I have always been interested in the transformative power of art. How, through our experience of it, we can step into the world of others. When we connect through a shared empathy, we understand something outside our own lived experience. Dance provides the greatest possibility for these connections. We physically embody the art, sharing the temporal experience with each other. Dance’s power to unite and connect is well documented throughout history.
Art was created to facilitate understanding of the lived experience. Art was for the doing, the experiencing, the sharing. Helping us to empathise, unite and connect. However, a long history of modern western art has created a separation between the viewer and the viewed. By elevating the role of the professional artist, we have systematically diminished the role of the amateur practitioner.
So, with growing interest I have observed the democratisation of culture during the pandemic. Lockdown has opened the artworld to all. As long as we have access to the internet, we can experience workshops, viewings, lectures and happenings. Accessibility isn’t hindered by cost, location or expectation.
The pandemic turned the hierarchy of the art world on its head. The closure of venues meant professional performances and exhibition stopped. Suddenly, community practice became the central focus. The rush to engage and stay connected in lockdown has opened a window of possibility, realigning art with its original purpose; to connect through participation and sharing.
We are now at an interesting juncture: one foot in and one foot out of lockdown. What will be learnt from our experience and what will we take with us? The Young Vic announced this week, they will live-stream all future productions. Seeing access gained in lockdown as essential to their future development. I’m sure this is the first of many such moves to incorporate lockdown experiences into the norm of everyday lives.
The pendulum has swung towards a more open accessible art world. A world where community art isn’t just something tagged on to meet funding requirements but an essential part of how we experience culture. It is an exciting time to be a new community dance company. It is wonderful to experience the many opportunities available to us.
In short it is a good time to be us!
By Stella Eldon