This week was one of the biggest weeks in the outdoor industry… it’s Outdoor Retailer week! For 4 days, the industry descends on Salt Lake City to visit expo booths and see new product for next year. It’s a little like Christmas. For such a big event, this series of posts will be kind of like a race report!
I was fortunate to have an opportunity with Altra as an exhibitor. I wasn’t sure how I could help, but I was asked, “Can you dance?”
Monday morning, we arrive at a building in a warehouse-y area of Salt Lake City. Five of us runners enter (me, Ben, Tiff, Damian, & Lindsey), unsure of what we’ve gotten ourselves into. There, we meet Dana and Rivers, and we bond somewhat over the fact that we’re runners in an unfamiliar new situation & surroundings. It’s totally a middle-school dance: the runners stand on one side while the people who are obviously dancers or models chat on the other.
We’re led to the set, a giant room in the warehouse with a green screen & a bunch of director’s chairs lined up for us to sit. Our choreographer, Jason, introduces himself and goes through introductions. 30 minutes more sitting later, the runners are divided into groups and the first group begins instruction; the idea is for runners to be feathered in with the dancers. Fortunately, Dana, who was in the first group, has some prior dance experience. We’re all secretly relieved to have not been picked first.
It starts exactly like you’d expect: 5, 6, 7, 8! We watch the group of 6 dancers and Dana observe the routine and then try it out. Dana’s pretty good to start with – but the dancers are REALLY good. It IS pretty interesting to watch because the dance involves a treadmill, but they’re doing a lot of trial and error and developing the dance just looks chaotic. We watch them add 16 counts at a time. 2 hours later, they all hop over to the treadmills with music on. Next thing we know, they’ve performed an entire sequence. Where did that come from?!
I watch the “Marathoner” runners get up and do their sequence — they’re lucky. All they have to do is hop on the treadmill and run! It’s harder than it looks, because they’re running FAST, at 12mph, and have to jump on while it’s already at a high speed.
I’m categorized as one of the “5k moms,” a perfect target audience for the shoe we’re promoting, the IQ. We’re not only dancing on treadmills… we’re doing it with running strollers too! I’ve never done a choreographed ANYTHING, so this was where it got interesting. There’s a lot of “5, 6, 7, 8 – and then what again?” as I ask the dancer girl in our group. We eventually got it down. Obviously, we have to work on getting it clean and together.
Sometime during the afternoon we try on our costumes — Altra’s new apparel line. The only sizes available are sample sizes — including the shoes. People with small feet and feet-to-big-for-samples need to just… make it happen. This is how it works! If you fit sample sizes, you have a huge advantage to making it as “the talent.”
Around 6pm, we start getting tired and losing focus, but this is still a high-energy group. With some amazing food brought in for us, everyone makes it from dinner and powers through rehearsal as we put together the entire 2 1/2-minute long sequence all the way through. The VP of Marketing shows up and provides feedback on our performance. It’s fine, but needs to be more together and fine-tuned for the things that don’t look as visually interesting. Jason had warned us that there’d be a lot of changes after our first review.
The whole thing:
This is my first glimpse into the advertising/entertainment world. It’s fast-paced, and playful, and competitive all at the same time. As a group of runners, we experienced the whole thing like aliens on a new planet, in awe of everything, and it’s mind-boggling that this is work (I’ve always known “work” as sitting at a desk or being in meetings!).
There’s a lot of waiting throughout the whole process, which is typical. Also, everyone essentially knows each other because they often work together on other ads & campaigns for Altra & its parent company. The performance we’re doing is pretty dumbed-down on the dancing side. All of the runners would agree that we didn’t feel too confident this day because it was an unfamiliar situation and the possibility looking dumb/injuring ourselves/not knowing how to dance in front of a crowd that’s 99% total strangers and tough critics.
Spare time means different ways to pass the time if you’re a runner vs a dancer. In their spare time, the dancers would be trying out spins and lifts, the B-boys would jump, flip, do walking handstands (ON the treadmills – omg!) and all sorts of chaotic awesomeness, the dancers would freestyle whenever they got a good beat. And they never stopped moving… Half of them probably burned more calories by noon than I did all day long! There was so much noise, so much energy, and you could tell everyone was having a great time. It was inspirational to see how much fun they were having doing what they love.
There’s a first time for everything! I’m excited for this small chance and small part in such a cool event/production for Outdoor Christmas, ESPECIALLY for the unveiling of a new shoe technology that’s never been imagined before. So, in February, look for Altra’s new line of apparel & the new IQ – the shoe that syncs to your smart watch (or phone/tablet) and guides you to good running form!! Check out the video for more on the shoe and a tiny glimpse of Team Bartley here in Competitor Magazine’s video below.