Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Posters for dance don't have to be boring

Disclaimer: I love living in America. I have been here for a total of about 6 years now. Many of my dearest friends here are dancers and choreographers, and this post is not about anyone in particular. It's just some thoughts on my impressions. 

Here's the thing. I think American dance companies need to work on something.

Your advertising posters.

Often in posters / flyers for dance shows (not always, but let's be honest, it's most of the time) we see ... a picture of a dancer. A dancer mid-jump in the air. Two dancers. Three dancers. A dancer in an arabesque. A dancer doing something else that shows that they're - yes - a dancer.

That's it.


Choreographers and people marketing dance: You are creative people! Be creative in your marketing! We assume your dancers can dance. Don't get me wrong - I get that you're selling a dance show. Of course you want to put your cast first and foremost in your advertising. But as an audience member, I'm most intrigued by posters / flyers that also give some hint of the piece itself. Some atmosphere. Some theme. Some emotion. Some...something.

I grew up in Ireland, quite used to seeing posters for performances that were often, quite frankly, so artistic and interesting that you sometimes had to look closely to see what they were actually posters for. What they did, cleverly, was draw the observer in - I wanted to take that second look. I would walk past posters for companies like Dance Theatre of Ireland or Fabulous Beast on the street and they'd make me stop in my tracks. (Anyone remember that poster with the close-up of Olwen Grindley's arm and the camels - or was it horses - walking across it? Brilliant!) As a teenager, I would send little begging notes to Artistic Directors asking if they had any spare posters that I could put on my bedroom wall. These became inspirational posters for me, a young dancer wanting to make a life in the performing arts. They were pieces of art in themselves.

The posters I see in the U.S. do not make me want to bring them home.

What brought this little ramble on today was a Facebook post by a dancer friend in Ireland, advertising Csilla Nagy's piece this evening in Dublin:

Intriguing, right? It draws me in. It proffers questions: Why is she hiding her face? Is she pregnant? Will that be incorporated in her piece? Why is there foliage around her? Will the piece explain this or is it, like it's poster, a mysterious piece - like the inside of the body?

It does what good marketing should do: It makes you want more. 

Look, I'm as guilty as the next dance artist of putting my dancers in my posters - the poster is usually a snapshot of the piece, and the piece isn't the piece without it's dancers. But I do my best to create interesting posters too, with the intention of giving the prospective ticket-buyer another reason to look twice. (And before we get into a money debate over this, let me say: Apart from once, very early on in my career, I have not had the budget for a graphic designer in 10 years of creating dance. Like a lot of dance makers, I do 'em myself.)

I beg of you, dance makers of America (and, ok, some of you outside America too) - Get creative with your posters, please. Make me want to put your posters on my walls again. Your dancers' long limbs and heavenly muscles are wonderful, and I know that decades of work went into honing them - but that can't be ALL your piece is about. Is it? 

- Rachel 
Here are some other cool ones...

Update: After I tweeted this blog post, @clouddancefest turned me on to an article by Article 19, a British online dance publication. Great stuff! They look like movie posters.