Insight on Being a Dance Performance DJ

My journey into streaming music in SL began with a need.  One of my favorite sayings:

“Necessity is the mother of invention.”

So, the group I belonged to was going to be starting a monthly event and needed a DJ to stream practices and dance performances.  I can’t remember if I raised my hand or was nudged, but liking all things techy and new – I jumped in and learned from ground zero.  I cringe now when I remember those days…and the goofs…and cutting into music, singing on the stream, and being a goofball.  There are days still where my fingers just seem to do their own thing or I’m not 100% focused and say the wrong thing…but I digress.

So, I started out as a dance performance DJ and later would occasionally DJ my own music sets at different places.  This is a bit opposite, generally most DJ’s begin with their own sets and then transition into DJing for dance performances.

You would think that after DJing your own sets that it would be simple to DJ dance performances.  Actually not so much, there are some differences – but that’s what also can make DJing for dance performances exciting and fulfilling.

Tips, Thoughts, Suggestions on DJing a Dance Performance

  • A dance show generally lasts one hour, generally with approximately 8 dance performances
  • Key people for a dance performance:
    • director – oversees the flow and feel of the show, directly involved in the creative vision
    • manager – coordinates the order of dances, collects information, etc.  Keeps things organized and communicates with the staff.
    • hostess/MC – if there is one, this person generally greets the guests as they arrive and will often make announcements in chat about viewer settings for the performance (turn off name tags, turn on particles, reduce scripts, etc.)
    • choreographer – creator of a dance, and also the person in control of performing it.  Each dance will have its own choreographer.  This is the key person for you to communicate with as you stream each dance performance music file.
    • dancer – dancers support the choreographer in performing, joining the choreographer on stage.  The DJ generally doesn’t have any direct communication with the dancers in regards to streaming for the show.
  • The normal flow of dance show music is:
    • Pre-show music
    • Show theme music
    • First dance performance
    • Intro music for 2nd choreographer
    • Music for 2nd choreographer
    • Intro music for 3rd choreographer
    • Music for 3rd choreographer, etc
    • I usually have a bit of applause for after the last act
    • Closing song – may be something specific for you/the venue, or general music.
    • Post-show music – I generally plan about 15 minutes.
  • For some venues, there is no speaking over the stream during the show.  There may or may not be speaking over the stream before and after the show.  For others, the DJ announces the choreographer who will be performing and a blurb after.  Check with the venue manager for what they want.
  • A choreographer creates a dance to a specific version of music.  This will be provided to you, preferably by email but often by providing a link to the music.  You MUST use their version of the music, no edits.  Timing is very critical for the choreographer’s performance.
  • Each choreographer will generally have their own intro music which they’ve selected and will provide.  Choreographer’s generally use the same intro music for each of their performances/shows.  In a full stage production type of performance, there may be pre-selected transition music.  This is generally for shows where the director wants a cohesive flow and overall feeling for the show.
  • Do NOT use fadein/fadeout music transitions for a dance performance.  It is critical for the choreographer to hear every beat of their music, especially the start so that they can begin their dance.  They also need to be able to finish their performance and close the curtain before the music jumps into the main beats of the next song.
  • Each choreographer has their own intro during which they get ready to perform.  When they are ready, you will generally fade out the remaining part of their intro music so that they can perform.  The audience gets restless waiting for 5-6 minutes unless it’s necessary.  In this case, be prepared to fade out the intro music and to start the performance music with no fade.
  • Generally, the intro music for the first choreographer isn’t used.  It goes from show intro music to 1st choreographer dance music.  Double check with venue management as to how they want it done.
  • The performance music should finish to the end, with no fade out, and the next intro start with no fade in.
  • Remove silence settings on streaming software can often cause problems for the choreographer.  At times, their beginning of their music is soft – which your DJ software may detect as silence.  The best transition option is generally None – play back to back.
  • Check your music files.  Be prepared if the music the choreographer sent has a significant amount of pure silence at the beginning and ending of the file.  (I consider anything more than 2 or 3 seconds to be significant.  You may in this case chose to edit the file, trimming the silence to 2 or 3 seconds of silence, or listen to the live play (not streamed with the delay) and force the music to advance when it hits the silence block.

Working with the Choreographer:

  • I highly recommend having an IM open with each dance leader (choreographer) for the show.  This gives you a direct line of communication with the choreographer without chat lag.  Ask choreographers to communicate with you only through your IM only.  There’s too much going on in group chat to take instructions from there.
  • I ask choreographers to IM me (the DJ).  This allows it to become a habit, and saves the DJ from having to hunt down and open IMs with the choreographers.  The DJ often has enough going on that making the choreographers responsible for communication is critical.  This also helps when they crash, they know to open an IM with the DJ when they get back.
  • I order my choreographer IM’s in the window based on the show order.  1st choreographer is first, 2nd choreographer is 2nd, etc.
  • The choreographer should communicate with you when they are ready to perform or if they need more time before they are ready.  Communication is critical!
  • It is good practice to let a choreographer know how much time they have left in their intro when it begins getting close to the end – i.e. 1:00, :30, etc.  I use the remaining time according to my stream software (ignoring the delay).
  • it is good practice to IM the next choreographer, letting them know they are up next.  This gives them the heads up, let’s you know if they’ve crashed, and if they are reading/watching for your communications.
  • If the choreographer needs more time, they should tell you as soon as possible.  If they haven’t said ready/aren’t responding and they only have 15 seconds of intro music left, I generally listen to the intro music live and jump back to an earlier point in the song.
  • Be clear with your choreographer.  After many missteps, I no longer take “ok” as the signal that they are ready.  They may just be responding “ok” to what you said.  I always ask choreographers to say “ready” in my IM with them – NOT in group chat.

Flow of the Performance:

  • Before the show begins, choreographers will be “caching” their sets, particles, and costumes.  By caching their sets, they are rezzing them to make sure everything is rezzing correctly, to see if there are any lag delays, and preparing the audience viewers for the textures, etc.  They will also be caching particles to prepare the textures, and the costumes so that the show can flow smoothly.
  • The show generally begins with the theatre (venue) show intro.  The show director/manager will direct you on what music to use.  This is generally started at the show start time (i.e. 1:00 pm slt), or may be queued so that it finishes at 1:00 pm slt for the first performance to begin.  Again, talk to the show director/manager on the guidelines for that venue.
  • Just prior to or during the show intro, the 1st choreographer to perform will rez their set, move their dancers on stage, may re-cache their particles, and will cache their dances.  By caching their dances, they are playing a small part of each animation to prepare the audience viewers so that they can see the animations smoothly during the performance.
  • IM the choreographer to let them know the show intro is playing.
  • IM the choreographer to let them know how much time is left in the show intro, especially around the 1:00 minute mark and :30 mark.
  • When the choreographer is ready to perform, they will say ready in their IM with you.
  • Fade out their intro music unless there is 20 seconds or less remaining.  I usually allow the intro to play out.
  • If you will be announcing before the choreographer begins, make sure to catch this at the end of the intro.  I usually do fade out the intro, make the announcement, wait for 2 seconds (creating a small pocket of silence), then start their performance music with no fade.
  • IM the next choreographer to let them know that they are next.  (I do this while the current choreographer is on stage performing.)
  • Let their dance music play through to the end.
  • If you will be announcing after the performance, catch this just before/just as the next intro will begin.  Whatever you do – don’t cut into the dance performance music!  Different DJs have different methods.  I have a small transition file I add to the playlist giving me a small cushion to allow for 5-10 seconds of audience applause, then cut into it to make my announcements.  I then begin the next dancer’s intro from the beginning, no fade in.
  • Repeat this process until the last performance.
  • After the last performance, you may want to play a bit of applause, say thank you’s over the stream, then play closing music.  The closing music is generally a signal that the show is done.  I usually play low key music or music about being the end, until next time, etc.

What to do when things go sideways:

There will always be times when things don’t go as planned.  Preparation will go a long way in handling this as smoothly as possible.

  • Be prepared to jump back in the intro music or to add a filler song if the choreographer says they need more time.
  • Have filler songs handy.  Even if you normally jump back in the intro, the natives (ie audience) will become restless after a bit.
  • If you are within 15 seconds remaining in the intro and the choreographer isn’t responding, jump back in the intro or add a filler song to play.  I IM the choreographer to let them know (after I do it) that I’ve extended the intro or “filler added”.  This is much better than rolling into their dance music before they are ready.  (No “ready”, no music.)
  • If you’ve added a filler song and the choreographer says they are ready within the last 5-10 seconds, I let a bit of the filler song play before I introduce them.  If I try to remove the filler song and start my introduction within the last 10 seconds, something generally goes wrong.  I let a bit of the filler song play, take a breath, introduce the dance, then start their performance music.
  • Always, always, always, be focused on the IM of the choreographer who will be taking the stage or is on stage.  If their HUD freezes, they or management should be IMing you to play filler music.
  • Always watch the choreographer taking the stage.  If you see that they are having problems with their dance, be prepared for them or management to ask you to play filler music.
  • NEVER ASSUME that you should restart their music/play filler music because they appear to be having issues.  Wait for the choreographer or management to instruct you.  There are times where the choreographer fixes the issue quickly and lets the dance run.  If you will be restarting the music, the choreographer needs to be prepared for that – take their direction.
  • If they are having issues during the intro/filler music, there are times where I jump on the air to break up the waiting for the audience.  I generally try not to communicate too much about SL issues, instead focusing on positive things or being a little playful or funny.
  • There are times where management will decide to skip to the next act – perhaps putting the other back in at the end of the show, be prepared to adjust your playlist on the fly.

The DJ “presence” for a Dance Performance

  • If you will be speaking over the air between acts, before/after the show – communicate your style, your persona.  Having a connection with the audience makes your experience and theirs that much more fun.  Be warm, be friendly/funny/sexy/etc.
  • With that being said, every venue has its own vibe, its own style.  if you are DJing a sexy burlesque venue, tap into that energy and communicate that through your words and tone.
  • Never forget that the show focus is the dance performances.  Your expression and interaction with the audience should enhance their dance show experience it, not overshadow it.
  • Let the audience get to know you.  Your own buzz words, style.  Example:  Dance Performance DJ Corri often says “let’s shake and bake” with that sultry voice of hers.  That’s her signature.  The audience knows it, and it ramps up the excitement when they hear it.  Own who you are!  Let them hear you laugh, the happiness or excitement in your voice as you do your thing!
  • Relax!  No matter what may have gone wrong, pick yourself up and stay relaxed!  The audience can hear stress over the air, and for you being tense is nothing but quicksand that can quickly spiral downhill.
  • Enunciate clearly.    This at times can be an issue for me.  Keep some room temperature water nearby, warm up your voice before the show.

Announcements/Things to Say

(still in progress)

Most of all, have fun!  You are part of the team and together creating an amazing experience for everyone!  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts 🙂

“”I treat each dancer as if they are my only dancer at the moment…you have to know how to calm nerves, soothe egos, and dry tears…and occasionally kiss butt”  
~ comment from a well known and respected dance performance DJ