancer. You should take music request from attendees and make the call if the song fits in or not. If you want to be extra safe, you should get another 2nd opinion on person who has similar events. I would also recommend that you edit your music for shorter length song (recommended between 3-4 minutes max) and also take out parts of the song that is not dance able. The great perk in editing songs shorter is it helps mash in a lot of music including making a nice medley song. If you have trouble understanding how to choose songs, find another person who has knowledge in dancing to give you a hand such as what is a Waltz, Swing, Tango etc.
What kind of content to add into the event aside from dancing:
Aside from dancing, there is mixer/snowball where you can switch partners until certain condition is met (change music or MC announces to change partner). It would be nice to have a nice a break with having a small demonstration, cosplay contest, or even a dance contest. When consider using them, please limit them so you’ll have bit of an variety in playlist especially if you’re limited to less than 2 hour event.
Finding dance partner system:
There’s many ways you can do that. You can have a group of experience dancers volunteer to be dance host/hostess/assistance on the dance floor willing to dance with everyone just in case if you feel too shy. There’s also the wrist band system where you actually give everyone stating that you’re open to dance with anyone. And there’s a system where you have a dedicated spot where you can ask people to ask dance if you’re in that area.
Should you charge extra?
It all depends. Do you need more funds for dance floor, refreshment, and other expenses? I would say go for it. However if you charge, people’s expectation raises. If you were to charge, I would do the following for attendees that would pay extra: Replenishment, food, snack, drinks, memorabilia, picture booth, make the place look more nice, and a lots of content. Make everyone’s money worth it.
My thought of on these:
I first attended formal dance at cons in 2007 and at that time I had no knowledge of dancing at all. 2011 I learned how formal dance was operated behind the scene and I wanted to host my own formal dance. 2012 is when I started traveling to cons to journay as many formal dances at cons across the country (SakuraCon, Anime Boston, KatsuCon, Anime Central, KumoriCon, Otakon Vegas, and ColossalCon). Now I hosted many formal dance events for various cons and gain so much knowledge in my travels and built a good taste of music all thanks to participating all these type of event.. My goal was to host the most epic formal dance! Wish me luck!

By Brain Age Guy

Leave a Comment