Editted by Michelle and other GS staff

The Gilded Serpent

Producing a Middle Eastern Dance Festival
by Ellen Cruz

So you want to create a festival?
I use the word create because this is a creative process. It is necessary to combine your organizational and public relations skills with your creativity. First, you must have your vision of what you want to have happen. For example, do you want to focus on solo dancers, troupes or a combination of both? Do you want to showcase a particular style? Will your festival be intended for local dancers or for bringing in talent from other areas, or both?

Defining your vision clearly is the first step to creating a successful event. For Rose Productions events, my personal vision focuses on live Middle Eastern music, troupe shows and introducing as many people as possible to Middle Eastern music and dance.

Once you have a picture in your mind of what your event will offer, it is time to get to the logistics. In this article, I will cover the topics of Location, Vendors and Setup.

Finding the best location for your event is a major hurdle to overcome. What do you need to consider when searching for a location? The following list will give you an idea:

1. Access by car (from airports, buses, trains, etc.).
2. Proximity to lodgings (if necessary).

3. Parking area.
4. Vendor space.
5. Audience space.
6. Hospitality area.
7. Availability of dressing rooms and workshop areas.
8. Stage area and condition of the dance floor.
9. Atmosphere of the venue itself.
10. Decorating possibilities.
11. Rental cost of the venue.
12. Hidden costs.

Ideally, your event should be conveniently located close to major mass transit sites and comfortable lodgings. Parking space availability should be carefully evaluated.
There should be enough square-footage at the venue to accommodate the audience and the vendors as well as a hospitality, food and beverage setup. Also, there should be side rooms available for workshops (if you plan to have any) and at least enough privacy for dancers to dress.

The stage area should be able to accommodate the number of musicians you plan to have. The dance floor should be evaluated for both size and surface texture. If the surface is not appropriate for the performers, can it be covered with carpet, rugs, etc.?
The atmosphere of the venue should be conducive to the event. If it is not, consider whether you will be able to make it so by decorating.

The cost of renting the venue should meet your predetermined budget. Be sure to consider the hidden costs of renting tables and folding chairs. Will these items be including in the cost of the venue rental, or will you have to pay extra for them?

Vendors are a crucial part of your event. There are several things to consider when choosing vendors and accommodating their wares:

  1. Number of vendors.
  2. Cost of booths, or tables and chairs.\
  3. Figuring the cost per table.
  4. Variety.
  5. Security.
  6. Setting up vendors' wares.

The number of vendors you select should fit easily into the space you have rented. You will need to know whether you are responsible for the cost of the vendors' display area (i.e. the booths or tables and chairs used to accommodate the vendors and their inventory).

Figuring the cost per table can be tricky. I try to figure the number of people who will show up at the festival as paying customers. Then I compare prices with other dance festivals, trying to be in the right price bracket. If this is the first year of your festival, you will want your vendor prices to be below average. Once your reputation, and the reputation of the festival, has been established, you can raise the price to what others are charging at comparable events.

It is best to have as much variety as possible in your shopping bazaar. When soliciting vendors, you can ask them to describe their wares in detail and to send photos and references with their application to your festival. Some festivals let everyone in who would like to vend with no judging at all. Other producers use a first-paid system. You can also judge the vendors by product to make sure there will be enough variety.
Security is another issue that is of the utmost importance. Will the venue you have chosen allow your vendors to leave displays setup overnight? Whether your event is indoors or outside, you may need to hire security to guard the vendors' products if they will be left unattended overnight.

Vendor setup is crucial to everything in your event. Make sure the venue you have chosen allows your vendors to set up early enough. The morning before an event is always hectic, so it is advised that you give your vendors as much lead-time as possible.

Setting up the venue includes decorating, hanging stage backdrops, arranging the tables and chairs, and all the other 101 little things that need to be done. If you can do this the day or night before your festival begins, it will alleviate a lot of stress and prevent complications on the morning of your event when your vendors come to set up.

Ellen Cruz, Rose Productions, is known as vendor, teacher, musician, and producer. She produces workshops, concerts, and the annual Festival Fantasia held in Sonoma County in October. Festival Fantasia is now in its seventh year. Ellen has been producing events since 1991.

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Would you like to see a review of a recent festival / contest? Check out
Magana's Marathon: the Belly Dancer of the Millenium Contest!
Or take a look at the next article -
Review of Tribal Tales, an album by Mafufo Percussion Ensemble

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