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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Parents don't want to help backstage at the show


nynydancer

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Does anyone have experience with this? We have only a couple parents who want to help out backstage in the dressing rooms at the school's spring show. At this point I think the kids may have to fend for themselves backstage, and as some of them are quite young, not sure this is a good idea. It's really unfortunate that the burden of the backstage duty is again falling to the few parents who do step up. Does anyone have experience with this and have any ideas to drum up some more parent help? I work full time, but I still do my part, but I realize people might have other issues preventing them from helping. On the other hand, it's not great to have parents "help" who don't want to be there. We had some moms go awol during Nut performances last year.

 

All of these parents will be at the show of course, expecting their DKs to appear onstage in a pressed costume, in perfect hair and make-up. Any tips to help bring more parents into volunteering?

 

 

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For our youth dance company, if the parents don't sign up to help, there is a buy out option they have to do otherwise the kids don't dance. We specifically require help in laying floor, the assembly of any set items, and fund raising for the show. If we get enough help, these chores take very little time. I am the costume mistress so I have costumes steamed and ready to go as part of my duties. Kids are required to come performance ready with hair and make-up complete before arrival. Same situation for when my kids do nutcracker. You are expected to sign up for x number of volunteer hours or you pay the buy out.

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The buy out option is a fabulous idea! We have the same situation every single performance. It's always the same people every year. We have two shows so it's not like you don't have a chance to sit in the audience.

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I negotiated a free DVD of the show one year when I was the only one to volunteer backstage for both shows. It still wasn't the same as seeing it live, but I did watch from the wings.

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For our annual recital, because we have multiple shows, I would encourage parents to sign up for the show their child was NOT in. We also relied heavily on the parents of older dancers who were in both shows. We also charge a recital fee and then admission is free and general admission. So we block off the best seats, and those seats are reserved for the volunteers and their families. We give them 5 or 6 "premium" tickets to the roped off section as a thank you.

Inevitably, though,we get to dress rehearsal with some classes of small ones not having help back stage. So at dress rehearsal we basically guilt those parents into it. "I'm sure you don't want to leave your sweet child without supervision for two hours..." It usually worked! The buyout is a great idea...then use the money to hire people to be with the kids backstage.

For Nutcracker, each family is required to give 10 hours of volunteer time. For those backstage posts, since taking photos of the production is a no-no, parents who volunteer for those positions get to take photos in the green room so they can have photos in costume, just not on stage. Those are actually coveted spots. Again, with multiple performances, there is an opportunity to help backstage and still sit in the audience at some point.

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These are all great ideas, although Harbordancer I feel really bad that you had to miss the show, that's not right! I love the "premium tickets" idea. I think we might have to go the guilt trip route for sure this time. We do charge a fee for those who won't volunteer, and maybe that's part of the issue. Some of these parents are really well off and maybe don't like to get their hands dirty? I just don't get it. It makes me value so much more the great moms who DO help out backstage!

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We also require a minimum number of volunteer hours (varies by class level) and have a "buy out" option. We have multiple shows and structure the green room schedule and quick change schedule so not everyone is watching the same show to ensure coverage. Inevitably, there are those parents that flake and others that pull more than their own weight (often not sitting in the audience at all).

 

We encourage those over and above moms to watch from the wings throughout the show when not urgently needed in green room or step out into the audience (standing in the side with the ushers) so they can see their children perform - even if they don't ever actually sit in the audience. That way they don't feel resentful about giving up their time.

 

It's a problem to get good backstage help for sure. And there are definitely some people you do not want helping in green room as they are not a calming influence for the kids. We try to acknowledge those over and above families with appreciation and we make working backstage fun. Hopefully to entice more people to want to volunteer behind the scenes to see what all fun is about.

 

Right now we have a wonderful group of parents that accomish an astounding amount of work (costuming, green room, photography, marketing) but it's not always that way. Especially now with more duel working families. Less time to volunteer.

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Hello nynydancer,

 

Yes, it is a common problem. For our studio/company (we are smaller), we hand pick the volunteers. The Artistic Director & I identify parents that would be an asset backstage. We put up a sign-up list, but as you experienced, there is a usually lack of volunteers. At this point, we start asking parents personally. I have found that if you ask, you get a better response. We look for people who are team players and will help all the dancers, not just their own. For the parents who tend to do that, we look for other spots where they can volunteer, (e.g. ushers, ticket sales, boutique, etc.). I have found that it is better to have fewer parents that help and not disappear as someone else mentioned. We have had that happen too!

 

The buyout and premium tickets are great ideas! I'm going to suggest the premium tickets this year. Thank you JMM. There are some parents that are very busy careers, travel or have younger kids that prevents them from being able to help out. With the extra money, maybe you can hire make-up artists or hair stylist to assist with the prep.

 

Some of the things we have done to shave off the prep time were having the dancers come in with their hair done, foundation, mascara and eyeliner. And yes, a few come in with the wrong hair or no makeup at all. This past Nutcracker, we let the older dancers (13+) put on their own makeup with guidelines and the understanding that we had the right to modify if not done correctly. They all followed directions and all we had to do was minor touch-up. We were so proud of them!

 

If you are short parents, sometimes you can ask the older dancers with minor roles to assist backstage or supervise the younger dancers. Last year we were short backstage because of illnesses. I was delayed getting to the other side of the stage to make sure Clara was quickly changed back into her nightgown before the Waltz of the Flowers. I found several dancers from her class assisting her. They were very organized (each had a designated job). They were able to change her into her costume with tights, shoes, and switch her hairstyle back in less than a minute! It brought tears to my eyes to see them working together like that! We let them do the same thing the following performance. Letting the dancers take some of the responsibility allowed them to experience working together as a team, a great experience for them!

 

Good luck with you upcoming performance!!

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Another idea would be to ask alumni who might be back in town for the holidays or breaks from college to help out with the kids backstage. If you do not have a studio that allows alumni to come take classes free of charge, you could offer them free classes.

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Good thread. Our studio tells parents for Nutcracker (which is two performances) that every child's family has to do one pre-show job and one during-show job. It's not really enforced but it works. The newcomers take it seriously and the old-timers are already used to volunteering. Those of us who are parents and also in the performance have that count as our during-show job. It's a bit harder with the spring show that usually has one performance, because who wouldn't want to be in the audience for at least one show?

 

As a side issue, it's also been a problem when there is no one to direct the volunteers. We used to have a teacher who was amazing at this and made sure everything got done. She moved away a couple years ago and some of the backstage work isn't as it ought to be. Things like the parents focusing on the youngest dancers and getting them changed for their next performance even though they have half an hour before they're on when the tween and young teen girls have 3 minute quick changes and no one helps them. Or things like not making sure the tiny ones have potty breaks inbetween costume changes and checking for shoelaces.

 

I have tried to step in with some of it but not all parents will listen to other parents. This year I printed signs (with the approval of the board that coordinates such things) and that helped some. I also made sure I was backstage when possible (I did my own daughter's quick changes) and recruited specific parents I knew well who were volunteering to do particular tasks.

 

So yes, it's hard to get warm bodies in there but sometimes warm bodies aren't enough. It's hard...

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At my daughter's previous studio, they had a separate non-profit that raised funds for activities and SI scholarships. In order to qualify for the scholarship, the parent had to perform a certain amount of volunteer hours.

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Oops!! Sorry... I'm not suppose to comment here! Please delete previous comment.

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Backstage is not really a good place for me. I get nervous and frustrated with all the last minute crazy. The company doesn't really want a bunch of parents running around backstage in any event, though they do usually ask a few parents (not me!) to help with the younger dancers. Their job is mainly keeping the kids relatively calm and clean backstage and ready for when they are called. Dancers are expected to come to the theater with their hair and makeup done. We sign the kids in at the stage door and pick them up there afterward. I'm happy to help with costume adjustments and the like before the day of the performance.

 

In all honesty, I'm very happy to be able to sit in the audience for the performances. I love to watch the shows and would hate to miss seeing my daughter on stage. All those hours of class and hard work she puts in, and all the driving, tuition, etc. that I contribute is to make those couple of moments in the lights possible, and I'd hate to miss it.

 

Of course, if we were in a situation like some of the earlier posters, where certain participation was required and spelled out at the start of the season, I'd do whatever work we agreed to at the outset. I'm just glad that isn't the situation at the current ballet school.

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Quite honestly, these parents drive me crazy. When people don't do their share of volunteering, its not fair to the others. I have run the volunteers at my studio for a few performances and when I don't get enough help for a certain class, I simply tell each family that they are responsible for all their child's costume changes, bathroom trips, make up, and of course supervision. I make it clear that there will be nobody available to help them. This always creates a lot of fuss at first, but then people get the message and realize they have to do their part.

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Wow! We do lack volunteers here and there. But to be in studio Company or our Nutcracker, we have required volunteering hours. We also have an incentive program that encourages more than the minimum. We offer 50% tickets, a free (standard) ticket, $10 at gift shoppe, all the way to a free margarita. We still get people who only do the minimum and arent ever happy helping, but we do have those that help tremendously. For backstage, that is the desired area. But that gives us issues as well. We have required training and minimum volunteering, but we also have background checks as well. We have issues with negative people wanting to work with our children and leaving us to say no. Which doesn't go over well. We lack volunteers in areas such as concessions and gift shoppe. Some people really don't want to help out no matter what we do, which is sad. And we also face issues with a small percentage of parents always helping, and the majority not.

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