The specificity of dance as a non-verbal, ephemeral, ever-evolving art form, does not make dance a particularly easy topic to communicate about. Still, there is a necessity that we do just that. Effective communication about contemporary dance performs important functions: enhancing the public’s understanding of the art form, expanding the reach and impact of dance in society, and ultimately advocating more effectively for dance as an art form. Especially in these challenging times for culture and art, it is important to communicate about dance from a position of urgency, conviction and joy, - as individuals and as a sector.
In this text, we – six dancehouses from six European countries - aim to address the complexity and the specific challenges that communicating contemporary dance entails. This text is the result of a collective and practice-based research process, in which we examined approaches to communicating contemporary dance in five working sessions, over a total of 15 days, in one year. At each stage of the project, we invited both communications and dance professionals to contribute to our research process through a variety of mechanisms.
The title 360° highlights that communication in contemporary dance does not only include the traditional understanding of communication (press work, marketing, PR, etc.) but that communication starts in the moment a choreographer begins a creative process. Thus, communicating an artistic project or product starts at the moment an artist thinks of the next project and invites other people in. 360° communication in this sense refers to all possible people and target groups you might encounter during an artistic process and can include: cooperation partners, stakeholders, team members, collaborators and audiences. It can also include institutions such as funding bodies, venues, theatres and festivals and, as such it also includes the staff members of the different departments of each institution (from the technical department to the artistic director).
When we set out on this journey, we expected that this text would be written solely for independent dance artists to be used as a tool to deal with the diverse communication tasks that are part of a daily contemporary artistic practice. However, over the course of the project, we began to see communication within the dance field as a chain, in which each professional needs to take responsibility for communicating dance effectively, starting by being aware of ones’ own position, role, interests, aims and needs, knowing when to communicate, with whom and to what end. We recognise that as representatives of dance institutions we also have the responsibility to question our modes of communication – to take our own advice. As a result, the text switches perspective at times, inviting not just independent practitioners, but all dance professionals to examine their approach to communication within their practices.
Besides offering food for thought, the text offers support to – slowly but steadily – come to one’s own tailor-made communication strategy. Please note: there is no magic formula, nor a standard template. Instead, using the framework of Think, Use and Play, this online resource should open your thinking towards creating a personal approach to communication about your work, which acknowledges your particular set of skills, resources and circumstances.
In our chapter on Identity, we invite you to define the core concepts, values and key terms you work from. These are usually identified within the professional Dialogue around your work. While in Communication, you have to be clear on what is important to you. But even more important is to be clear on what is important for the other to be able to receive, and understand your message.
The clearer you are about your own key values, the easier it is to develop a communication strategy through which you can manage the ongoing process of Translation. Translating your core message through the use of different images, tone of voice and different media is what effective communication about dance is all about. Connected to this is the process of adapting the way you communicate to each of your stakeholders in the different stages of your working process.
Achieving this efficiently and effectively requires identifying Audience groups and collaborators. It also requires Trust, as communication is a collaborative act. In the process of Collaboration, dialogue is often the first and main channel to convey a message.
Last but not least, we discuss the relevance of Documentation & Evaluation, both offering the opportunity to keep track of how effective your processes of translation and communication have been so far.
It is interesting, to think and be philosophical about our communication strategies, isn’t it? But it does not stop there. We recognise that of course these thoughts need to be translated into concrete action – thoughts are not useful to you when you are trying to decide which filters and channels will be most effective in reaching a segmented audience group which share a specific characteristic. With that in mind, we have created the USE section, to support you in putting this mode of thinking about communication in 360° into practice.
Practical advice, such as explaining how to prepare communication material when using channels such as video, PR texts or social media in the most effective way can be found in our USE section, which we will link to in each chapter. Also contained within this section are some ‘Further Questions’ which arose for us in the discussion around each key term. We have included the most interesting (and provoking) questions as they are useful to keep asking and reminding ourselves of them, as well as to give further context to our research and treatment of this subject.
Finally, we wish to encourage you to PLAY with your communication strategies. Communicating your work is something you must do, so you should at least be able to have fun with it! This tool is designed to help you consider possibilities, and can be used in an interactive, hands-on way to create a tailor made strategy for you, for a particular process, or even for one particular part of a process. It is up to you how you use it, so have fun!