Dance and Rural Touring – reflections from Spiltmilk Dancea

July 2014 saw Sarah and Adele, Co-Directors of Spiltmilk Dance, head up to York to join in the events of New Directions 2014, the NRTF conference and showcase event. We were delighted to be able to attend the whole conference through support from Live and Local and their DART scheme.

Jam-packed doesn’t quite cover the timetable of showcases, discussions, coach trips and networking that was provided as part of the conference and we arrived determined to soak up as much as we possibly could over the three days.

As well as the showcases there were a number of opportunities for meaty discussions about hopes and ambitions for rural touring in the future as well as challenges faced by both schemes and companies. Dance was a key topic of conversation throughout the conference.

Dance is still largely under represented on scheme brochures for a number of reasons, not least because the genre has historically required technical luxuries such as a large playing space and sprung floors. However, we firmly believe that, alongside Spiltmilk Dance, there are many companies working in the dance sector at present creating work which is much more flexible in terms of staging and would go down very well in village halls and community settings across the country. It was extremely gratifying to see and hear the extent to which both scheme managers and promoters are keen to bring more dance to their audiences. We feel there is some matchmaking to be done between these rural touring experts and dance companies that may have only heard the whisper that rural touring could be an option for them. This is something that we would love to play a part in, in the future.

We were delighted by the reception that our own showcase performance received and we have had some great discussions with schemes we had not previously engaged with before the conference. Indeed, this translated into new touring dates for Spiltmilk say Dance in Spring 2015.  Additionally, we are in the thick of developing a new performance work for touring in 2015/2016 and particularly have rural touring audiences and venues in mind throughout this creative process. Schemes we haven’t toured to previously have already shown great interest in hosting this work because of their impressions of the company from the NRTF conference.

It was relatively recently that we entered into the world of rural touring but we are rapidly feeling that, in this setting, our work has found its spiritual home. Meeting the audiences that we can access through rural touring and getting to feel part of their community for a night has been already been hugely rewarding and we’re excited to continue with more touring in future.

So far our tour of Spiltmilk say Dance has seen us getting toes tapping from County Durham to Warwickshire and this Spring we’ll be carrying on the fun from Cumbria to Devon! The communities we have visited have been overwhelmingly welcoming, as we journey around the country in our van we look forward to meeting the friendly faces of local promoters, ever ready to offer a helping hand or a restoring cuppa.  We’ve also loved the process of decking out each new hall we visit with fairy lights, bunting and the all-important fancy dress table so that locals can enjoy seeing their familiar space transformed.

With all our work we aim to give audiences a great night out, with the chance to see a new and innovative performance work whilst also having a fun and sociable evening with their family and friends. We have loved seeing 5 to 85 year olds togged up in their fancy dress, dancing together to the live music from our musician and leaving at the end of the night with big smiles on their faces.

Our audiences have summed up best how rural touring has given us some of the most rewarding outings for our work;

‘The best night out we’ve had as a whole family in ages… Thank you for a wonderful evening.’

‘A really good evening. A reluctant husband danced his socks off and said he really enjoyed himself!’

‘I really felt part of something, not just an audience member’

If these experiences are anything to go by then the future of dance on rural touring schemes is certainly bright, so here’s to many more dancing adventures up and down the country in future!

A trailer for Spiltmilk say Dance can be viewed by clicking here or visiting