This post shares information and some of my observations about (western) dance schools like Swingers and their shows. Disclaimer: I’m not qualified enough to pass comments on dance performance-these are my simple observations/opinions. I do not have any rights to criticize them-children had fun, parents are proud and Swingers got yet another successful show to their kitty-but since I bought tickets to the show I am taking some liberty of publishing my thoughts.
The business model is excellent- a 15 day crash course for wannabe dancers, priced at approx Rs 1.5-2k per person, during which they get to learn a set of dance steps which forms a 4-6 minutes dance item. At the end of training season there’ll be a 3 hour stage show will have about 15-20 dance items (of various types, from different batches, each involving 15-20 students). So anywhere about 200-300 people get to perform per show. Tickets for the show priced at Rs 250-300 and upwards, no complementary tickets given to the members who are performing. When a child is performing, its proud parents will buy the tickets at any price, so at least 2 tickets per performer and 600 tickets will be sold easily. That directly makes 1.5-2 lakh rupees per show by sale of tickets alone. Income from sponsors extra. Expenses are studio/theatre rentals and lightings (costumes by performers, at their expense).
I’m given to understand that John Britto’s dance school, SDIPA (Shaiamak Davar’s institute of performing arts), Bal Bhavan, Unwind Centre and several others also have similar approaches. Nothing wrong or worth complaining about it-just a mention.
1. Compared to the first performance I attended (on March 15th 2009 and Music Academy Chennai), the second one (May 23 2009, Music Academy, Chennai) was cheaper and better. For the dances meant for small kids, this time they made a elder dancer dance with them, so that kids can refer to him/her and follow the steps. Last time kids were left to their own.
2. In addition to the technicalities, music , coordination and MCing , managing 300+ performers backstage, most of them kids, for 3 hours, is a challenge. Swingers has managed to accomplish the task gracefully.
3. Both the shows I attended staged Lion King and it appears to be their trademark. With several “animals” and poised rhythmic movements, the hullaballoo generated is contagious..
4. Several dances were however a repetition. May be the performers were different- couldn’t help but notice that the dance steps, music and costume of certain items were a copy-paste of Inspirations ’09 ( the 1st show I attended)
5. They thanked the sponsors, management, partners everyone, but didn’t thank the audience who paid a price and bought tickets
6. I was initially hoping there will be some Bharatanatyam or other Indian classical performances-there weren’t any. Only western ones. (Bharatanatyam takes several years to master-why bother when Swingers can teach you hip hop in 15 days and make you dance on stage? I asked a veteran bharatanatyam dancer Indira Kadambi if Bharatanatyam is losing sheen among pupils or if there’s a decline in demand. She assured me that there’s still a good number of students joining Bharatanatyam classes) Also Bharatanatyam is predominantly a solo dance-they won’t be able to put 300 people on stage with solo items
7. I’m given to understand that they didn’t force the participants to buy dance dresses from a specific shop-most performers had the option of buying one for themselves/manage with existing dresses they may have. Though this meant minor non-uniformity in the costume, it should have saved some cash outflow for the performers.
8. Generally, it’s a practice to announce the names of the performers-but this was skipped during the show, understandably due to huge headcount in each item. I later noticed that they’ve displayed a board outside, listing names of performers in each item.
9. As far as I know, ticket sale opened just 48 hours before the show-shows that they are fully confident of selling all tickets (parents and friends who wish to see the performance of their ward/friend will anyway have to buy the tickets)
10. The first show I attended, had an item called one minute to fame, wherein several members were given one minute stage time, to do anything they want and impress the guests-some danced, few played instruments, it was a good concept indeed which was missing in second show.
11. Lots of energy was seen on stage with everyone trying to put in their best. Because most of them weren’t professionals and had only 15 days of training, at times some deviation from perfection was evident, but that doesn’t really matter. Couple of solo performances by well qualified dancers would have spiced up the show a bit.
Even if you do not intend to take up dancing full time, Courses from Swingers or other such institutions are a great opportunity to overcome your inhibitions and learn some steps/body movements, make new friends in the process and have good time in general. They seem to have different courses for different age groups, ranging from small kids to adults. Different batches at various places keep happening throughout the year. Wanna try?