Project: Pavilion Dance South West
Pavilion Dance South West (PDSW) is the national dance development organisation for the South West of England. It was supported by the Digital R&D Fund to develop a dance video app to engage new audiences, with partners Mobile Pie and University of the West of England (UWE).
Research Report Insights
Pavilion Dance South West
What they did
PDSW and its partners explored how a digital intervention could be engineered to connect people who like to dance, using their immediate surroundings as a backdrop and inspiration.
The project aimed to tap into young people’s smartphone habits, and spark an interest in dance that might lead to attending a professional performance. The research question was:
Can a playful mobile platform enhance engagement and participation in a particular art form?
PDSW’s network of dancers, dance teachers and students was involved in testing and gathering suggestions and feedback for its development and possibilities.
The resulting app allowed players to upload their videos to a microsite, view, share and rate others’ videos, and challenge other players at tagged locations. The supporting website included information about local dance opportunities so they could deepen their interest and commitment and attend local dance classes and events if their interest had been sparked.
Project in action
The app was able to challenge the creativity of dancers, enable them to create new work quickly, see what their dance looked like and explore the relationship between their dance and location.
It proved popular with young people involved with dance in groups and at events, and established a ‘proof of concept’ for its social media potential.
In addition to the platform, which is freely available, the project has reported useful findings on cost, timescale, marketing challenges and the potential impact of social media and game apps on arts institutions.
Image credit: Kevin Clifford
Tips and tricks
Key takeaways include:
- Setting achievable goals – Being realistic about the market size and appetite for novel concepts and, in particular, flow-on impacts from initial engagement.
- Early user testing – Research with end users can help to test assumptions and guide key design decisions
- Prioritising development – Simplifying the process may allow for the best use of resources, such as concentrating on a single platform and operating system before moving to the next.
- Investing in marketing over the long term – Marketing apps and generating self-sustaining online audiences is extremely difficult and requires significant action research and community building
- Managing the community – Modelling and moderating content can help maintain quality
- Contingency planning – Ensuring budgets and timelines contain generous contingency for resolving unforeseen technical challenges
Image credit: Kevin Clifford
DanceTags were recorded and viewed in locations from Edinburgh to Truro, New York (USA) to Malmö (Sweden), but the app struggled to generate significant audience engagement beyond its testing phase.
Out of 394 new users, a total of 4,988 sessions have been registered since the start of the project, but there has been no evidence of subsequent impact on dance engagement in the South West.
Download the report to find out what the partners learned.
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