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Dancing in Museums: Bringing museum collections to life for audiences in the East Midlands

  • Date: 13 May 2014
  • Artform: Museums
  • Area: Midlands
Image from 'The Imagination Museum' 'The Imagination Museum' by Made by Katie Green, Photograph by Chris Nash

In museums across the East Midlands, including, The Collection Museum in Lincoln, Boston Guildhall and Northampton Museum and Art Gallerydance company Made by Katie Green has been bringing the stories behind historical collections to life in an entertaining contemporary dance performance entitled, ‘The Imagination Museum’.

‘The Imagination Museum’ is a surprising piece of contemporary dance which can be adapted to suit different museum settings, taking inspiration from the historical collections of artefacts on display.

The piece is choreographed by Katie Green and has been produced in collaboration with the writer Anna Selby and composer Max Perryment.

It is performed for audiences by three eccentric tour-guides, Mildred, Henry and Harriet, who dance their way around the museum, using words and movement to illustrate the stories behind the historic objects they come across.  

The performance entertains onlookers with a sense of playfulness and intrigue, awakening their curiosity and inspiring them to go off and explore the nooks and crannies of the museum for themselves.

Katie Green, Director, Made by Katie Green, explains: “The idea for the Dancing in Museums project came about as a result of a choreography module I delivered with some undergraduate students in collaboration with Ipswich Museum, when I first experienced the great potential of using the things we find in museums and the museum buildings themselves as source material for choreography.”

“One of the things I love about the project is that it has enabled me to take dance to environments where people can happen upon it by accident, or choose to encounter it, and that the work is particularly aimed at engaging a younger audience. It is also particularly exciting because ‘The Imagination Museum’ is always changing, as no two museums or heritage sites are the same – this brings extra challenges, but means that the work is always very alive and responsive to its environment.”

Learning through dance

Alongside performances of the 'Imagination Museum', Katie runs creative ‘Dancing in Museums’ workshops for children.

These workshops combine heritage, dance, writing and drawing activities, and take place onsite in the museums or at local primary schools. They give children the opportunity to look at and discuss artefacts from their local museum’s collection, taking inspiration from them to create their own dances. In some venues the workshops are followed by performances where the children taking part share what they’ve created with their families.

“We have now worked with over 1,000 children and young people in Dancing in Museums workshops and have been overwhelmed by the children’s response to our sessions,” said Katie.

“All of the activities are participant-led, and the children really enjoy having an opportunity to tell the story they want to tell about particular objects that are significant to the heritage of their local area. We love seeing children who, according to their teachers, don’t ordinarily engage with dance activity, come to life when presented with a handling box of fossils for example. They tell us everything they know about dinosaurs, which is usually a lot more than us, and then we give them some skills to help them make a dance using all of that information.”

“As with all our workshops, we hope that by inspiring the children, and giving them confidence in their own way of moving, they might be more likely to go and see and participate in more dance and to visit their local museum again in the future.”

Great art for everyone

The production of the ‘The Imagination Museum’ and Dancing in Museums workshops is supported by investment from the National Lottery through Arts Council England’s Grants for the arts programme, Lincolnshire County Council, Fund NK and Derbyshire County Council.

Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England, said: “Bringing dance and performance into museums is an imaginative way for people to experience the history behind collections of artefacts. Museums are a really important way for us to find out about the people, places and events which are part of our cultural heritage. ‘The Imagination Museum’ takes the idea of cultural exploration and discovery and weaves it together into an entertaining performance for audiences of all ages. Arts Council England’s aim is for everyone to have access to great art and culture and I hope these performances and workshops surprise and inspire the people who take part in them.”

Watch this short trailer by Wigglyline Productions for a preview of the ‘Imagination Museum’:

Find out more

Details about upcoming performances and workshops can be found here.

To see what other projects and performances Made by Katie Green has created visit their website.

If you are from a museum and are interested in working with Made by Katie Green to host ‘The Imagination Museum’ you can contact her here

You can see more of Chris Nash's dance photography here.