Best Practices: Vol. 1

I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about online presence. Like any person, I have lots of opinions about this topic (some of which are useful, and some of which are just persistent). I thought I’d share some of my “best practices” – what works and has worked for the online life of the Leopold Group.

  • Don’t show up only when you need something.In other words, don’t post and tweet only when you have an upcoming show or a Kickstarter campaign. Be a generous part of the community consistently.  Rather than schedule tweets and facebook posts into your life, make those platforms a useful part of your lifestyle.
  • A fine balance of quality and quantity. Be persistent but don’t be spammy. Contribute to the community in meaningful ways. Add to your story with every post.  Don’t just post because you’re supposed to do it once a week. For me this means swearing off #throwbackthursday or #transformtuesday or #waybackwednesday.  Just like days of the week underpants, I am just going to assume you have a new pair for each day.   No need for the label.
  • Diversify the mediums – words, pictures, and video. Use all three and get good at generating content in all three media.
  • Get out from behind your computer. This virtual community that I’ve been talking about, it exists in order to support a much more corporeal community. Make sure you are an active part of both. Go to shows!
  • Don’t outsource your voice. Your website and social media presence are your brand, your voice. I want to know who I am talking to and the opportunity to communicate directly with the artist/choreography/Artistic Director is extremely exciting! Take advantage of the direct connection. Just because it is a simple task doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. Mostly, maintain control of your communication channels. (This goes along with another favorite rule to be fleshed out at a later date: Interns are people too.)


Like anyone else, I am constantly working to practice what I preach.  I have not mastered my own rules…yet.  More “best practices” to come.  I’m working on composing some of my thoughts on video (YouTube, vidblogs, rehearsal footage, posting full pieces), as this is such a tricky arena for dance in particular.

In the meantime, see you on the interwebs…

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Ode to Nicole

I decided to call it the Leopold Group consciously.  I fantasized about finding dancers that would be collaborators and trusted advisers.  Having a roomful of people all invested equally would somehow make standing in front of them less terrifying.  I would pick the steps and they would challenge me to justify my choices.

I got really lucky to find these people.  For the more than seven years that I have been Leopold Group-ing, I have had a studio full of brilliant thinkers and movers.  They have helped me become better at what I do, every step of the way.  And they didn’t hesitate to tell me when they thought I was doing otherwise…. 🙂

One of these people has been Nicole Romano Uribarri.  She is off to New York City today on a new adventure and it only seems fair to tell the world that my heart breaks a little at her departure.  She has braved “Mean Lizzie” (yes, that’s what they call me) and come back for more.  She has given herself selflessly in rehearsal and performance countless times.  She has a huge plié and a huge heart.  I have been the beneficiary of both of these attributes over the years.

We met at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, topless.  We were both cast in a production of Salomé and we were both thrilled to have a job!  She was a scholarship student at Lou Conte and I was, well, wanting to make dances.  I had gotten accepted to Dance Chicago through a video on my MySpace page (MySpace….) and I was short a dancer.  Nicole jumped at the chance and I was floored that a fancy Conte scholarship student would want anything to do with my shoe-string operation.  But she came, she saw, and she stayed.

 Salome at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Fall 2006

Salome at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Fall 2006

So, today I wish that all her dreams come true!  But fear not, Nicole has promised that she will appear on stage in fulfillment of my latest brain child.  It involves naked vacuum cleaning, accompanied by Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work.”  I like to scare Nicole onto the stage… (And if you’re ever in NYC, go take her class at Exhale Spa, Central Park South.)

Nicole, with the love in my heart overflowing….

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Picking Up the Pieces and Putting Them Back Together (with gaff tape)

Amanda Top

I started making dances at a relatively young age.  I suppose the most common path to choreographer-hood is being a professional dancer and then transitioning into the dance making role after years of being the material on which dances are made.  Not for any purposeful rebellious end, but I skipped that step.  I think I went to a total of three auditions – twice for the Lyric Opera (and those were awesome jobs – once I was topless and the second time I was a nun…but that’s for another time) and once for Hedwig.  I remember the Hedwig audition was on my birthday and I was cut immediately and then I got some cookies on the way home…so it wasn’t all a loss.  But I think I knew my strengths and my weaknesses, my likes and dislikes and, well, I didn’t see any harm in skipping the dancer step and going right for choreographer.

For the most part, it’s been an awesome decision.

Amanda mid

But this week, in preparing for our upcoming concert I encountered some poor decisions I made as a novice dancemaker.  For the first show that I put on in Chicago I bought a roll of beautiful (and expensive) white marley.  That was not the poor decision.  The poor decision was cutting it up to fit the strangely shaped stage space.  As I unrolled the marley yesterday for the first time in 7 years, I found six oddly shaped pieces – two long strips with triangular edges, one skinny strip, two pseudo-squares and one crazy trapezoid.  The cuts were haphazard and uneven, leaving pieces that did not fit back together easily and an expensive floor that I had neglected.

In my head 7 years ago I was only concerned with the peculiarly shaped stage in front of me; I didn’t think of all of the stages that I would encounter in subsequent years.  I made the deep cuts too quickly and without foresight (whew – what a metaphor for life…).

As I prepare for The Near Future (our new trio), I will have to carefully slice the marley to correct ragged edges and turn trapezoidal left-overs into perfect triangles to fill the haphazard holes I left behind years before.  After much work, I can turn the mismatched pieces into a whole again, a white square that will be an important part of The Near Future’s stage design.

Amanda Bottom

It shouldn’t be so hard.  My young self was too caught up with the stage in front of me to imagine all of the stages I would encounter.  Note to self – don’t be so quick to act.  Be careful with permanence of any kind, especially when you are young and overly confident.  Like skipping from dancer to choreographer, only make cuts with careful deliberation.  Strategically placed gaff tape won’t always mend the fissures.


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