by Karen White
Scheduling. “It’s definitely a puzzle,” says Ginny Faubell, founder and co-director of Beyond the Stars. How else to describe the challenge of fitting 500-plus dances from as many as 30 studios into a workable lineup that stretches over a 30-hour three-day weekend? Brain twister? Gordian knot? Stump the professor? Insanity?
As BTS has grown to field up to four events on a single weekend, Faubell must spend more time each week organizing the multiple divisions, categories, levels, and age groups that make up each event. Several years ago she began training her co-director and daughter, Nikki Tennant, how to schedule: this year, all BTS event directors will also be trained in the task.
“I won’t say that it’s fun,” says Faubell, who made her competitions’ first schedules 13 seasons ago on paper and now sometimes finagles change requests on her notebook computer while she’s en route to events. “But I do get a real feeling of satisfaction knowing that I’ve put out a schedule that works for the kids.”
In scheduling, Faubell follows her own hard and fast rules: divisions must begin and end on the same day. Competition and awards for dancers ages 9 and younger must be completed by 7 p.m. All novice divisions are held on a single day. If an event must run past 6 p.m. on Sunday, no groups will be placed in that time (generally, the 16 and older All Star solos will be slotted here). Requests are handled as uniformly as possible—no studio will get a consideration denied to another. Faubell pays attention to, and seeks a solution to, every conflict.
The rules help Faubell mitigate time demands on her youngest and newest competitors and their families. If a chock-a-block event means that some dancers must compete early on Friday or late on Sunday—and maybe miss school as a result—they will be the hard-core soloists “who have made a lifestyle commitment to dance,” she says.
“I do get a real feeling of satisfaction knowing that I’ve put out a schedule that works for the kids.” —Ginny Faubell
After she’s arranged the entries, a software program marks any conflicts—such as a student with fewer than five dances between numbers—in red. Requests pour in: Studio A, with multiple 13- to 15-year-old soloists, has prom on Friday night. Sunday is Studio B’s picture day; Studio C’s seniors have SATs on Saturday morning.
“I work hard to find a way to honor all requests, but it doesn’t always work,” she says. “If 28 studios all make one request, that’s one thing. But I’ve had a studio come with 10 numbers and want to compete between 9 a.m. and noon on Sunday. I had to nicely say, ‘I cannot make that work—and you would not be happy with the costume changes either.’ ”
Faubell eliminates issues as best she can, but some situations are tricky. “It’s very common that the best boy in a studio will have a contemporary duo with three different dancers,” she says, which might mean he’ll have to dance in practically back-to-back numbers. “We had one studio with a 10-year-old dancer in 23 different dances.”
In complex cases, Faubell calls the studio owner in advance of the event to work out some sort of a plan. Simpler fixes can be handled during the event by the backstage manager.
Through it all she keeps her eyes open for funny business: some studios will attempt to shift a dance to the end of a division—or switch divisions, such as from contemporary to open—just to plumb the perceived advantage that comes from being the final competitor.
“And,” Faubell says, “if studio owners would diligently double-check their online registration” to assure that all dances are in the proper level, category, and division before the schedule is announced, not only would it help her tackle a tough job, “but events would run smoother for everyone.”
DSL associate editor Karen White, a former newspaper reporter and freelance writer, has taught dance in private studios and choreographed musicals since age 17 and has no plans to stop.