It seems this is the perfect time for this blog subject.  I decided that there are so many new people over the last couple years that not only would a tips for the actual weekend be helpful, but some history and general explanation might actually prove useful as well.

To fully appreciate DAC weekend, I thought I would do a bit of a history lesson.  When I was first associated with Curtain Call as a newly married lady and young Mom who was a company sponsor and sometime dance ‘Mom’ to my sister, Wendy, the studio was a competition studio.  Now that included the conventions and all the competition experiences, even Nationals in Florida, but not every year, which I accompanied my sister.  A few years later, my own children were five and in what was called Dazzlers (later called Junior Company.)  The groupings were by age while the studio engaged in competitions of Dazzlers, Brava, Relevations, and Encore.  My sister Wendy was in Encore until she graduated, which was the year before Meg and Alan joined Dazzlers at the same time.  Personally, I did not enjoy competitions, though many dance families do enjoy that aspect.  Once the studio changed ownership hands, company moved to a non-profit 501 3c, including the $800+ fee per dancer to foot that bill.  You’re welcome.  Around that time, staff felt that earning trophies was not teaching the students the lessons they would like taught and the decision to be a non-competition studio was born.  Company became Senior and Junior Elite Performing Company and castings began.

Now, Dance Against Cancer initially began as the Dessert Cabaret in 2004 to assist with fundraising for a trip to New York for a summer convention.  It was a fundraiser for the company at the Arts Garden downtown with catered desserts.  I think someone in company had an ‘in’ there.  Next year the Dessert Cabaret was at the Colt’s Complex and the next the Rathskeller again with the venue required catering.  Then cancer, which affected all of us, hit very close to home and our office manager was diagnosed with and survived breast cancer and thus Dance Against Cancer was created (though it had a few different names at first).  Given the previous venues were eating up the money that was being raised and there was now a new studio space, the event was moved to the studio for an intimate black box experience.  Now, I don’t remember our first goal, I feel like it was low, like $1000 or $2000 and we had 2 shows on one day, but our event coordinator and office manager would know that better (I don’t want to mention other’s names in my blog without getting permission, if you are from our studio, you know who I mean!)  The event has grown with the help of all parents and volunteers to the raising of $15,000 last year.  It is a beautiful outpouring of giving and opportunity to come together and teach our kids to think outside of themselves and I personally love this weekend so much.  I can’t thank our office manager enough for having the strength to not only survive cancer twice but to spearhead and lead this event to success for so many years because it has taught all of my children to care about others.

Now that the history lesson is completed, let’s talk the actual event.  The show is set up in studio A where there will be 100 chairs all numbered/lettered.  The dancers enter from the door and perform then exit, one dance after the other.  Before the seating in the room, there is a silent auction room open for people to bid on donated items.  Just before intermission, there is a candlelight ceremony where Junior Company will come in holding the different cancer ribbon colors while wearing their company basic and Senior Company will stand with candles and read a passage about why we have the fundraiser.  Now be sure to have your Kleenex.  Sometimes a cancer survivor will give a testimonial and sometimes not.  It depends on the year.  Then some of the selected older dancers will read lists of names, beginning with those we honor, those who are fighting or have survived cancer, and ending with those we have lost.  The audience will also have candles.  After a moment of silence the candles will be blown out and after Michelle addresses the crowd, the dancers will be dismissed to go change.  Then the audience can go enjoy the homemade desserts and peruse the silent auction again.  The past few years there has been a 50/50 raffle and some years there is a live auction for a basket of things.  The dancers begin to dance again and before the last number the auction results are announced.  The dancers do the final number, we have a super short finale and people are dismissed to go pay for their auction items up front.  The dancers are dancing in full costume and will practice that Thursday before at a dress rehearsal.  It will be quick changes so pull up my organization blog and be ready!

What you need to know right now is about auction items and tickets.  Starting with tickets, this event cannot occur without volunteers and you really can’t volunteer if you are watching every show.  Additionally, if you are taking a seat in every show that is one seat that may not go to a person that might come and bid on an expensive item.  I love to watch my child too, so I pick one show where my family will be and sit with them, otherwise I am out and out of the way.  I have seen families that literally buy tickets to every show for themselves and children.  It really could go to a teacher, pastor, someone else to help out the cause because I guarantee your family won’t be spending the same level of money on the auction every show as what a non-dance family would.  You WANT community people to come to this event and see these dancers.  That is how money is raised.  The office manager can tell you better than I, but I feel like the last show is often the least attended, though we were close to selling out all of the shows last year.  Also, it’s a given that the more items donated to the auction, the more money will be raised.  Some older dancers have donated babysitting services or nail parties.  Some parents who have business have donated free services.  However, most of the items are product items, such as two tickets to an Indians Game, gift certificate to a restaurant, products from a store like a series of lotions from Bath and Body Works.  Sometimes donations are combined into baskets, such as family movie night where it had microwave popcorn and some DVDs, date night that had wine glasses and wine, family game night that had a series of fun games in a basket, scrapbooking supplies, or kid friendly baskets.  Now I am going to stop here and not give tips on getting donations because I am LOUSY at this part of the job, where we have other parents that are AWESOME!!!  Hopefully, they can post some tips, because this introvert struggles.  The donations I obtain are hand crafted items I made, services my kids have offered, or friends I know that are associated with business that helped me get something.  This takes time, so I would get started right now because the more the better.  In the past, dancers have collected coins in water bottles.  If you think about that, we have 56 dancers, if they all collected a water bottle full of dimes – that is $100 each = $5600- 1/3 of the goal.  I like it when my child helps as well.

Also, soon there will be sign ups to help.  This weekend cannot occur without everyone helping and with four shows; there is plenty to do from set up to tear down.  Each area has a specific person in charge, so I won’t address details because, well, I’m not in charge and I might get them wrong.  I just cut the desserts.  I actually love that job.  Not only is it a challenge and satisfying, the smell of all that sweet makes me so nauseous that I don’t eat a single dessert all weekend.  Please address your specific questions to the committee chairperson, which if not listed on the sign ups, the front desk can tell you who.  The primary areas are setting up, tearing down, and monitoring the hall during the show, dessert room, and auction room.  Also there are other jobs like ticket takers, greeters, money takers, etc.  Please sign up for something at a show.  There will also be a dessert sign up.  Instructions about what is needed will be on the sign up, and of course, if you have questions, see the dessert committee chairperson.  Here is the important part I can say about desserts, please home make the desserts and do not buy them.  That is what makes this event so special, that each lovingly made dessert is a homemade option.  In the past, there have been parents that you could pay to make your dessert for you, but I don’t know if that is still a thing.  Also, do not cut the dessert, I will do that so that pieces are displayed well and cakes are not dried out prior to serving.  If you sign up for a pie, two need to be brought and cakes need to have 12 servings.  Mini desserts need 24 servings and if your mini dessert is like a mousse that needs a mini spoon, please bring those as well.  The kitchen is small so there is not room to store desserts for later shows.  Bringing your desserts in disposable pans/serving trays is very helpful but not required.  Have your name on your dishes if you bring your own and be sure to check back at the end of the show to collect your dish.  If it’s not the Sunday at 1pm show, I usually get them washed for you.  (I do bring my own servers, cutters, towels and paper towels so I will get cranky if those ‘walk’ away even if someone spilled that forbidden drink in the dressing room.)

Desserts are for the ticketed attendees.  Our dessert committee coordinator has made the calculations, so not the dancers, the parents or even the special DAC dancers can have desserts unless we have enough for everyone at the end, no matter how much people get grumpy at the poor dessert room workers.  This goes the same for the purchased lemonade and bottled water.  Dancers should have brought their own water and should not be even stepping in the dessert room unless it’s to say hi to a family member.  The halls and rooms get very crowded with 100 guests, 59 dancers, and parents so keeping additional bodies out of the dessert room so we can get people dessert and on to peruse the auction is the goal.  Please prepare your dancer that they won’t be getting a dessert or lemonade and they need to stay out of the dessert room and kitchen.  I notice it seems to be the dancers with the fluffiest tutus that are doing twirls and twirls and twirls right next to the chocolate desserts.  Additionally, the dessert room is torn down during the second act so guest cannot come to the back to get more desserts so please let your guests know that.

Now let’s talk about surviving the actual weekend:

This event is a beautiful but exhausting weekend.  I would encourage you to nutritionally prepare yourself and your dancer as you do for recital or a marathon.  It’s the same advice I would give for recital.  Begin at least a week before with excellent water only hydration for both you and your dancer.  Dancers do not need as many carbs as runners, but they need protein and some carbs.  No junk food.  Healthy snacks of nuts, cheeses, fruits to provide energy.

I’m going to start with parking because that is what you will do first.  Please drop your dancer and things at the door and then park far, far away, leaving the front parking area for the elderly guests and the close street parking for the other guests.  Yes, if it’s raining or cold, that is unpleasant, but we want our guests to be the priority.  Additionally, as a person who has a father with lung cancer, he simply cannot go anyplace if he cannot access a door and chair easily.  We are young with working legs so close spots need to go to those who are not.  If ‘no one else is doing it’, be the trend setter and remind your friends to move their car!

The changing areas are small for the amount of dancers, so you will need to be organized and compact.  Again, check out the blog for organization on this site.  Have your organization book with all the pieces.  You will need a costume rack because there are not enough racks around the studio.  A small basket to keep your dancer contained is also helpful.  If your dancer has a break in the lineup, I would bring quiet activities for them to do, though this particular event there will likely be many quick changes.  If you have a sibling that is not a dancer, they should not be in the changing areas as there is lot of people in that space already, nor should they be in other changing areas.  For your sanity, if siblings are not in the show, I suggest you get them a sitter.  It is just so much easier for you.  If they are a DAC dancer, I would bring the sibling a quiet activity to do out of the way of the main traffic flow because dancers will be quickly moving and may not see a young one sitting on the floor.  I know my Jon usually gets the small room off the back lobby and often siblings are set up playing games quietly outside his door and he comes shooting out after a quick change and steps on the child because he needs to walk there and not step over bodies.  Just scope where all of the dancers are changing on Thursday dress rehearsal and study their movement pattern so you know where it’s safe to place your young child to quietly read or play.  Also, I have had older dancers report that younger social children will follow them in a dressing room to talk with them while dressing and get in the way.  If you have one of those social butterflies that want to talk with or follow around “the big kids” please talk with them before about how that can’t happen at this event.  If you have a young dancer, count on helping your child because these changes are quick or arrange with other parents to help.  Bring yourself a stool to sit on!  Here is the hard part, all those people in the concentrated area that is often too hot to shut the door, get VERY LOUD!!!! That sound travels straight up to the ears of the guest watching the show in studio A, so as hard as this is, everyone in the dressing room, especially if the door is open, has to be quiet.

Dancers will prepare for a dance then stand in their appropriate lined order in the hallway.  There will be hall monitors who have the job of making sure all the dancers for that piece are present so when Michelle pops her head out she knows if she needs to stall a bit for a quick change.  Here, dancers MUST BE SILENT!!!! Not whispery quiet, but silent.  You can hear it inside studio A and it is difficult to enjoy the show when the music is interrupted by talking.  Now the hall monitors are also to shush the dancers, but I have noticed that more and more the dancers simply ignore them, so please talk with your dancer in advance about being super quiet in the hall.  Not even whispering and especially not engaging in clapping/chanting games.  Also, it is helpful if you cue your dancers to follow all of the adult’s instructions.

For quick changes, you will need to preset costumes.  Dancers should begin to do this at by at least age 10, so start teaching them now.  By preset that means figuring out if you can underdress any part of the costume, for example you can have the tan tights under the pink tights.  For parts you cannot underdress, have leotards and pants on the floor in front of your changing area laid out so your dancer can just step in them and you pull it up.  Have the pieces laid out in order of getting on, tights, leotard, skirt, armband, head piece. If you wear the server apron, you can have your safety pins and bobby pins already on the apron with hair spray and comb/brush in the pocket for hair changes.  If not, have a shoe rack on your costume rack where one shelf is devoted to hair needs.  Often for DAC, the directors will modify the hair requirements so there are no or very little hair changes.   Have shoes with ties untied ready for feet to be slipped in.  For taps, you can lace the regular taps with elastic, which allows for slipping your foot in faster.  Cue your child that the costume they remove and all pieces land in your provided basket, not spread on the floor so it can be hung later and honestly, I would have your child hang it later.  Stay organized by having accessories in gallon baggies hung on the hangers.  On the baggies write your dancer’s name, the name of the dance and all of the parts of the costume.  Additionally, write your dancer’s name on all of the costume pieces and the inside of your shoes.  It is a very small space.  Don’t forget the basic as well.  Have a three ring binder with page protectors that have your costumes and everything you need so your dancer can just flip to the next page.  Generally, the lineup is the same for each show, but there are some subtle changes so a three ring binder lets you make those changes easily.  If you or your dancer becomes too stressed, just switch parents for a while.

Encourage your guests attending the event to bid on some auction items or participate in the 50/50.  In the past, they have been able to sign up for the Relay for Life Team on that day or just make a cash donation.  Every little thing helps.  At the end of the three initial shows, have your dancer clean up their area and head on home for Friday and Saturday.  Ask your guests not to come to the changing areas to greet your dancers but have your dancers greet them after the show in studio A.  There are already tons of people trying to change and clean up in the back.  Sunday between shows have a packed meal for them to eat.  After the fourth show, pack up your area, be sure you have everything and vacate as quickly as possible, leaving the dressing room areas as clean as when you arrived.  Then if you signed up for clean-up crew, roll up your sleeves and go!  If not, getting home and out of the clean-up crew’s way is just as helpful.  Clean-up is really where the dance Dads can help quite a bit.

Above all, don’t forget why this weekend is happening: to bring awareness to the scourge of cancer and to do a small part to help fight it.  Please keep all calm and help your dancer focus outward on this weekend.  It will be a time to grow and bond.  Now I am sure I have not included everything you need to know, but I think enough.  I hope you are looking as forward to this weekend as I am.