Spiral Skies Bellydance

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Boosting Audience Engagement

Posted by Tessa Thompson on April 1, 2013 at 1:25 PM

Spiral Skies Bellydance presents…

More than entertainment: Engagement techniques to enhance audience satisfaction

As a performing artist, what are your fears?  Perhaps an audience responding with stark silence. Maybe an audience more interested in conversation and cell phones than the performance.  Or worse yet, an empty house.

In an effort to attract and retain audiences, dancers are experimenting with a range of innovative audience engagement activities.  The following techniques are tools you, or an emcee, can use to draw an audience in, then send them away with positive word-of-mouth.

Introduce yourself.  It seems like a no-brainer, but dancers often forget to tell their audiences who they are.  This is your elevator speech, a short summary used to quickly and simply define a dancer, your training or background, and the genre or specialty presented in the performance.  If you perform multiple pieces, discuss the meaning of or inspiration for the work.

Give them something to do.  Belly dance embraces audience participation.  At the opening of the show, teach the audience appropriate responses to what they see.  How to zaghareet, when to hiss, practicing a few Arabic phrases, or a room-wide “Opa!” will energize an audience before the dancer takes the stage.

Enlighten and educate. Prior to a performance with a prop, teach your audience about that special element.  Let’s take zills as an example.  Demonstrate the different sounds zills can make.  Discuss how zills are different from finger cymbals.  Then give your audience a task: Tell them to look for something specific to the prop, i.e., “Can you spot those in our troupe who are right-handed or left-handed zillers?”

Mind your body language.  Dancers use their bodies to communicate. Still, in the heat of the spotlight, it’s easy to forget the fundamentals.  Maintain proper dance posture with shoulders back and chest proud. Lift the chin, exposing the neck.  Smile with a slightly open mouth.  This stance is confident and open, and commands attention.  A closed body posture — hunched shoulders, caved chest, chin and eyes downcast, a pursed mouth — says “Don’t look at me.”  Your audience will take the hint and oblige.

Put your audience at ease.  Exposed skin is still socially taboo, especially in close proximity to others and in public spaces.  When mingling with the audience before and after a show (a great way to network and meet prospective students and clients), drape yourself with a veil or ghawazee coat.  This protects the dancer from people who might leer, and makes the dancer less intimidating because she is covered.  A semi-transparent veil or cut-away ghawazee coat effectively walks the line between social propriety and maintaining exoticism through costuming.

Kudos all around.  Always, always publicly thank your sponsors, venue, host, collaborators, and audience for their contribution to the show.  Mention them by name, if possible.  Make this announcement prior to the last performance while you still have butts in the seats.

By helping audience members understand the artist’s process and ideas, they can begin to interpret the meaning and relate to what they are seeing.  Once that connection occurs, the consumer is more likely to return for more.

Do you want more?  Then click on the tabs above for more blog posts, plus class schedules and registration for the Yellowstone Belly Dance Festival, Aug. 16-18.

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