Apr2017, News
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A Year of Firsts for Dancing Bear 2017

Dancing Bear will be quite different this year. Pressure from the Executive Team and modifications to its planning cycle by the small team of organizers has led to a year of firsts: the  first time the festival will be held off the hill and in the gravel pit and parking lot by the Rec Plex; the first time the Squamish community has been invited to hold a community market; the first time Quest bands will play on a separate stage and have been invited to busk; the first time the event has been sponsored; the first time the main performance ends at 10:30 PM; the first time with an official afterparty at the Knotty Burl; the first time students have had to buy tickets; the first time the planning, booking, and advertising process was outsourced to a private company.

According to the organizers, the Executive Team wanted this year’s Dancing Bear to include more student accountability, and to be more of a community event and less of a party. The event, which takes place this Saturday, April 22, will end at 10:30 PM, to avoid late-night noise complaints. The event will also not feature any electronic dance music or hip-hop. Though they do not remember who made the final decision, the organizers agreed that this decision was generally understood to be a requirement in order to run the event.

The Executive Team also asked organizers to find ways to discourage students from coming and going from the event. They asked that organizers either have students pay for tickets—suggesting a $20 rate—or have students pay every time they re-enter. The organizers said they felt compelled to take the former option, and negotiated with the SRC and the executive team for the $5 rate. The SRC will be reimbursed a portion of these profits.

When the SRC funded the festival in December, they stipulated that Dancing Bear diversify the lineup relative to previous years. The festival was required to represent a variety of musical genres and source musicians from different cultural backgrounds, so that it would feel like a more inviting space for everyone.

The lineup, released March 30, does not meet these requirements, according to the SRC. The artists are predominantly white men, playing folk, indie, and rock.

“It really sucks that we don’t have a diverse lineup,” said one coordinator at Dancing Bear’s fireside chat last week. The coordinators explained that they reached out to diverse groups, but the artists either didn’t e-mail them back, or dropped out.

The Dancing Bear organizers and the SRC met last Friday to write statements about the festival’s failure to meet the diversity agreement, which the SRC plans to publish this week.  

In spite of their failure to diversify the lineup, the organizers did attempt to make Dancing Bear accessible in other ways. Two of the organizers, Bayle James and Fanny Dunner, came up with the idea to move the location to the gravel pit and the parking lot in order to make it closer to the residences, and feel more inviting.

They hoped it would also influence students to attend earlier parts of the festival. James stated that, “in the past, students haven’t wanted to walk up the hill, and have spent more time in their rooms”.

The new location brings other benefits as well: the gravel pit and parking lot will be easier to set up in and the school no longer has to be cognizant of the atrium and cafeteria areas. James Blumhagen, another organizer, added that the new location “is virtually impossible to sneak into”—unauthorized entries were considered a problem at previous Dancing Bears.  

The festival aims to provide a “farmers market vibe”, encouraging the Squamish community to participate in the festival, according to Blumhagen. The coordinators are excited to feature a free daytime market starting at 11 am. There will be approximately 25 vendors, a beer garden from noon onwards, and four food trucks. Student musicians are encouraged to busk during the market hours of the festival.

The show on the main stage, open to ticket holders, will now take place from 4 pm to 10:30 pm rather than starting at 1 pm as in previous years. The main stage will feature bands from around B.C including Yukon Blonde, Daniel Wesley, The Booms Booms, Peach Pit, and Gucki. The alternative, soul, and indie-rock feel of these hired artists reflects the goal of the organizers to provide a community and family-oriented festival.

The new $5 ticket fee for students has created controversy in the Quest community. The organizers explain that this added revenue will be used to help finance increasing festival infrastructure, such as fencing and portable washrooms.

Some student musicians have raised concerns, expecting that increased revenue from ticket sales would translate into increased compensation for Quest musicians. Michaela Slinger, Kenzie Erlank and Anna Glazer, members of the band Little Birds, noted that when they played at Dancing Bear last year they were compensated only with drink tickets. Slinger felt as though “what [they] were doing was devalued knowing that other bands were getting paid.” Erlank indicated it would be different if it was still a “free event” for students. However, it has yet to be seen if new tickets costs will increase revenue.

So far, musicians have been told that part of their monetary compensation will depend on the participation of the Quest student body in the market portion of the day. Organizers have informed the Quest musicians that they are allowed to keep any money they earn through busking at the market. As of now, no dollar amounts have been stipulated, though the organizers stated that the musicians will be paid.

The organizers hope that the new community market and the time changes will help address the historical poor attendance of earlier sets in the day. They aim to remedy this by showcasing Quest’s talented students on their own stage. However, this has had unintended consequences. “The new design is structured in a way that student performers are peripheral,” said Erlank, adding that it shows a “very clear message in terms of valuation.” Slinger said she felt “grateful”, adding that “there should be something carved out of the initial budget” to compensate musicians, instead of “an extra perk” such as beer tickets.

For the first time ever, Quest’s Dancing Bear Team partnered with an outside company, Blueprint Events, to help organize the festival. Student Affairs pushed the decision to work with a professional group in order to alleviate student stress and buffer potential legality issues. The SRC funded Blueprint’s $5500 fee, but the cost was later covered by sponsorship from Whistler Brewing Company.

Blueprint helped the team with hiring bands, security, and promotions. Because of their established presence in the events industry, Blueprint was able to secure bigger bands at negotiated prices for the festival. Moreover, they financed an enthusiastic promotional campaign including online advertisements and a professionally made video.

James Blumhagen says the external company has been a great help but “has changed the dynamic, [as] we can no longer be as open about things.” The additional negotiations with Blueprint, Blumhagen added, “is positive because it ensures everything goes smoothly, but negative as it makes things more bureaucratic and not as organic.” Though Blueprint has made planning the festival go more smoothly, students have lost an opportunity to learn the logistical and promotional skills required when planning such events.

It’s unclear whether the partnership with Blueprint will be continued next year, and how future organizers will negotiate working with sponsors and outside consulting groups. This year’s organizers have said they want to write up a booklet on planning Dancing Bear, which presumably includes this partnership with outside groups.

Ultimately, Dancing Bear is still a student-run celebration. So whether or not the changes made this year will become permanent depends on how students respond to the new look and feel of the festival.  

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