Dancing Museums

ON THE BLOG: Being a project partner in Dancing Museums

Dancing Museums is a Cooperation Project which brings together dance organisations with museums and galleries to explore new ways of interacting with audiences. We spoke to Fiona Campbell of UK partner Siobhan Davies Dance about practical tips for project partners and how Dancing Museums has provided her with a deeper understanding of what other dance organisations in Europe are thinking.

Tell us a bit about Dancing Museums 

"Five dance artists – one from each partner organisation – are embarking upon a two-year period of research and development and taking part in week-long residencies in each of the museums to provide opportunities to collaborate with their European partners. As part of the residencies, they are joined by experts from other fields such as education, digital media and academia to contextualise the research and stimulate new thinking.

"It’s been a privilege to witness other cultures and learn more about the role performing arts plays within different countries."

"The aim of the project is to define and implement new methods to engage audiences and enhance the journeys that people make when walking through rooms of history and art spaces.

"More and more we are seeing an increase in the presence of performance and dance in museums and gallery spaces. The project isn’t about creating performances for museums and galleries, but about researching what happens to the audiences when they encounter performative work in these spaces and the role that live performance can play in their experience. "

What kinds of questions is the project trying to address? 

"What is the difference between a visitor and audience member? How do you place something performative in a traditionally non–performative space? And, how do you introduce the presence of a dance artist into these spaces, without it being tokenistic or uncomfortable for the audience?"

What led to the creation of Dancing Museums?

"Dancing Museums was borne out of a previous project celebrating the 500th anniversary of the death of the painter Hieronymus Bosch. For this project, five European dance organisations worked with galleries and museums to create a performance work in the gallery spaces. It included all of the same partners as Dancing Museums, except for Siobhan Davies Dance." 

What has the impact of Creative Europe funding been? 

"The funding and project has been particularly beneficial in helping us to make new connections with organisations and learn from their different perspectives and organisational cultures. 

"It has provided us with an opportunity to work with an artist we hadn’t worked with previously. When we embarked on the project we put out an open call for expressions of interest from artists with a view to expanding our current network of dance artists, which resulted in us working Lucy Suggate – a fantastic UK-based dance artist we hadn’t previously encountered.  

"Dancing Museums was borne out of a previous project celebrating the 500th anniversary of the death of the painter Hieronymus Bosch."

"It’s also been a privilege to witness other cultures and learn more about the role performing arts plays within different countries, and to gain a sense of how other dance organisations in Europe are thinking – what their current interests are and points of shared discourse."

Do you have any tips for partners of future project applicants? 

1. Ensure that you have the resources within your organisation to undertake the project

"It can be easy to make assumptions about everyone’s understanding of the objectives in the application stage, but when put into practice differences can emerge.

"Distributing and coordinating general workload evenly across organisations in different countries can be hard. In our organisation we have a Programme Director leading the artistic direction of the project, an Executive Director working with the programme director, a Communications Manager (myself) responsible for project managing the build of a new website, overseeing social media and all press and marketing for the project, as well as an Administrator booking travel, accommodation and rigorously recording finances. So that’s already a significant amount of time for four full-time members of staff."

2. Get to know your partner organisations well before you start

"As we joined the application process at a relatively late stage, we found that as the project developed the intentions and approaches of some organisation differed to ours. I think this is partly due to how different organisations have interpreted the project brief. It can be easy to make assumptions about everyone’s understanding of the objectives in the application stage, but when put into practice differences can emerge – particularly when working across different types of organisations and cultures.  "

3. Don’t go into a project like this expecting it to produce a large income for your organisation

"It’s not an easy win financially. The financial reporting is rigorous and the exchange rate isn’t set until the end of the project."

4. Plan for evaluation

"Financial evaluation is rigorous but the project evaluation as a whole is more fluid. Try to outline how it will be evaluated before the project begins."

Find out about the Dancing Museums London residency.

Image: Manual 2013 by Siobhan Davies Dance. GoMA photo by Alan Dimmick, courtesy Glasgow Life