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Urban entertainment: 5 things event planners and producers must know

Urban entertainment: 5 things event planners and producers must know

Zaryn SidhuAs we transition into a new age of corporate experiences, the rising demand for fresh and impactful entertainment has increased--and the pressure is on.

The growing presence of urban entertainment over the last few years can be partially attributed to the increase in awareness, driven primarily by primetime American TV shows such as MTV's "America's Best Dance Crew," NBC's "America's Got Talent" and Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance."

Also, the use of urban talent in commercials, music videos and movies such as the "Step Up" franchise, which has grossed more than $650 million, have been key to bringing urban entertainers to a global audience.

With this emerging style of entertainment, this is what you need to know:

1. What is urban entertainment?

A term that has a range of meanings, "urban entertainment" is an emerging form of cutting-edge entertainment for the event and meetings events industry that is composed of urban talent with disciplines in breakdance, hip hop dance, graffiti/street art, parkour, etc.

2. Breakdancer vs. hip hop dancer

Despite what the '80s marketing of breakdancing (correctly known as breakin') hardwired into the masses, all urban dance styles are not the same.

Here are the characteristics key to each style:

  • Breakdancer (Bboy/Bgirl): Dynamic movements such as rotations and flips in the air and on the ground. Popular moves include windmills and headpins.
  • Hip hop dancer: Synchronized and precise energetic movements; basically there is not an acrobatic element here.

3. What types of audiences does urban entertainment fit?

An extensive range of crowds seem to be receptive, engaged and entertained by urban talent. From corporate managers to younger audiences, the dynamic energy of urban acts is contagious.

I am no longer surprised when a senior manager of a Fortune 500 company joins us onstage and three minutes later is busting out "the worm." A matter of fact, nowadays, it is strange when something like that doesn't happen.

4. How to book the best?

Not all entertainers are born equal. A seasoned performer with the "X Factor" is worth much more than someone who does not connect with your guests.

When it comes to urban entertainment, one can easily be swayed to believe they found the next star after seeing a few dynamic tricks; however, I would suggest that a more thorough approach be taken.

Some good questions to ask yourself are:

  • Does the talent connect with their audience?
  • Are they synchronized in their movements?
  • Is the presentation dynamic and captivating?
  • Where is the support team?

A professional-grade urban entertainment production needs much more than a body of talented dancers. There are other significant roles needed to extract maximum impact from a high-caliber performance, such as:

Sound engineer
Technical director

Look to see if the production vendor has resources and a solid infrastructure that will support the goals of the performance.

5. How to incorporate urban entertainment into your next event

Acts that can entertain and engage audiences into the experience will always have great results. However, you might want to consider how the structure of the entertainment production will fit the event.

An impactful performance should be well-designed in relation to the unique dynamics of the event--specifically the audience--as what might engage one demographic might not carry over to the next.

When planning out your creative, here are some commonly used performance structures:

  • Interactive show: Works better when performers are on ground level with audiences, but can also work on stage if there is easy access for crowd participants to get onstage.
  • Choreographed "wow" show: Ideal for energizing audiences and re-engaging them into the event without taking too much time from a program. Also, works at events to transition guests to the dance floor.

The future of urban entertainment

Urban entertainment is still in its infancy within the event and meetings industry. Even so, the dynamic presentations of breakdancers and hip hop dancers have paved the way for other "street style" art forms to emerge in the corporate arena.

Keep an eye out for this entertainment trend as it provides creative opportunity for innovative planners and producers to explore and create new experiences for their clients.

Zaryn Sidhu is president and executive producer with NBDS Productions, based in Delray Beach, Fla. His company's niche is cutting-edge urban entertainment production serving the event and meetings industry.

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