In Step With DC
Behind the Scenes: Dance Connection’s Outdoor Recital
Written by Joe Naftal on October 13, 2021

It’s been four months since we transformed the Dance Connection parking lot into a complete outdoor performance space.  We figured we should take some time to walk you through some behind-the-scenes details of everything it took to make it happen!

With indoor capacities limited due to COVID-19, Dance Connection made the decision to move it’s 2021 recital outdoors and perform six shows under the stars and a morning specialty showcase.  While some may think that producing an outdoor show simplifies things, it is actually a whole lot more work!  Normally when going into a theatre, there are things you already expect to find – a stage is already present, seats are installed, lighting/sound gear is available, and even things you’d never think about, like bathrooms, WiFi, and electrical outlets are easily found around an indoor theatre.  When producing a show outdoors, you have to think of everything.  Anything you haven’t brought in, well, won’t be there!

Between lighting gear, sound gear, video gear, staging, truss, scenery, power, tents, machinery, and everything else, there were eleven trucks full of production equipment delivered for the show.

The Personnel

In addition to Dance Connection’s amazing staff, we need to augment a whole other production team to make our shows happen.  This year was no exception and an even bigger production team was necessary.  Our production team employed professionals with backgrounds in theatre, dance, touring, and corporate events and came to us from Long Island, New York City, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Production Manager – Joe Naftal
Assistant Production Manager – Gretchen Goess
Stage Manager – Luke Woods
Assistant Stage Managers – Shannon Keane, Stephanie Martinez
Production Assistant/Safety Coordinator – Jules Holtzman
Lighting Designer – Joe Naftal
Associate Lighting Designer – Aidan Marshall
Sound Designer – TJ O’Leary
Technical Director – Eric Saccoccio
Production Electrician – Lorenzo Lagola
Sound Engineer – Danny Saturne
Production Photographer – Larisa Schadt
Production Videographer – JP Panetta
Live Stream Operator – Anthony Arpino

In addition to a team of technicians and volunteers who helped build the stage, install truss towers, hang lights, lay cable, and lots and lots of setup alongside our Dance Connection staff.

Staging & Truss

On our first day of load in, we built the truss structure surrounding the stage where lighting and video panels would be hung from.  There was a large crew and many moving pieces, including a BOBCAT forklifting truss and other materials across the performance site.

The second day of load in, we built the stage and leveled it so the dancers could dance on a completely flat surface, even though the gravel was uneven below.


(6) Genie SuperLifts
(2) 5′ 12″x12″ Black Box Truss
(20) 10′ 12″x12″ Black Box Truss
(18) Modular U-Torms

(47) Staging Platforms
(188) Adjustable Legs

Technical drawings courtesy of Joseph Naftal Lighting Design LLC

Lighting Equipment

A Dance Connection recital wouldn’t be complete without state-of-the-art lighting.  The challenge in an outdoor venue was choosing fixtures that could be IP-65 rated (fancy talk for waterproof).  Any light we put outside needed to be able to get wet.  We also had to factor in limited hanging positions on the surrounding truss, power consumption on the generator, and grounding the truss structure in case of lightning.

In total, we had thirty conventional lights, eighteen LED lights, and seventeen moving lights – far less units than we would normally have for one of our theatre shows, so we had to be very particular about which units we chose to get the most mileage out of every light.  In addition to all of the lights there were over 500 pieces of cable just to make the whole system work.

The lighting system was controlled by an ETC Ion XE20.  ETC’s Augment3D software was used to pre-visualize lighting cues when we programmed during daylight hours.


(1) ETC Ion XE20 Console
(1) ETC Sensor 3 Rack – 24 Dimmers
(1) 48-Way 120v/208v Power Distro

Conventional Lights:
(14) ETC Source Four 50º
(6) ETC Source Four 19º
(10) Altman PAR 64 Cans

LED Lights:
(7) ETC ColorSource Spot
(6) Chauvet Colorado 2 Zooms
(5) Chauvet Ovation E260WW

Moving Lights:
(12) Elation Proteus Hybrid
(5) Chauvet Maverick Storm Wash

(2) Unique 2.1 Hazer
(2) JEM DMX-Controlled Fans

Sound Equipment

We wouldn’t get very far without music!  Our sound system provided sound reinforcement of our music playback as well as microphones for tap mics and announcements.


(1) 24 Channel Mackie Mixer
(1) 21.5″ iMac 5K

(6) QSC K12 12″ Speakers
(2) JBL EON 10″ Speakers
(1) SRM1850 Mackie Subwoofer

(2) Shure ULXD2 Wireless Handheld Mics
(3) Crown PCC Mics

Video Equipment

If you’ve seen a Dance Connection show before, you know that video projections fill our backdrops.  This year, we went with five columns of video wall tiles instead to give a different aesthetic look for the video design as well as to utilize waterproof equipment that could get wet in the rain.  Because of the different show times, we had to set different brightness levels for the video walls to balance the intensity of daylight during the performance time.


Video Panels:
(12) CB8 LED Tiles

(1) Brompton S4
(1) Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Laptop
(1) 21.5″ iMac 5K

Site Operations

Like I said before, there were many other logistics that went into producing the show from an operations standpoint.

  • (1) 70kW Power Generator
  • (8) Portable Restrooms with daily cleaning & water service
  • (1) 17′ UHaul Truck
  • (1) GATOR Off-Road Golf Cart
  • (1) BOBCAT with Fork attachments
  • (2) 25′ Scissor Lifts
  • (9) 10×10 Pop-Up Tents
  • (3) 20×40 Tents
  • 125′ Feet of YellowJacket Cable Ramps
  • 200′ of Barricades
  • 650 Folding Chairs
  • 30 Folding Tables
  • 8 tons of counterweight concrete and sandbags
Joe Naftal

Joe Naftal is the Marketing Director for Dance Connection. When not working at Dance Connection, Joe has a career as a theatrical lighting designer, assistant designer, and production manager. His experience spans the worlds of classical and contemporary theatre, musicals, ballet, modern dance, and opera. In addition to his work at Dance Connection, Joe collaborates with Dance Studio Owners across the country, is a member of the Panel of Experts, has been featured in the business section of Dance Teacher Magazine, and was on the seminar faculty for the 2016 Dance Teacher Summit in New York City. Joe holds a BFA from UNC School of the Arts and is a proud member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).

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