Backstage crew; our hidden heroes? It’s always great to go to a show and see your child on stage surrounded by some awe-inspiring set that “just appears” out of nowhere but what you hopefully don’t see is a team that is working hard to make the performance run as seamlessly as possible. So, what is it that a good stage crew does?
The backstage crew’s job starts as early as the dancers, they should be at every rehearsal learning the performance and getting to know the soundtrack, so they know when to move and how the dancers move so they don’t end up colliding. They will also hopefully have the opportunity to help build set and props over the coming months to be used during the show.
When it comes to the day of the event, the stage crew show up and their first job is to unload the set from the bus/van/lorry/horse box…. we’ve seen it all, and the work starts there. Inspect the set and make sure it hasn’t been damaged in transit then make any repairs necessary, you’ll then be directed by the Rock ChallengeⓇ crew where they want you to unload to.
At your rehearsal, you should have your stage crew treat it like it’s the real show, you don’t get timed during your rehearsal but it’s the one chance you get all year to get a rough idea of how you are going to do everything so take full advantage of it but remember that things sometimes change between rehearsal and show because the school before you or after you can cause changes to the plan so you have to be adaptive and think on the spot. It is this that makes backstage work so difficult but rewarding.
The show comes, and if you’re anything like me, your adrenaline rises and the panic sets in: I only have 4 minutes! But don’t worry, this is normal! Take a deep breath and remember that you know what you’re doing.
Get your set on stage as quick as you can, leaving space to get the rest of your set on and go back to do as many trips as needed. Work together, do not run and remember that safety and communication is key.
Once all your set is on stage and assuming that no one has been stood around doing nothing, it is then that your 4 minutes starts. The centre of the stage is marked so you can line everything up. It helps to assign someone to be your crew leader, have them be your conductor and make sure everything is lined up where it should be with everyone working safely. It is this person who should make sure everything is done and let the Rock ChallengeⓇ crew know to stop the clock. Don’t waste time asking about the 4 minutes as they won’t be able to tell you until after the show anyway.
Something that the judges are looking for is an adaptive stage. Although a big set will get you some points, a clever set will get you more. A choreographed stage crew is just as important to your piece as a lead dancer, they have to know the soundtrack inside out. The difference is that they often can’t see where they are going (from behind set) so they need to know this purely from looking up at the lighting rig or using the stage curtains.
As your 8 minutes finish, wait until the lights come back up and your 4 minutes will start again but you don’t have to get it off stage, just enough out of the way that it doesn’t obstruct the next school from getting onto the stage so make sure your dancers are clear then start moving your set into the wings. Have your van keys ready if you can and you are welcome to load your set up. Once everything is safely packed away, you can finally rest and wait for the results!
Remember to enjoy your day, drink plenty of water and eat to keep your energy up because it’s a long day. On the day there is no such thing as different stage crews, we are all one big stage crew so talk to the different schools. If you see people struggling then offer them some help because teamwork is what makes the show run on time and makes it look so professional.