Written by Assad “Invent” Conley
Recently, as I was about to head out to cover a jam for Step X Step, I pulled up the event page on Facebook and immediately began to dread going. Why? The event was scheduled to be 5 ½ hours long, with 3 battle categories. If you’ve never thrown a jam before, I’ll explain why that should make you cringe. If you’ve thrown a jam before, and that doesn’t make you cringe, STOP THROWING JAMS!! Because honestly, you’re a part of the problem. So here’s my top 10 tips for throwing a jam:
1. BE ON TIME
Running on time is critical. The consistency helps the dancers do better, and it helps the audience be able to stick around through the finals. Rent your venue to include set up and break down time. Doors open at 6? DOORS OPEN AT 6. Prelims start at 7? PRELIMS START AT 7. Jam ends at 10? JAM ENDS AT 10. It’s simple, and with a little bit of planning, it’s easily done.
The DJ needs time to set up. Doors open at 6? Make sure the DJ is there at 5. Make sure to arrange appropriate pay with the DJ to cover the time of set up, spinning and break down. There’s no jam without the DJ, so pay them right! If the DJ is late? Dock their pay. They are a professional as are you, so treat it that way.
Make sure the judges are there prior to the start of prelims. They are being paid to judge your jam, not make it run late. Again, they are professionals. If they’re late, dock their pay. Also, discuss the format with them and your expectations before the event. If you are running a tight time schedule, make it clear that there are NO TIES. They are being paid to make a decision. A tie is not a decision!
4. Know Your Format
Top 16 single elimination? Top 16 to 7 to smoke? This is the single most important element of your jam. If you don’t set your times right, you leave less time for the single thing everyone came for! The battles! Let’s say you have 60 entries: 30 second prelim rounds, 1 minute single round top 16, two 1 minute rounds top 8 through finals: THAT IS 2 FULL HOURS OF DANCING. That doesn’t even include judge’s decisions, ties, announcements, calling up contestants, etc. In all reality, a Top 16 battle is about 2 ½- 2 ¾ hours. Your prelims started at 7? Jam ends at 10? IF YOU RAN THE BATTLES STRAIGHT THROUGH YOU’RE ENDING AT 9:45. Keep that in mind. 7 to smoke is generally around 45 minutes for the final depending on how well balanced the battles are.
5. Emcee is Key
Believe it or not, your Emcee controls the flow of your event. They should also be getting paid for their time. That said, they shouldn’t waste time with inside jokes only 3 of their friends in the crowd will get. Their job is to keep the action moving, not stall.
6. Focus Your Categories
Remember how top 16 takes 2 ½+ hours? What happens when you decide you want a breaking 1v1 and an all styles 1v1? You now have 5 hours of battle time. Doors open at 6 and jam ends at 10? Not going to happen. Focus on 1 category if you have a short amount of time, cap the number of entries, make it top 8. Whatever you do, plan it out before hand. There’s NO REASON, other than you being lazy as an organizer that, you should suddenly be running out of time and have to do a 4 way final, or cut the rounds to one 30 second round each dancer.
7. Battle Sign-Ups
Sign-ups on Facebook? Sign-ups at the door? Pick one. Close your list when it’s supposed to be closed. If some big name dancer or homie shows up late, don’t add them in when you’ve closed the list. Tell them they should have shown up on time. I’ve done it at my own jams because I’ve been that guy that has the list closed on him, then the organizer hooks up their homies and big names with a last minute spot.
8. Don’t Hook People Up
Showing up isn’t supporting. Participating in the full process is supporting. That means paying. I very well could talk to organizers and try to get hooked up to get in just to film, but I always pay full admission, because it helps the jam to be there in the first place and helps there to be another one. You DO want to throw another jam right? Make sure everyone pays!
9. Pay Everyone At The End
Speaking of pay. DO NOT COUNT ON MONEY FROM THE DOOR TO PAY EVERYONE. Have your prize money ready. Don’t offer more than you can handle. Pay your judges and DJs half as a deposit, and the rest when the jam ends. The money from the door should be reimbursing your expenses for the jam, not paying for everything afterwards!
10. Be On Time
Did I mention be on time? You are ORGANIZING an event. If things are not on time and (surprise) ORGANIZED, it reflects poorly on you, and it makes people not want to attend any other jams you organize, because they will remember not having fun at the last one because everything ran late. Keep the flow moving, keep people busy on the dance floor whether its cyphers or battles.
Those are my top 10 tips for throwing a jam. They are all numbered “1” because each one is just as important as the last. Take all of these into account and it will help you run your jam more efficiently, take a lot of the stress out, ensure the attendees have a great time, and that people start supporting your jams even more! Maybe Step X Step Dance will be in the house supporting! By the way, that jam I attended with 3 categories and 5 ½ hours event length: it ended on time.