The Atelier organised by Dance House Lemesos focused on how to strengthen professional practice, a clue aspect of the EDN events for the upcoming years. "Audience development is a mindset, not a product or project”, one of the ideas that arose from the meeting.
Communicating with potential audiences is not only about sending messages, it's about building connections in a creative way
Organised by EDN and Dance House Lemesos, Common Ground: To Care was the first in a series of EDN gatherings to explore ideas, actions and best practice around the notion of “care” towards existing or potential audiences, and the dynamics of building long-term relationships between artists, dance organisations and audiences.
While it has always been important for arts organisations to communicate with potential audiences, now more than ever dancehouses and festivals are thinking laterally and creatively about what that means. Nowadays, it’s more than simply sending messages out using marketing and public relations tools; it’s about building connections in creative ways. This extends not only to people in the immediate vicinity but also, via digital means, to those who cannot join us in person, for whatever reason.
For each organisation, the priorities and level of activity will be different depending on local circumstances but, as we found over our two days of discussion, there is much to be shared.
A variety of ways to communicate with your audience
The Atelier brought together representatives of ten dancehouses, from eight countries across Europe. They came from large cities and small; well-funded organisations and not; some with established dance audiences and others “pioneering”; some with long experience of audience development initiatives, others just starting out; some with substantial staff teams and others working virtually alone.
The group was extraordinarily diverse in terms of roles, experiences and contexts. Therefore, our goal was to assist in the deepening of each participant’s individual journey, i.e. for each of us to learn, to develop and to expand our own thinking, through what we heard and also through what we shared with others.
We began with a physical warm-up, led by Alexis Vassiliou, Director of Dance House Lemesos, which focused us and reminded us why we were all there: for dance. The group was small enough –approximately 12-15– that we were able to sit around one table to share, all together, our questions, dilemmas, realities, ideas and practices.
Learning through best practices, shared experiences and discussions
In this short report, it is impossible to cover adequately the depth and range of our work over the two days. Suffice it to say that via a series of tasks, a rich exploration of the subject emerged. For example:
Innumerable questions were raised but with a subject of such complexity and range, few answers could be found in the time we had. However, many memorable points, words and phrases were revealed for us to reflect upon, some of which follow:
Scratching the surface and setting goals for the future
We finished with one final task. Participants took a couple of minutes to think of three actions they would undertake when going back to their organisations, as a result of these two days. Their responses were wide-ranging and revealing, some beautifully immediate, others more philosophical and long-term. A few examples follow:
To be continued…
This was a fruitful meeting, involving a group of wonderfully thoughtful and dedicated professionals, who shared generously with each other. Although we discussed deeply, in two days we could only scratch the surface of the subject but it is clear that many inspiring ideas and much food for thought were generated.
Most of the group had not met before and, with luck, they now have a community of colleagues with whom they can discuss ideas, problems, techniques, dilemmas and victories, in future.
One of our guest speakers summed it up when she said:
“I’ve realised that there is a lot happening in institutions around this topic and everyone is passionate about their projects. I take curiosity with me about the future.”
A report written by Betsy Gregory for EDN, 2017. Picture: Pavlos Vryonides