Four Ways to Improve a Dance Event
At its core, a jam has judges, a floor, and some music. Not everyone can afford to have top-tier jam production like BC One. However, there are a few inexpensive and easy ways to go the extra mile with your jam.
Note that this post is specifically targeted toward smaller community jams--not large events.
Many small events are held at venues such as a basketball gym or a cafeteria, but the bright, industrial lighting of these venues doesn't create the optimal vibe for a breaking event.
Renting or bringing your own lights can drastically change the wayan event feels. The ultimate goal is to have people leaving the jam feeling energized. Lights create a more dance-oriented vibe, which can hype up the audience and improve the overall energy of the room.
Most notably, renting these lights doesn't have to be an expensive ordeal; it can cost in the ballpark of USD$50 to get some overhead lights for use at the event, easily findable through an online search.
(photo credit: Neil Yuzon)
Breaking events are notorious for involving a lot of time spent standing around. Providing seats can be a good way to make the event experience more spectator-friendly.
The word seating evokes fanciness, but it doesn't necessarily need to be high-quality seating. For example, here are the types of seating I've seen at past events, ranging from low- to high-quality:
Gymnastics blocks lying around at a parkour gym
Folding chairs in a cafeteria or from home
Rented bleachers or "choir risers"
Built-in venue seating, such as bleachers at basketball gyms or community centers
Some might argue that seating promotes an atmosphere of a show and performance rather than a traditional jam vibe. The goal of seating is to provide comfort for observers of the competition circle. A jam should always still have cyphers running on the side.
While renting bleachers (likely a few hundred USD) is definitely on the high end of seating, seating can be a cheap endeavor if a handful of volunteers chip in by bringing folding chairs or stools from home.
An example of rented bleachers giving spectators a few rows of comfortable seating
Branded goodies add an extra touch to the jam. Some examples of branding include:
Free goods are the hardest to fit in the budget, but they can have a lasting impact on the community. For example, when people walk into practice with a jam-branded shirt, it's a lasting reminder to both you and them of a memorable jam. Most importantly, it makes attendees want to come back in the future, equivalent to passing out flyers or sending invitations to future events. Dancers like free stuff.
Giveaways and Prizes
Having prizes and giveaways is a good way to commemorate the event and boost its production value. These can be either prizes for the "main event" or side-events within the jam.
There are many ways to approach this:
Having high-quality or unique trophies for the winners of the jam
Doing giveaways in the administrative downtime between rounds
Holding side-competitions (e.g., hand-hop or flare challenges) with prizes
A small jam is a community affair, but being small doesn't mean that the jam can't have solid production value. The methods outlined in this have a high reward-to-effort ratio--hopefully leaving attendees with a fond impression of your jam.