"Mel's party...was a revelation for me. He had mentioned the idea of 'techno contra' over the winter, but I'd never heard of such a thing. I was greatly intrigued, but mentioned my own personal distaste for dancing to records, and concern that song lyrics might make it tough to hear the calls. Mel said that the solution was live music, and that the only/best band for such an undertaking would be Double Apex.... Technoberfest was modeled largely on that event, and Mel provided valuable information in the form of his research and planning spreadsheets."
Among this research was some legwork on the venue, but as Vince explains, when the time came to look in earnest, Melissa Taggart -- who also co-called the event -- suggested Calvary Presbyterian Church, which had a gym. "I immediately loved the facility and grounds. Plenty of off street parking, a nice lounge area, large (mostly flat) dance floor, kitchen space, decent bathrooms. Aside from the acoustic issues of the large rectangle gym space, and the lack of seating in the dance area, the site is ideal. The church was very easy to deal with...and supported the event by allowing us to bring in some risers from another church building to use for the stage area. They also provided the large jugs filled with water for our refreshments."
For Technoberfest, Vince managed to gain sponsorship from the Philadelphia Area Traditional Music and Dance (PATMaD) and the Princeton Country Dancers (PCD). I asked him about this process, in hopes of helping other event organizers gain similar backing. "The initial response to trying techno contra as a regular Thursday or Third Saturday dance was decidedly lukewarm. The schedule for both was plotted months in advance, and even though there were a couple of nights when it would have worked, people on the board weren't quite ready to spring it on our dancers on a regular night. Once we recognized that we'd have to go renegade (and the PATMaD board realized that we were serious about putting on the dance anyway) the board was supportive, and offered backing (about 3/4 of the projected budget) and material and organizational support. PCD immediately offered to cover the remaining costs when I asked for supplemental sponsorship."
Vince used both flyers and social media to publicize the event and help gain volunteers: "I created a Facebook event (perhaps prematurely) early in the process [blogger's note: the event was created in the early summer for what ended up as an October event] to try and brainstorm some of the early issues (venue, date, volunteer roles) and ended up changing the date several times during the process. This was a bit of a fiasco in terms of professional appearance, but did keep folks paying attention through the multiple changes. I think the Facebook event served well in getting the word out. We also created a webpage (on the Glenside Dance server), and distributed about 700 flyers to dances in the region, and actively encouraged word-of-mouth contact. We made regular announcements at Glenside (and Princeton, and other regional dances I attended). I'm not sure which was the most effective, but I suspect the Facebook posting and word of mouth were the best."
The lighting effects at Technoberfest were of particular interest to me, as Vince had been especially interested in the lighting effects when I met him at Contra Evolution in Greenfield, MA in early October. Christmas lights, blacklights, color washes, and a video projector all illuminated Technoberfest and were controlled manually by Vince through a DMX theatrical lighting board.
"My goal was to provide a more integrated visual experience for Technoberfest. The previous two techno events that I had attended (and those I saw on the Internet) had blacklights and a few effects, but the effects were just left on 'sound activated' or 'automatic' all night. I wanted something less frantic and flashing, and more colorful and transitioning. I also wanted the lights to be integrated with the dancing, not everything pulsing all night in time to the beat."
Vince continues, "So I rented a DMX lighting board and set up lighting scenes and cues. I had never worked with equipment like that, but knew what I was trying to do, so I was able to set up some basic color and chase pattern combinations that could be easily triggered from the board. I also set up a channel for the 'house lights' which brought up all the color washes in white mode and as well as the Christmas lights that I ([and] my volunteers) had strung around the perimeter of the room.... I believe this worked well to transition dancers between dances, and allow them a few moments to go find a new partner. At the end of each dance I would bring up my 'house' lights and allow people to see one another and bring in dancers from the sidelines (for the first half of the event we had significant numbers of extra women) I think this made a big difference in the comfort level of the dancers, and provided a renewed sense of energy when the house lights dimmed at the beginning of each dance."
"I had originally planned to program enough sequences into the board so that I could start the sequence at the beginning of a dance and then go dance, but I didn't get that far, so [I] ended up running the board manually most of the evening." Vince adds, "I had a lot of fun with this, but it meant that I didn't get to dance much."
The response was overwhelmingly positive, and attendance was good. Since we budgeted for breaking even at 120 paid participants, and actually got about 167, there was some profit. I think everyone's assuming we'll do it again next year, and I don't see why not. Next time I'll spend more on food, and buy some glowsticks. (And possibly reduce the ticket price.) I also have some ideas on the lighting...."