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).

Technology Partner
Mobile Pie
Research Partner
University of the West of England
Dance Gaming Mobile & location User generated content
Grant Awarded
Download Project Report
The full project story from partners PDSW, Mobile Pie and the University of the West of England.
Adobe PDF(2 MB)

Research Report Insights

Project Name

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.

Project Story


Dancing with Technology: Mobile Pie’s Richard Wilson talks about DanceTag

Goli Mohammadi

When regional dance agency Pavilion Dance South West approached Richard Wilson with an idea for a new kind of dance app, he and his Bristol-based game studio Mobile Pie were…


General insights

Taking the app further based on feedback to date

The focus of our communications has changed over the last two or three months. The app doesn’t always run smoothly so it’s not been appropriate to raise its profile to…

General insights

The scope for communication within R&D

The role and nature of communication with, and generation of, an audience within an R&D project of this type has been a central concern. Communication for an R&D project needs…

General insights

The issues of game mechanics

We recently held a meeting to discuss the design of the game. Over the course of the meeting we looked at the reward system and the motivations for playing the…

Tools & methods

Basecamp’s value as a multi-partner project tool

We’re using Basecamp as our joint project management system. We needed to have an effective and accessible mode of communication and file sharing amongst the project team. Basecamp is the…

General insights

The impact of not being able to store video

We know we wanted to allow users to upload videos, but established that implementing our own video storage system is impractical. We are therefore left with the constraints that using…

Tools & methods

Participant observation as research method

We shall be using participant observation / ethnography / micro-ethology as part of the workplace design process. The researchers conduct deep description and micro-ethology in particular pays attention to the…

General insights

The challenge of recruiting outside of our expertise area

We advertised for two new posts related to our game project – PR Co-ordinator and Community Manager but we did not receive sufficient interest. This made us wonder why not…