Image of zoom meeting with dancers in 7 different screens
NDCWales Presents

Behind the scenes: stage managing in a digital world

Using Zoom NDCWales worked to manipulate the programme in simple ways to create a performative platform

Using Zoom NDCWales worked to manipulate the programme in simple ways to create a performative platform 

Download this as a PDF here 

Within the first four weeks of the lockdown in the UK during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic – National Dance Company Wales had switched stage for screen, and created a live streamed version of their cancelled work 2067: Time and Time and Time by choreographer Alexandra Waierstall.
The Company invited Alexandra back from her apartment in Germany to re-rehearse and direct a version of the piece from our dancer’s homes.
The piece was the first of its kind across the dance world – though the multi-screen collaborative performance format was something the world would become incredibly familiar with throughout the coming weeks.

Using Zoom NDCWales worked to manipulate the programme in simple ways to create a performative platform that could be directed in real time by the choreographer.

Stage manager Perla Ponce quickly transferred her practical skills into the digital realm and worked closely with the social media team to quickly create a successful and smooth live experience.


This transfer of skills, and the theatrical use of Zoom; usually a none-performative platform came with a steep learning curve.
As NDCWales are about to embark on their second live creation for Zoom (Clapping by Ed Myhill) they want to demystify the process, so that others can begin to share work in similar ways.

Now ‘Digital Stage Manager’ Perla Ponce has written a detailed tutorial which the Company hope will be useful within the dance sector and beyond – if only to overcome the extensive exploration and trouble-shooting that National Dance Company Wales faced. 

At the start of the lockdown we were keen to connect audiences in a meaningful way; it was important to the Company to continue to offer live performances and maintain a real-time connection.

Following some research, trouble shooting and manipulation of the software, we were able to use Zoom as a platform for performance.  As a result, we found the sector reaching out asking how we were practically able to achieve this.

This tutorial covers using Zoom to stream performances directed in real-time to either Facebook or Youtube and is from the point of view of our Stage Manager focusing on the use of the program and highlighting the importance of maintaining stage-learning and best practices even in a digital landscape.

Why Zoom?

NDCWales have been offering live streamed content directly on Facebook for a number of years, but like many as we started working and dancing from home, like many others we turned to Zoom.  

Zoom is easy to use and readily available, and unlike Facebook’s live feature, allows more than one household to be streamed. It is the best way we have found to coordinate between people and maintain a steady connection.  

Zoom, as everything, has its pros and cons. 

- Easily available
- Most people are now familiar with the software
- Relatively cheap pricing – you’ll need just a singular Pro account to live stream to your social media accounts at £11 a month, which can be easily cancelled

- Once you set it up, it is as simple as pressing buttons. 


- Can include extensive prep and set up time for performance

- Some of the advanced functions such as streaming with your own branding require you to have a business account, starting at £159 pcm

- Some of the concerns with online safety that were raised at the start of the pandemic,

- Smooth sailing is dependent on the quality of each participants camera and internet connection

- Streaming to Facebook using Zoom can be unpredictable 

Most of the problems are solvable but our top tip is to record the sessions going live (using the record function in Zoom itself), in case the connection drops either from the internet, or link between Zoom and your social media account.  


Streaming Zoom 

You’ve decided you do want to use Zoom. You have a live stream coming up, now what do you do? 

The first thing to do, is set up a meeting. You can find the tutorial here

Once you’ve set it up, make sure you have enabled the meeting to be able to stream on to social media Tutorial here for Facebook or YouTube

It’s useful to note that you need to also set your YouTube account up with livestreaming permission – this can take up to 24hrs to verify

It’s important to note that there is a 20 second delay between Zoom and the stream onto your platforms.



Our set-up uses two essential jobs as well as any performers or choreographers involved.

Digital Stage Manager – Someone like myself to run the technical side of the live performance, this includes running holding screens, the music and sound, cuing performers as I would on stage, and playing cinematographer

Social Media lead – A secondary person to go live on your social channel, ensure the messaging is correct, connect with the audiences during the performances (as performances streamed on social media encourage real-time feedback) and keep an eye on the stream health.

Performers – It’s important to note that your stream will only look as slick as your performers, think about lighting (and time of day you rehearse if using natural lighting) camera set up, framing of shots, and encourage use of ethernet cables for stable connections.
If you’re looking for crisp imagery, consider use of smart phones as the cameras are often much higher quality – and there’s free software to use your phone as a webcam should your performers need the full-screen-experience.


It is important that these roles are the host and co-host of the meeting. 

There are functions that are only available to the Hosts, (For more information on what hosts and co-hosts can do visit this link ).



For a simple Q&A the Social Media Lead will host (as only a host holds the ‘go live’ function) keeping an eye on the stream and the Digital Stage Manager will Co-host.

However, one of our most creative solutions during performances has been the ability to direct the cinematography by using the
Spotlighting function to focus on one dancer at a time, rather than always showing the grid format.

Only a host can spotlight – in these instances we pass the host function to the social media lead to go live, then pass it back to the Digital Stage Manager to use the spotlight.


dancers, dancing via zoom using interesting perspective



Media – Music, Sound and Holding Screens

If you are using pre-recorded external media, like music or video, read on.
Please note this is not the set up for live music or sound – which comes with it’s own hurdles.

The description below is our technical set up – it requires a few screens and some knowhow- this is the setup we recommend for the smoothest and most stress-free stream.
The use of duel screens, or cueing software may not be available to you, so we encourage exploration and patience.


For performances our Digital SM uses 2 computers and 3 screens, for a more simple Q&A where music is not required, 2 screens.

The first computer is used to run the call and share holding-screens (denoting that the stream is about to start, for example) and the second is used cue music tracks with a seamless cross over.
If you do not have this available to you we recommend a third person specifically in the call to play the music and act as sound technician.

It is worth noting at this point that Perla is a freelancer, and available to hire.

Perla’s set up for a simple stream. The right laptop controls the meeting, allowing her to cue people using the chat function and mute participants. On the left holding-screens keep audiences informed.
Perla’s set up for a simple stream. The right laptop controls the meeting, allowing her to cue people using the chat function and mute participants. On the left holding-screens keep audiences informed.




Perla’s set up for performance requires a separate laptop to run the sound which connects to zoom through second (free) account.
Sound is shared using the ‘share computer sound’ function with video and microphone muted and headphones are used in this computer to prevent feedback.

note: The host must ensure the share screen and sound option is checked for all participants


Note: As we are running live versions of our current repertoire, we are able to use the theatrical program QLab to run our music because the cue lists have been created for live shows and are mixed and ready to play.

Perla’s set up when also using QLab to run the sound and cue the various parts of the stream; headphones are used to prevent feedback.
Perla’s set up when also using QLab to run the sound and cue the various parts of the stream; headphones are used to prevent feedback.




We created a number of holding-screens to inform audiences, from the obvious “This stream will start shortly” to play whilst your audience gather and to act as a digital velvet curtain, to the just-in-case “Technical problems – bear with us”
 These are simply images made into videos, we make them as long as we need them to be, and are then streamed out to audiences using the
Share-Screen function


holding screen with theatrical image and text reading "the stream will begin shortly"

Prepping your performers and your digital space

Send out the link to the meeting for the participants and have a preparation meeting with them; make sure they know the basic controls, how to join the meeting, how to mute, unmute, re-join if they drop out. Check their shot is good, the kind of device they are using, whether you can hear and see them clearly, etc.  

For the best practices when speaking to the camera, please see this PDF we put together for our own team.

As a behind the scenes person, you will need to have a play with audio and video settings in the meeting and get used to giving instructions through the camera to troubleshoot for other people. Yes, IT support is now part of your job; spend a couple of hours with someone else in a zoom call to check what changes if you tick and untick setup boxes. Always give yourself time to troubleshoot.  

We recommend an initial meeting at least a couple of days before the stream, you can talk through the requirements, for everyone, including any expectations the creative team have.
Take the opportunity to make sure everyone can hear everything clearly if you’re using sound, or see changes and identify cues, if you’re using video. Make sure you play the tracks, you share the screens, everything you might need to prepare. 


In order to ensure everyone understands what to do, talk it through. Go part by part, from the moment you go live to the moment the streaming stops. Decide on the cues you will have, either vocal or visual. Describe to them the process of starting and stopping the stream and, very importantly, write it down; even in quick hand. People will ask you to repeat the information and consistency is key.  


Cueing a streamed performance

This is the trickiest part. We strongly recommend that whoever is doing the cueing has experience with live shows, as smooth transitions require confidence, practice, a calm mind in case something goes wrong.

Make sure you practice, by yourself or in a zoom call, with the social media lead, so they can know the delay time, how it looks in social media, etc. Remember, what you see in Zoom is not necessarily what goes out to the stream – so it’s important to test this too.

In Youtube you can stream privately easily, facebook has a ‘test’ function on it’s new
‘live-producer’ although we’ve found it to be unstable and instead streamed to a very limited audience during the testing phase.


Perla looks out over an empty auditorium
Perla looks out over an empty auditorium


During a Stream

The following is a list of actions our Digital SM takes during a stream.

These are written under the assumption the Host is the person going live and the co-host is the SM. There will be no “spotlighting” in this cueing version: 

  1. Make sure everyone is ready and in the zoom call at least 10 minutes before it , again, leaving time to troubleshoot.  
  1. Turn off own video and ask everyone who will not be visible on the call to turn theirs off as well – check the “Hide non-video participants” button
  1. Once you are about 3 minutes from live, ask everyone to mute their mics.  
  1. Set up holding screen on screen no 2.  
  1. Share your screen through zoom, along with computer sound if needed. 
  1. Stand-By everyone “About to go live”  
  1. Cue Host to go live on social channel. 
  1. Mute own mic.  
  1. Get confirmation in writing that the stream has started and is connected to the social channel and working   
  1. Communicate via chat that we are live (Holding screen is visible on stream).  
  1. Start recording 
  1. Prepare second sound computer. Stand By ready to share sound only. 
  1. Wait until time for show to start. 
  1. Stand By everyone on chat “About to remove holding screen” 
  1. Wait for acknowledgement of readiness from participants   
  1. Stop Sharing screen. 
  1. OPTIONAL- Unmute mics, or allow participants to unmute sound as they need it.  
  1. Start sharing sound. 
  1. Cue show through QLab as normal. 
  1. Stand By on screen 2 for “technical difficulties” (Only to be used if necessary) 
  1. Nearing the end of the show, Stand By on screen 2 for “End of stream” holding screen. 
  1. When end of stream is signaled (previously agreed signal or time), mute all mics. 
  1. Share holding screen. 
  1. Everyone is to remain muted.  
  1. Wait for message from Host as to stopped stream. 
  1. Stop recording. 
  1. Unmute mic. 
  1. Communicate end of stream, everyone can stand down.  
  1. Wait for feedback. 


Feedback is important. Touch base with your team about what went wrong. We are all going through this learning process; its OK to make mistakes. We have found it very useful, reflecting on what we have done, to come up with solutions together.  

We hope this information will be useful to you and you will be able to continue creating Art for many people to enjoy.  

Questions or request of Perla’s services as a Digital Stage Manager? Email