Festival Organizing thoughts/questions Pt 2 – Instructors

Today’s blog post brought to you by: multiple conversations with other instructors and organizers. I have over 10 years of Dance Event organizing and Teaching. Hopefully this can help both parties see the other side!

Things to consider when choosing instructors for your festival:


Is your event a party weekend? Is it competitions focus? Is it beginner focused? Make sure the people you are bringing on board match the energy you want. Many people can fall into multiple categories, but not everyone is everything, and not everyone is a good fit.
What do you want them to do (i.e., teach, social dance, perform): If you want quality classes, hire and pay quality teachers. If you want someone to come and make it to all the social dances and dance with everyone, hire and pay someone to do that. If you want someone to do performances, hire and pay someone to do that. Understand that social dancing for 8 hours until 5 am makes it REALLY hard to teach quality classes at 10am. If you want someone who is an amazing performer, pay them to come and perform, but don’t hire them to teach if they aren’t a good teacher.

Pay rates:

Running events is hard. Working full time or part time as a dance instructor is hard. Figuring out how much to charge/how much to pay is weird and uncomfortable for many people. Some things to remember: Most instructors are ALREADY discounting their rates. They aren’t charging you for travel time, or class prep, social dancing or all the money they put into their own training. Their hourly rates (or even their small fees for judging or performing) may seem high to your first glance, but on top of everything they are already doing outside of those hours, they also have to pay their insurance, their taxes, and for their business expenses. Don’t compare their rates to other instructors! Teachers use their peers rates as a guideline, but everyone has a different home situation. Someone who lives in Sofia has a much different monthly income need than someone living in London. People with two person household incomes may need less than someone with one. Someone living in a country with socialized healthcare/retirement may need less than someone living somewhere without. Or maybe some has a harder time feeling comfortable asking for more because they have a full-time job, and want to offer a lower rate because it is only a hobby for them. There are SO MANY things that go into setting rates. Avoid asking for discounts, but maybe if you really need it, be up front about you budget and ask if someone can work within that. EVERY organizer is a friend, and every event wants a discount. But people have to make a living too. If you think someone isn’t charging enough, tell them!

Additional Costs:

Make sure you add to your budget (or your requirements if you are a teacher) things like:

Meals – Yes, that expensive airport meal on their way home should be covered, because otherwise they would be at home eating their less expensive groceries
Transportation – Their PREFERRED airline. Plus costs to/from the airport
Judging – Prelims and finals count as two separate contests
Performances – Everything from full length social demos to choreographed shows
Level Testing – Wether it is 15 mins or 3 hrs it is still TIME and ENERGY
Contest Coordination
Rooming – Shared room, hosting, own space. Someone is NOT difficult because they want their own space/real bed


Not every teacher is the same. Some are really great with beginners, some with advanced, some weekly classes and some workshops only. Are all your teachers top quality? Do they need to be? Maybe you support up coming teachers who are continuing to hone their craft or maybe your festival is only the best of the best. How do these choices affect your attendees?


Are you hiring someone who uses their own content or just copy and pastes from someone else classes or youtube videos? Have they done research and learning into the subject? Are they prepared for their classes? Do they adjust to the group level? Is their material applicable and useful?


Are they your friends? Did you see them win a contest? You saw “Insert Big Festival Here” hired them so you assumed they must be good? They have great feedback on their classes at other festivals? You researched their backgrounds? They put in time and energy to the scene? They care about things like the words they use in classes, creating better classroom learning spaces, working on being a better teacher? They actively work on breaking down the barriers of gendered dance roles? They work on recognizing the history and continued dismissal of POC? They exude personality qualities you want to see reenforced? They are great at socializing? They are a “big name draw”? Someone got really good really fast, you could hire them OR whoever they learned from. Someone just won a contest, you could hire them OR whoever they learned from. Look at who is judging contests, not only in them. Go to classes and hire the people you like, not just the names you see on flyers. There are a lot of reasons for hiring someone, make sure you know yours and if it is a good reason.

Some Other Things to Ponder –

Hiring choices:

Hire same sex couples. Hire women. Hire POC. Hire non-binary people. Hire LGBTQIA+ people. Be excited about these choices. Promote your festival, talk to individuals, and share how you feel about these people. Don’t rely on flyers to talk up and explain your choices, do it face to face.


Do they need a child care provider? Provide one. Do they have a friend or significant other who wants to attend? Offer them a guest pass. Make sure they have down time. Not everyone wants to share every meal. Do they need a travel guide, or a translator.  Make sure you are taking care of their needs, instead of complaining about them.

Teaching partners:

Hire followers without leaders if you are willing to hire leaders without followers. If a couple can’t both attend, hire one of them with someone else (yes, the classes will still be good). Hire headliners with up comers. Hire individuals not couples. Don’t expect everyone to be ok teaching with anyone. Treat follower instructors as equally important to leaders.

The happier your teachers are, the happier your attendees are (and the more likely those teachers will promote your festival naturally by being excited about it).

Festival Organizing thoughts/questions Pt 1 – Contests

As organizers, it is important to take a moment and evaluate your event goals. (Please keep your eyes out for a whole post on this) But let’s focus in on one category: Competitions.

Many of us choose to add a contest or two because, well every other festival has one. So take a moment and think, does this TRULY fit the goals of my event? Is this needed?  Once you have answered these questions, here is a list of other things to consider before making that final decision:

1) Do I have qualified Judges
2) Can I compensate those Judges
3) Do I have a Contest Coordinator
4) Can I compensate said Coordinator
5) Do I have a Tabulator
6) Do I understand contest scoring, and have I picked a method
7) Do I have prizes
8) Do I have good contest descriptions
9) Do I have guidelines for my Judges
10) Do I have volunteers to help my CC and Tabulator
11) Do I have an MC who can manage the contest, on time
12) Will it be DJs or live music
13) What are my contest formats and can I explain them to the people who need to know
14) What VALUES do I want my contest putting forward
15) What are the names of my competitions and do they match the values
16) What materials do I need (clipboard, printer, pencils, etc)
17) Do they fit into the schedule
18) How will signups be handled
19) Can people compete in multiple division
20) Is this needed


As you can see, the list gets pretty long with just logistical things. Some of these are easy to negotiate or remove if the event is small enough or the contest informal enough. There are different values in having one silly contest at late night, and a full weekend full of contests. Not every event has to have the same things (or same names). Make sure you aren’t trying to do everything, and focus on the things that make your event special.

There are a couple of items on the list I find a bit more emotionally important, but often overlooked: What values do we want the contest promoting, and what are the names of the contests and do the names match those values. I want to delve into these just a tad bit deeper. It is easy to think of some of these as “bad” but I want you to think of them as questions, starting points for discussions and things to evaluate. There are a variety of examples of this, and these are just a few:

A social couples contest but the finals are 8x8s jams at fast tempos encouraging chores: Does this eliminate people who have breathing difficulties at fast tempos? Does this showcase the dance as only chores and not social dancing? Does this limit what we see from the dance, like story, flow, ideas, etc? Does this give people an outlet for “snippets” and showcasing?

A random partner contest where some people only get to dance with 2 people in prelims:  Does this give a disadvantage to followers/leaders? Did judges have adequate time to see everyone? Could they overcome their implicit biases in that time? Did everyone get the same tempos?

Biases towards faster tempos or slower tempos: Does this focus on only one skill field of the dance? Does it create a good energy? Does it encourage people to practice/not to practice? Does this influence social dance tempos and class topics?

Unclear Names: This one gets a sliiiightly longer discussion, because it is a personal hot take right now. Slow Dance vs Blues. Both of these categories are super important and valuable. But lumping them into the same category does a great disservice to our communities, by erasing/ignoring their individual importance.

Look at these example division names (adding the classifier of partnered):
Blues Dance – Could be multiple tempos, and types of (blues) music but the goals would be Blues idioms of some form.
Blues Music –  Could be multiple tempos, and types of (blues) music but the goals would be broader dance forms that danced to these styles, now also encompassing possibly WCS, Carolina Shag, Imperial and more.
Slow Dance – Limited tempos, variety of types of music and goals being dancing slowly well (musically, connected, etc)
Slow Lindy – Limited tempos, *most likely* limited music to styles of jazz from late 20’s to early 50’s and goals being dancing Lindy slowly

That is just 4 iterations – and I am sure I could break it down even more. But you can easily see how these small changes can affect the experience of your competitors, your audience and the way people perceive your ideas in regards to these dance forms. Now, when we add in the idea of these contests being hosted at a Lindy weekend, it is easy to see why people can get so easily confused AND frustrated. I mean, does your event have a Fast Dance/Balboa contest or ONLY Balboa(Bal/BalSwing) or ONLY Fast Dance (ok, yes, don’t get me started on the fact that there are historically dances called Fas’ Dancing that now would not make sense in these divisions…. another day another post 😉

As I mentioned, these are just SOME examples. I strongly encourage you to take the time to write out and discuss these items with your team, before making your decisions and making them public. Maybe you are the festival with multiple couples divisions all focused on different tempos but any dance goes. Maybe you are the weekend with one silly contest where you focus on scenes and community building. Maybe you are the festival that doesn’t have contests. All of these are good choices.

Of course, people will always talk, and probably always misinterpret your goals, they will always complain about something. BUT, we can also start being more actively aware of what our words are saying and what values are coming across, what type of work actually goes into running quality contests, and making sure we have thoughts things through and have a plan.