Guest blog: Sally Lewis, Museum Consultant, reflects on a current initiative for Dance & Museums

As the parent of a child who has progressed from starting classes at the age of four to becoming a professional contemporary dancer, choreographer and teacher at 24, I have some personal insight into the benefits dance can have. Introduced at a young age by dedicated teachers, it is now great to see this enthusiasm passed on to the next generation.

I would like everyone to have access to some level of dance experience, not least for the health advantages, but also to add value to their experience of culture and the arts; the heritage and dance sector workforce as well as participants and audiences.

Trinity Laban students at Museums at Night 2011 for Museum of Bath at Work. Photo: Sally Lewis

Trinity Laban students at Museums at Night 2011
for Museum of Bath at Work.
Photo: Sally Lewis

Since organising a contemporary dance event for Museums at Night five years ago, I have been interested in what the two sectors could achieve working together. So it was great to be commissioned by Zannah Doan, Regional Producer at Pavilion Dance South West, to organise two Conversations in the South West to share case studies, and to encourage discussion and networking.

They also asked me to assemble some cross-sector resources, and an initial look at what was going on led me to think about the different issues to explore and possible challenges. This was at the beginning of 2016 and a range of work has been going on both inside and outside of the region which we have been able to share, support and publicise.

The discussions have also led to the putting together of a strategic plan and the formation of an informal cross-sector working group to look at funding options to take ideas forward, particularly along the lines of the Creative Case for Diversity from Arts Council England.

St Brendan’s Sixth Form College Dance Department Photo: Grant Pollard

St Brendan’s Sixth Form College Dance Department
Photo: Grant Pollard

So what’s next? The Dance & Museums Conversation 3 takes place on 11 January 2017, from 11am to 4pm at Museum of Bath at Work,  Julian Road Bath, BA1 2RH.

  • What can we learn from each other‘s work with diverse audiences?
  • How does dance support museums in dealing with current issues?
  • Can we ensure young people are included in our programming?
  • Does direct access to collections provide inspiration for dance research & development?
  • How can we enable dance organisations and museums to work in partnership across the South West?

These are some of the questions raised by previous Conversations in Bristol and Southampton. We will be exploring these issues further with: contributions from Plymouth Dance & Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery, 3rd Stage Dance Company & Bristol Museums Galleries & Archives  and Bath Spa University on collaborations; a discussion focussing on young people; and using collection items from Museum of Bath at Work, the Roman Baths and Glenside Museum  in Bristol in a cross-sector creative session .

Emily Malcolm, Project Manager for Dancing Back to 1914  from Wiltshire Youth Arts Partnership will be contributing in particular to the discussion on working with young people.

This is also a great opportunity to immerse yourself in Bath’s industrial & commercial heritage by stepping back in time at this unique museum and to network with colleagues across both sectors.

Download event flyer here

The event is organised by Pavilion Dance South West supported with public funding by Arts Council England and kindly hosted by the Museum of Bath at Work.

Please do join us on Jan 11 in Bath if you can, read about what we have been doing and check out our resources. You can get in touch with us via Twitter @PDSW_org @sallye_l or via the email on the event flyer.

Sally Lewis, Museum Consultant


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