We began this journey with a belief that through innovative participatory research practices we could better understand the needs of our community with the aim of creating experiences that are inclusive, accessible and meaningful. Our final prototype provided an opportunity to explore a platform, the “Book Club for Dance”, that aligns with our guiding principles.
These principles prioritize co-creation over control, transparency over mystery, inquiry over remedy and permission over authority. Exchange of information and experience is viewed as mutually beneficial and views expressed, equally valid, no matter how diverse or divergent. The act of experiencing a dance performance is viewed as protected time to reflect on our connection to self and to others through art. Art is viewed as a catalyst for change and discovery. Artist and audience are seen as interdependent and interpretation is informed by lived experience.
Engagement is like a good conversation; where listening and responsiveness are key factors. We learned that people are more likely to be engaged when they have both support and autonomy: the choice to participate as they wish, but with generous guidance and/or instruction. The challenge for arts organizations is to represent and support professional artists in a way that honours the complexity of the work, while meeting the audience by satisfying their need for social connection and discovery within the context of presentation.
Design Thinking and co-creation principles can reframe the problems of audience engagement into possibilities; proactively collecting and integrating feedback with an iterative approach that puts organizations into dialogue with both their stakeholders and potential future stakeholders.
Interested in learning more? We would be happy to share our final report and/or discuss our research with you! Email us at info<at>toesfordance.ca!