Last year, the Rural Touring Dance Initiative was launched to bring contemporary dance to village halls and community venues around the country. This Autumn the first cohort of shows are set to tour, having been selected from a menu of shows by local programmers, many of whom are volunteers seeking work to stage in their local communities.
The selected companies represent a variety of styles, and each show has either been designed for performance in village halls, or specially adapted from existing repertoire by the company. A programme of activities to get audiences involved has been designed by each company to accompany the shows: Lost Dog’s Ben Duke will lead discussions on creation, poetry and parenthood; Protein will invite audiences to bring local specialities to eat and share at May Contain Food – May Contain You, and Lîla Dance will recruit an extended cast from the community to be part of dance experience The Deluge.
The Rural Touring Dance Initiative is a three year scheme for making and touring dance performances to and for rural areas. Made possible by a grant from Arts Council England’s Lottery-funded Strategic Touring Programme, the initiative is led by National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF), which joined with dance institution The Place, arts charity Take Art and independent producing studio China Plate to deliver the scheme. These shows are the first to tour as part of the initiative, with companies chosen from hundreds of applications in response to a call out issued at last year’s launch. Later this year, the National Rural Dance Initiative will announce the first company it will commission to make new work especially for the rural touring circuit.
In England and Wales, 10.3 million people live in the countryside and rural touring is a vital way of reaching communities who might not otherwise have access to the performing arts. Founded in 1997, the NRTF is a member-led organisation that works to deliver high quality art experiences that strengthen communities, providing the rural touring network with training, information and networking services as well as promoting better understanding of the rural touring network through research and advocacy.
NRTF’s Development Director Ralph Lister said, “Currently only a very small amount of dance tours to rural areas; this initiative will address issues and challenges on both the supply and demand side of the equation. More companies will be encouraged and supported to take their work out of a regular ‘black box’ setting into village halls, with all the delights and issues that brings with it. In addition it will create opportunities for many more rural touring staff and volunteer promoters to see exciting and engaging dance on a broad spectrum and to then programme and promote these shows to their local village audience.”
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