So you’ve done about a dozen or so Bar/ Bat Mitzvahs and you have the basics down. Let’s assume you know the general sequence of events and the traditions that are germane to your locale. By now, you understand the concept of guest interaction and you are able to successfully lead several games with the children. Congratulations, you have just graduated to the 200 level course in Mitzvahs. Now you’re ready to fine-tune your performance. How does a Bar Mitzvah party really differ from a Bat Mitzvah (besides the obvious gender difference!)?This article will offer several tips on modifying your approach to Bar Mitzvahs when necessary. We will focus on the full-scale party with adult and children as guests- not the record hop dance that’s mainly for kids. The child that has a record hop dance usually does so because he likes to dance, so many of the following scenarios may not apply to the record hop. We have found that Bar Mitzvahs may differ from Bat Mitzvahs due to four variations: maturity/social skills, dance aptitude, guest mix, and gross motor/ technical inclination.
The young male guests at a Bar Mitzvah will run the gamete in level of maturity. You’ll encounter everything from the cool kids, to the “young” thirteen year-olds, to the well-behaved but withdrawn kids. The affairs that are at the beginning of the circuit in your area are more apt to have kids that are on the immature side. (The “circuit” is defined as the school year from the first Mitzvah in the demographic group. It usually starts in August/ September and ends in July or September.) They may start cocktail hour running around, throwing food, shirttails hanging out, and avoiding the girls. These kids are going to require a lot more control and structure from your crew. Never discipline the kids on the mic. You may have to set limits, but do so discreetly. You need to incorporate short, more frequent games into the party. You may even want to have the games linked to a color-war theme. The kids will divide into two teams and remain in those teams for the duration of the party. Every individual who participates in any game wins points for their team all night long. Refer back to Games 101 for more game ideas.
Another strategy for that young crowd is to bring party enhancers that will mix well with them. Find out ahead of time of the ratio of boys to girls. If there are many more boys than girls, ask the family if they would like two female party enhancers. Sometimes the boy is really shy, so we supply one guy and one female party enhancer. Usually, the boys hang out with the male dancer first and try to emulate him. During cocktail hour, the staff becomes their buddy. The kids play games during that hour and begin to let their guard down. You can modify most games for use during cocktail hour. Keep in mind that space availability is usually limited during cocktail hour unless the kids have a separate room. Parents are so grateful when you engage the kids in activity during this hour. Be creative since it can be the most crucial hour of your event.
Conversely, you may encounter that cool crowd of boys. The guest of honor usually looks the part sporting the latest hairstyle. He usually has an even mix of boys and girls at the party. With this client, you may want to suggest a creative grand entrance. Have him escorted in by your female staff, or have him dressed up in a macho costume. You can even go as far as bringing him in on a moped! This guest of honor may want two female dancers, so here’s your opportunity to upsell the job. Add a staff member, and I would still have a male there for the girls in attendance as well. Plan ahead and you’ll have an easier time.
The second variation between Bar and Bat Mitzvahs is dance aptitude. It’s pretty rare to find a thirteen year-old boy who is a good dancer. If the boys can dance, they’ll stay on the dance floor. If they can’t dance, they may boycott your attempts to coax them on the floor. Why would they want to dance when you’re calling them over on the mic, and the videographer is following them for some footage!!! Try the subtle approach. Have your staff take a quick survey during cocktail hour and ask them if they dance. Teach them a cool move or a short dance during cocktail hour. Put it in terms they’ll understand and tell them they can use the steps later in a lip synch contest. Bring the new rave sticks. They are the 4″ glow sticks. Teach them how to dance with them. There are many cool moves you can do with your hands. When you send out your planning worksheets to your families, ask them if they are interested in pre-event dance lessons. Offer them individual or family lessons. If you can’t teach them, contact a local dance studio and subcontract a dancer.
Dance lessons can be a fun icebreaker prior to the affair. You can gain valuable information about the personality of the family to help plan your event. Lessons should include: the basic fast dance step (step-touch); hand use while dancing; Electric Slide; hand moves (raise the roof, stir the soup, etc); and any follow-a-long novelty routine you plan on using on the day of the affair. If the guest of honor is nervous about his dance with his mother, suggest that half way through the dance, their guests join them on the dance floor. Remember, if the parents aren’t big dancers then their guests will take their lead. If they sit all evening, their guests will be less likely to dance. Encourage the parents to take their conversations to the perimeter of the dance floor to draw their guests towards the floor.
The third factor to consider when entertaining at a Bar Mitzvah is the guest mix. As we mentioned earlier, some parties have an even number of boys and girls. These are usually the dancing crowds. If there are 40 boys and 5 girls, 2 of who are cousins, then you know that slow dance games are out. Have your female staff dance with the boys. Remember the age difference though. There should not be any bumping and grinding with the kids! The boys usually enjoy singing in groups in the microphone. Therefore, arrange sing-a-longs with clean edits of their music, or lip synch contests between teams.
If there are at least 5 or 6 girls you can try to play the matching game called Single Out. Collect trivia about the guest of honor and ask the girls the questions. Whichever girl has the most correct answers wins. She gets a spotlight dance with the guest of honor. The videographer and photographer will love you for the photo opportunity!
If you know the anticipated guest mix ahead of time, suggest a separate cocktail hour for the kids. Fill the room with carnival type games, sports games, basketball shots, or even a game show or video games. Supply a small sound system and play the kids’ requests. They’re usually songs that are not very danceable but are priceless in winning the kids over for the rest of the evening when cocktail hour ends.
You may also want to book side entertainment for your client. Give the kids the option to play or dance. Limit the chances of the group causing damage in the bathroom! Side entertainment usually starts at cocktail hour and stays for at least 3 more hours. Suggestions are: karaoke, wax hand carts, make your own music videos, virtual reality games, Velcro wall climbing, photo buttons, and the list goes on. Have your staff play the games with them as a means of building that ever-so-important rapport.
The fourth main difference we find is the gross motor and technical interests of the boys versus girls. “Boys will be boys” pretty much sums it up. They love the running relay race games more than the girls in their thigh high dresses do. Tailor your games to their needs. Bring a collapsible basketball game. Conduct a tricycle relay race. Again, it’s all about games, games, and more games. Just be careful at the dressy black tie affairs and don’t have the kids roll on the ground in their new suits and tuxedos.
Catch their attention right from the start. Start a sign up list to be a “Guest DJ”. During the party, call them up one or two at a time and have your DJ show them your gear. They love to learn about the technology and “push buttons.” Let them cue a CD and listen in the headphones. When appropriate, allow them to dedicate a song over the mic. What a cool experience and another great photo opportunity. I have kids come back to me years later and still remember their turn as “guest DJ.”
Some parents will ask you for planning suggestions at the time of booking. They may tell you that their child does not want the traditional dance party and that they expect mostly boys. Suggest a non-traditional venue. Have the party at a video arcade type of facility. Sports complexes also have catering capabilities. In that case, the music would not be the focus of the party. You will have more difficulty entertaining in a non-traditional venue due to the competition with the attractions. The family may not need to hire an interactive entertainer and may want to consider just piping in music from the facility.
The bottom line is to make sure that there is a good match between your company and the client. Don’t accept a job that you are not prepared to handle. Continue to read, learn and change. The recipe for success in the Mitzvah market is: do not use a recipe. Read the crowd and get to know the kids and each party will take on its own flavor
Filed Under: Performing
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