Performing Gender: Dancing In Your Shoes is a three-year audience development project aimed at developing a bond between cultural professionals and their local communities in the field of dance and performing arts through a discussion on gender and LGBTQI+ identities.

The project explores Dance as a medium to deepen understanding of questions around gender and sexual identity, and the project partners have worked in collaboration with a range of communities often marginalised in contemporary culture: these include communities with experience of gender-based violence, sexual discrimination, racism, homophobia and transphobia, and the ageing body.

Livestream: Provocations on the Relationship between Personal Identities and Artistic Identity

Performing Gender: Provocations on the Relationship between Personal Identities and Artistic Identity’ was livestreamed from Brussels’ cultural venue LaVallée on Tuesday 14 November 2023 and presented three lecture provocations by artists exploring the intersection of dance practice, and questions of gender, sexuality and marginalised communities. The provocations were delivered in English with live captioning.

How do artists navigate the relationship between their personal identity (and identities) and their artistic practice? Is identity-based practice necessarily activist practice? How do artists choose to employ, subvert or reject the categories placed upon them by wider society – including by the cultural sector? These were just some of the questions explored by the British Council and the other partners in the European collaborative project Performing Gender: Dancing In Your Shoes.

You can watch the livestream on YouTube – see above.

Artists

Moderator: Sekai Makoni

Sekai is a cultural programmer, workshop facilitator, writer and artist. Her expertise spans the social sector, arts and academia. Her work explores Blackness, womanism, decoloniality and faith. Sekai runs active listening and radical dreaming workshops where she helps groups think about whose voices are centred, how groups can commit to listening to each other in different ways and alternative futures. She is passionate about holding space and facilitation is part of her artistic practice. Currently her focus is on community-centred research projects, healing modalities and supporting POC staff institutions claiming to decolonise through a facilitation model called action learning. She also has a radio show on Operator called Sekai Asks and a previous podcast called Between Ourselves – which centred the voices of Black women in Europe.

Speaker: Bakani Pick-Up

Bakani is a Zimbabwean-born Yorkshire-based Choreographer and Improvisation Practitioner. They have performed nationally and internationally works by Theo Clinkard, Anthea Hamilton and Fevered Sleep. With Practice as Research at the core of their work, they explore Decolonisation through Improvisation, Haptic Visuality and Choreographic Research in Composition.

Speaker: Marina Santo

Marina graduated in History with a specialism in Education in Arts, Culture and Citizenship and began training in classical ballet at an early age in Rio de Janeiro, moving to jazz, and as an adult into contemporary dance, dance theatre, movement research and the connection between somatic practices and dance. She has developed a lengthy career as a dancer and performer and worked for different companies.

With solid experience as a body/dance/movement educator, she has created her own educational projects since 2010, working as a teacher with various profiles of communities: women, youth, LGTBQI+, POC and diaspora, and teachers from public schools. In 2023, she was selected among 168 artists to develop her dance project through the programme Art for ChangeMás allá de la piel (Beyond the skin) is a dance piece resulting from a series of workshops offered by her to POC and diaspora community residents in Madrid.

Themes and Provocations

Commissioned by the British Council, the following films explore some of the key themes and artistic practices of the project, as well as ways that artists and arts organisations have collaborated with local cultural policymakers and communities to build projects with deep and lasting impact.

More information

Performing Gender has been a series of Creative Europe-supported collaborative projects using the Performing Arts and Dance in particular to deepen understanding of questions around gender and sexual identity. The results have included greater innovation from artists, strengthened communities and excellent dance works.

The 2020–23 edition, Dancing In Your Shoes, has explored how artistic processes can support community-building through genuine co-design between professional artists and target community members. The project has also shown that deep engagement with communities does not have to result in cultural works that are somehow ‘less valuable’ or ‘less professional’ than works authored by isolated choreographers. In fact, the project has shown that rigorous, innovative and excellent works can result from this deep collaborative practice.

In Dancing In Your Shoes, we have encouraged Dance as a cultural vehicle for encouraging and amplifying community voices. So many of the communities we have worked with carry their lived experience of marginalisation in their bodies – through gender-based violence, through sexual discrimination, through experiences of racism, homophobia or transphobia, through the aging body, or through disability. Dance, if explored with sensitivity and experience, has the power to transform individual experience and to build communities.

Partners

The partners of the current project are:

  • Gender Bender Festival (Bologna, Italy)
  • City of Women (Ljubljana, Slovenia)
  • SÍN Arts Centre (Budapest, Hungary)
  • Norrlandsoperan (Umeå, Sweden)
  • Dans Brabant (Tilburg, The Netherlands)
  • Theaterfestival Boulevard (’s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands)
  • KLAP Maison Pour La Danse (Marseille, France)
  • British Council (UK)
  • Yorkshire Dance (Leeds, UK)
  • Paso a 2 (Madrid, Spain)
  • DAMSLab (part of University of Bologna, Italy)

The Performing Gender consortium has been the very grateful recipient of three Creative Europe Cooperation Project Grants.