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Laurel Richie

So you want to be a hoop performer?

So you want to be a hoop performer - Laurel Richie

This epically helpful post was created by Laurel Fleming Richie the creator of the Shreveport Hoop Group

 

Congratulations! You have reached the next phase in your hoop journey and feel ready to step up as a professional performer! Should I? Can I really do it? Am I good enough? All those thoughts are running through your mind. It’s an exciting and nerve wracking decision, full of possibilities and opportunities to share your expertise and love of hooping with the public.

Whether it is an invitation to hoop with a group of kids at a small birthday party or perform at a big event, most of us have that nagging feeling that we aren’t truly at a professional level but still ready to make that huge leap of faith. Having crossed over from hooper and hoop teacher into performing, I’d like to share what I’ve learned along the way, sometimes the hard way.

Preparation

So, you have received an invitation to hoop or secured a performance opportunity – what next?

Just like Boy and Girl Scouts, “Be Prepared”!

In considering a performance, don’t be afraid to ask questions. What type of event? What are the requirements of the host or organizer? Are you required to provide extra hoops? Theme and costuming? Music? Choreographed or freestyle? LED or fire hoops? How do I provide my music, thumb drive or IPod? Sound system availability?  For parties or private workshops, the age range and number of participants? Any special needs participants? Theme?

As the saying goes, there are NO stupid questions!

The more you know about your performance and what your host/organizer envisions, the better you can tailor your performance for success. Most importantly, get a “feel” for expectations, both yours and host/organizer. Often non-hoopers don’t recognize the physical exertion required or your limitations. Our troupe received an invitation to perform at a high profile charity gala which was thrilling. However, we had to educate the organizer that we quite simply could not have continuous fire hoopers in excess of four hours. At another job, the suggested costuming was impossible to wear for hooping. Nothing beats good preparation and you will be far more confident knowing you are up for the job.

What to charge for your art

Often the hardest part of performing is becoming comfortable with pricing our work. Am I asking too much? Too little? What do others charge? Here comes that nagging self doubt again. It ain’t easy and there are no rules.

Some performers charge a set amount per hour with very little variation while others use flex pricing depending on the performance requirements. If you aren’t comfortable with pricing out each performance, a set rate may be what works for you.

I personally prefer an individual price quote based upon each individual job because that works best for me.

When flex pricing, there are many factors that go into a final quote. Travel time, possible costuming costs, length of performance time, preparation time, etc.

Remember your time is valuable and we don’t just magically appear fully costumed and rehearsed – it’s real work! Get a paycheck!

And speaking of paychecks, let’s talk about volunteer performances Get ready because the calls to perform for free are going to come your way. In the hoop world, volunteer performances can be controversial. My best advice? Follow your heart. I am an attorney in my day job and I’m required by law and my profession to donate my legal services. I also have  local non-profit cash-strapped organizations that I support. I consider my chosen donated performances as community service. If you want to donate your performance for a good cause, do it freely and lovingly. You are not ruining it globally for other performers. But beware of businesses or events that are able to pay for entertainment but expect you to perform for free in exchange for “great exposure”. Turn down those jobs. Exposure doesn’t pay out in the long run.

One taboo? Never offer to perform for free at an event when you know other hoopers are negotiating for paying jobs. That does undercut our value as paid performers.

Contracts

Now it’s getting real! You have a job and you are ready to firm up all the details. What’s next? Is an official contract necessary?

There are three types of “contracts” to consider; oral, informal and formal.

An oral contract may be sufficient in some cases if you know your host/organizer and feel comfortable but know beforehand that you can’t prove the details and it’s difficult to enforce if you aren’t compensated as agreed. You can have an informal contract by saving your e-mail chain which contains performance information with your confirmation and fee. I print all my e-mails and save them until the performance is completed. Old school for sure but it works. For a formal agreement, you don’t need a lawyer or a bunch of legalese language. You can make your own professional contract by writing out the agreed terms with a signature line to be signed and dated by the parties. Sometimes, a prepared contract will be provided to you by the event for signature. Read it carefully and don’t be afraid to make any necessary changes to conform to your understanding of the performance requirements.

Performers’ Code of Conduct

Yes, there really are some rules to follow! What makes a good professional is simple – act like one. Do your preparation, have your fee schedule and form your contract.

Communicate promptly and clearly with your host/organizer throughout the process. I message each job shortly before the performance date to confirm the appearance and important details like music, sound systems etc. Often, some things have changed since you have accepted a job like the DJ suddenly prefers a thumb drive rather than your phone or IPod. Show up early!

Plan to arrive early to survey the performance area, check in with the host/organizer for last minute instructions or requests, organize your music and hoops and start your performance stress free.

Be fully costumed and ready to go at your designated time/performance slots.

Drop any bad moods at the edge of the stage. Sometimes we just have to put on our game face and spin. Smile and engage your audience. Make eye contact.

Some of the best performances I have seen included very few fancy tricks. The performers just had a stage presence that fully captivated the audience.

Treat your fellow performers with respect.

If you committed to a performance, don’t cancel without good cause. Good cause doesn’t include a better paying job, a party or anything that sounds more fun. A former troupe member once posted on social media her real time vacation photos two hours before a scheduled performance which left me scrambling to fill our contractual obligations. Being undependable is the kiss of death to a performance career.

Little things matter, too. If your audience contains children, remember your costuming should be appropriate and your music family-friendly. Try to match your music and costume so it fits the theme. Follow up after the event to thank the host/organizer for the invitation to perform. It’s a great way to receive good feedback on your performance and it will be appreciated.

Last big rule- never arrive intoxicated or become intoxicated at an event. It’s not your party.

Roll With the Flow

Let’s face it, shit happens! Not every performance is going to leave you with that “I just killed it” rosy glow.

Some performances will not go as expected and it’s something every performer faces. Maybe our hoop dropped too many times, the audience did not pay attention, the performance space was too cramped….the list is endless. Don’t let one bad experience dull your fire for performing.

Learn from any mistakes and accept you did your best under the circumstances. I was once booked for a teen hoop workshop at a private home. When I arrived, I was directed to set up outside in a unshaded back yard full of dog poop in mid afternoon in the hot, summer Louisiana sun. The girls were too hot to really engage and kept disappearing into the home (which I’m sure smelled far better).  I survived and so can you. The good performances and that rosy glow far outweigh the crappy ones.

Break A Leg

Performing with a moving prop for an audience takes real courage. Embrace your own journey and growth as a performer with all of the guaranteed ups and downs. Relish the exhilaration and learn from your mistakes. I’ll be with you in spirit cheering you on!

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Laurel Richie
Laurel Fleming Richie is a Hoop Love Coach based in Shreveport, Louisiana and has been the Director of Shreveport Hoop Group since 2010. She also serves as Co-Director of Port Belly Project, a tribal fusion bellydance troupe. Laurel teaches bellydance, yoga, hooping, Bollywood and Zumba- joyful movement is her passion.

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