A guide to throwing breaking jams
I’ve been dancing since 2002, having attended many events locally and internationally as a Competitor; a Spectator and a Service Provider (DJ / Judge). My own journey of hosting street dance forums, sessions, workshops and events of varying sizes started in 2006 until present. In this time, I have planned and executed several successful and long running events in Cape Town, South Africa that has been a fixture in the growth of the local dance scene.
Dancers are constantly seeking to be heard about what they feel is missing at events, and promoters are trying their best but may be misguided in terms of what they think is needed to service the dance community. The solutions are there to be found, but social media has been a weak platform for improving communication outcomes. With this breakdown in communication between the two parties, and perhaps a feeling of needs not being met OR best intentions being not being appreciated, I thought it’s time to review some of the principles that I have aimed to apply when hosting events. These are based on my personal experiences and are not in any way a law. But I hope it’s a chapter, in a guide book that may be added to by any one of you out there with an intention to host an event.
In this article, it is my hope to share some of my experience with you, to:
- Set a standard of understanding what it takes to meet the bare minimum for hosting a DOPE event, caring for competitors/attendees and entertaining the audience.
- Equip you and empower you to serve the dance community in the best way (that I know) possible,
- Inspire you to create your own events/ sessions/ forums and add value to the scene
- Help you learn where YOU can use the basics of this dance event plan and the add YOUR own flavor and experience to create something fresh.
- Help grow the “solution providers” in a global dance community and scene which is always quick to find the fault.
Event Elements Breakdown
“What’s going down?” >> decide what you’re planning to host:
> A jam session:
A casual session that may involve training or practice time and organically scalable to a cypher. This may not require a strict schedule and the venue can be anywhere without any strict terms. Music is best, a live DJ is optional.
> A cypher session:
A session that may be casually hosted without strict management of time scheduling within the time slot and usually follows an organic process of energy flow, in and out of competition/ battle scenarios. A live DJ is optional but the energy for cypher battles hinges on relevant music with slick transitions which a live DJ can provide.
> Dance battle or competition:
The event focus should be catering for a professional, comfortable competition environment (all of the Standard Elements listed below should be strictly adhered to).
This also requires careful management of the event program/ schedule (considering rest periods for dancers and or transitions from one style to another); + consideration for the facilities available for refreshment and ablutions for both competitions and spectators.
A live DJ and MC are required to provide the musical foundation for the battles; and facilitate the schedule keep the crowd energized respectively.
Think about what styles will be represented or needing to be catered for. This will influence many other elements to follow (DJ, MC, judges selection).
> Indoor vs outdoor:
The location will determine the environmental factors to consider for your event, with many more challenges presented for an outdoor event, but the same elements applied to make a success of it.
Making it Happen
It’s a date!!
Set a date that you wish to plan your event around. Aim to avoid clashes with other events that are possibly planned around the same time by checking in with other local or international event hosts. Respect them, but still aim to fill the calendar. Avoiding a clash with another event that is relevant to the dance community is how you will ensure a reasonable turnout at your event.
The Essential Elements of your event:
Venue & flooring
Find a suitable venue that a)- is available on your date & b)- is suitable to host the event you have planned.
The venue should provide a clean, dry, flat surface on which to perform (or place a dancefloor on top of).
The decision about whether to host on or off stage is your choice. The stage gives good visibility to a crowd but the circle/ cypher on the floor provides more energy to both the dancers and the crowd.
Dancefloor > The floor is sometimes but not always inclusive and or suitable in the venue of your choice. Seek out to hire a separate floor or purchase the hardware to create a floor that suits the needs of the dance styles represented.
Co$t $aver Tip: hard board 1.4m x 2.4m (available from large Hardware stores) is cheap (R85-R100 per board) and is recognized worldwide as the industry standard in competition dancefloors. Minimum of 4 pieces works well but 8 is Great!! Get a roll of heavy duty “gaffer tape” and you are good to go.
– Must have intimate knowledge and a clear understanding of the music required for each dance style represented in the event or session
– Must be catered for in terms of their own “technical rider”, that is: preferred technical setup should be provided to ensure optimum performance.
Basic tech requirements:
— 2 X direct drive turntables OR CDJs (Pioneer CDJ 900 or better is ideal)
— 1 X 2-Channel mixer with 3 band EQ (preferably with adjustable fader curves
— 2 X booth monitor system
— Active PA System with onboard amp options or a high power amp, with a fully surround sound system and bassbins as preferential optional extras
All technical requirements must be met to ensure clear and balanced sound from the decks. Sound checks pre-event are essential
– Must have intimate knowledge of the dance styles or the community
– Must command a neutral vibrant energy (minimize favoritism)
– Have intimate knowledge of the event schedule and guide the crowd
– Keep all involved clearly informed regarding format, rules and regulations of the event
– All technical requirements must be met to ensure clear and balanced sound from the mic. Sound checks pre-event are essential.
– must be qualified by track record of:
— experience (winning titles + high level local and international exposure)
— relevance (past or current activity in scene)
— accountability (able to feedback regarding decisions)
— credibility (Fair unbiased record)
— style specific judging (relevant to the styles)
– minimum 2, 3 or more is ideal
Kozen (Best of + Round for Round scoring); O.U.R system or Other system
Multi Media Documentation:
— Photography/ Videography/ Live stream/ Social media updates
It’s useful to employ a team of people who are well experienced in the art of capturing images and footage at your event. Even more useful if there is a strategic team of people who are posting multimedia content live to social media during your event to create an interest and a following of your activity. All the media captured will serve as a major component of your promotional content for future events and to document the history of your event history and the history of the local scene.
BITE SIZED CHUNKS: adding too many styles to the schedule can max out your event leaving competitors low on energy as they try and stay warm and ready for their turn. Respect them, as they are the primary entertainment value proposition in this scenario.
INTERNATIONALLY KNOWN: at events where many styles are catered for, with a large number of competitors and various judging and musical requirements, prelims featuring multiple floors and judges are used to streamline an event and avoid an excessively long program.
BUDGET: “Show me the Money”
I’ve purposely put the Budgeting section after the Dreaming section, as I believe that you should first know what you want to do, then realize how to make it possible or how to modify it. It’s always easier to make something smaller according budget than to build something while the budget cramps the dream. The standards to be set should be possible with any size or lack of budget. And the budget should not compromise the standards to be upheld. There are no excuses!!
Once the breakdown of the event details has been covered we look at a budget:
– Costs, pricing, quotes – research these among other hosts and also enquire with the professionals you’d like to employ.
– Resources available -> YOUR POCKET / Someone else’s pocket
– Recognizing your “table of elements”
These are the skill sets within an individual or the collective or team that you are hosting the event with. Recognize and Understand your talents and how they can be used to add value to the event you wish to host.
– outsourcing: hire in a team of people to take care of specific functions of running the event.
— Social media
— Local radio and TV
— Ads, promo events, flyers, video promo
– HIP HOP CULTURE:
All the above is in the context of Hip Hop culture, of which Breaking, Streetdance/ Top styles/ Urban styles are all associated. So it’s useful to respectfully facilitate the practice of the traditions of hip hop, by providing time and space for ALL ELEMENTS of Hip Hop to be represented at your jam. This may include live graphic art or live performances by MCs or DJs.
– Warm up areas are very useful and highly appreciated to enable optimum performance of the dancers.
– Rest areas and or Medics on site are useful at large scale events for optimum health and safety standards.
– Service team care (runners/ meals & refreshments):
Helps keep communication open between hosts; service providers (DJs, judges etc.) and the competitors during the event and keep competitors and service providers comfortable throughout the program.
– Competitor care (promo packs/ freebies/ rest areas):
Adds a special touch for competitors who have worked hard to qualify to be on the invite list/ get through the prelims.
– Live stream:
Now made easy and simple on many different platforms, BUT please consult with a music industry expert or experienced large scale event host as music copyright laws are being enforced for live broadcasts.
– Post event vid upload:
Useful to maintain community excitement about your past event and build excitement for future events.
– Post event recap:
Useful to create as an asset for you to show potential future sponsors what you have achieved.
– After Party:
Hip hop and streetdance culture comes from a background of social parties and gatherings, and modern events should always be about celebrating this culture with people. You can aim as big as you want here with a entirely separate budget, or it can just be a meal or a refreshing drink together with some of the folks who’ve attended the event. Very simple for the host to facilitate this without having to incur a cost to themselves.
– Feedback channels:
Allowing for competitors and patrons to feedback to event host is helpful as a learning experience and for the growth of your event.
– Punctuality of event – respect those who are present on time and START ON TIME!
– Timeous payments for services rendered: Respect the professionals who have made your event a success.
– Delivery of professional services: All involved parties should aim to provide the highest level of excellence in their services rendered to both the dance community as well as the audience in attendance.
– Communication directly not only via social media channels: It’s useful to open communication channels open via personal meetings/ phone/ email and social media so as to avoid confusion by any parties of the terms of engagement and meet all expectations of all involved parties.
These guidelines can be scaled according to your event needs, but start first with the Dream and then fill in the details. I haven’t covered what it would take to host international judges/ DJs or dancers here as it’s not relevant to this piece. Don’t let budget be your only guiding factor, but let your passion drive you and build a team who are prepared to work alongside you to realize that dream. It would be dishonest to say that It won’t take some investment from you personally. There’s no way around it. Both your time and energy are expensive and cannot be given back to you, so spend it well and understand that when you undertake the hosting of events, it’s not a profit making business. Any of the local or international hosts of events will tell you that no matter the scale (IBE or Concrete Apostles Anniversary) you will break even at best, BUT you WILL be a service to your community. And that is worth more than Gold, or Bitcoin.
With Love, BEAR
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barry Baumgart aka BEAR has been Breaking since 2002, a founding member of ILL ROCK crew and Concrete Apostles. He has DJ’d at several premium streetdance events as Breaks by BEAR. He hosts weekly sessions such as “Breaking Funk Sessions”; and has hosted several workshops and sessions with local and international dancers including Lamine (Fra); Renegade (UK); Gamblerz (Kor); Nedda Sou (Ned). Most notable battles hosted are Concrete Apostles Anniversary Jam; ILL ROCK Anniversary Jam and Breaking Funk Cypher Battles.
Find him at
Facebook: ILL ROCK Sessions / Concrete Apostles / Breaks By BEAR