Audience Ambassadors (2014-15)
Inspiring new audiences for dance
Dance can be exciting, moving and life-enhancing. But some dance can also be challenging. The more abstract the work, the more difficult it can be for new audiences to connect. To overcome this challenge, we created Audience Ambassadors, not just to get ‘bums on seats’ but to create depth of experience, too.
What we did
We invited people from a non-dance background to become Audience Ambassadors as one way of removing barriers to contemporary dance and prompting discussion about the process behind it. Our ambition was to inspire the ambassadors to enjoy dance and connect with it in new ways, as well as to spread the word and encourage their friends and family to enjoy dance too.
In 2015 we ran the pilot Audience Ambassadors programme with German artist Julian Hetzel, exploring his interactive performance piece Sculpting Fear. In 2016 we rolled out a second programme with Australian artist Dan Daw as he created a new solo work called BEAST. The ambassadors met and socialised with the artists, attended rehearsals and saw the final performances. As a result, we created a journey which gave a meaningful experience to both the ambassadors and the artists.
“Wow, what a revelation! Completely changed my opinion of Contemporary dance.”
Debbie, Audience Ambassador
What we achieved
The project has been a big success - 95% of all the participants said that they would continue to watch Contemporary dance performances.
“This was really such a great experience, there should be more places and organisations…who do it.”
Josephine, Audience Ambassador
To date, 44 members of the public have been directly involved, including a tattooist, a comedienne, a representative from Cambridge University’s Medical Humanities Society, bloggers and a representative from the disability organisation Independent Lives.
The ripple effect of the programme has directly influenced a further 47 people – for example, an ambassador from the pilot was inspired to set up weekly dance classes for her students. Other ambassadors enjoyed it so much that they shared their experiences with 30 of their peers, aged 40-80, from the Women’s Institute.
Holly is a Support Worker from Brighton. Before taking part in Audience Ambassadors with artist Dan Daw in 2015, she hadn’t seen any Contemporary dance – the anticipation of ‘not getting it’ was a real barrier for her.
“If someone had asked me to go and see Contemporary dance before this project, I probably wouldn’t have gone. I would’ve worried that I wouldn’t ‘get it’."
Since taking part in the project, Holly has begun to feel more open to the different ways she can relate to and enjoy dance, and wants to experience more dance in the future.
“This project opened my eyes to the fact that sometimes you don’t have to fully understand what’s going on in a deeper level with any performance - you don’t have to necessarily enjoy it in the traditional way. My mind has genuinely been opened on the subject. I enjoyed the experience thoroughly and it really did expose me to a whole world that I really had no clue on before.”