Dance Lab – a Rural Touring Scheme Perspective

In October artists, companies and touring schemes involved in the Rural Touring Dance Initiative were brought together for 3 days in Somerset to explore the practicalities of rural touring, spend time with local voluntary promoters in village halls and exchange ideas. Karen Kidman of Creative Arts East reflects on the experience:

I was very grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend the Lab for the Rural Touring Dance Initiative for several reasons:

• Creative Arts East have historically found it incredibly difficult to programme dance on our scheme, for various reasons including cost, space requirements and our promoter’s view that it is ‘difficult to sell’.
• As a programmer, my experience, knowledge and understanding of dance is also very limited.
• Finding the right work and the right artists to work with these and other constraints has been very difficult.

It felt very important for Creative Arts East and me personally that we were not only part of this scheme to take advantage of some of these historical issues being addressed, but also that we became very involved in the process and were able to feed into the conversations and development with artists, even if at times I may have been a bit of a provocateur in the room.

Participating artists exploring Dulverton Town Hall

The schedule for the Lab was intensive and very thorough. I felt every aspect of rural touring was covered in detail and artists were given the chance to respond, question and challenge throughout.   It was great to see these practitioners exploring a village hall and all of its quirks in a really positive way.

It was clear by the end of the second day that the reality was setting in and some were starting to feel a little overwhelmed with what they might have to consider. However, this was balanced by some excellent presentations from Pretty Good Girl Dance Theatre and Spilt Milk who also portrayed the many benefits and positives that this work can offer.

I was filled with confidence and really impressed with how the enthusiasm and commitment from the dance companies to the project did not waver.  Instead, by the final day, the questions became more specific and ideas and potential solutions seemed more prevalent.

In conclusion, the Lab was a very positive and progressive experience.   I found myself far more enthused to go and see more dance productions myself and with an increased confidence in programming and communicating dance to promoters.