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Nothing for us without us. What does it mean "working with communities"?

Pep talks in the first International Meeting Lab!

From 22th to 25th of April 2021 all partners came together in the International Meeting Lab, a online working session dedicated to the issue of working with communities part of the “Exploration” phase of research.

Discussion was triggered by addressing themes that emerged from previous meetings and interviews. Participants were divided into groups, each of which had a question to address:

  1. How to build a meaningful co-design and co-production process with communities and artist? - Artistic directors
  2. Which are the gender issues we would like to work on with communities and which challenges we should consider in the practice? - Project managers
  3. Which kind of communities we would like to build through this project?  - Audience developers


Challenges and perspectives

In the final plenary session the participants have explored and shared lot of related issues. The focus was on aspects and principles that should underpin the process of engagement and the relationship between artists, organization and the community. 

To begin, "Nothing for us without us" - summarizes how the relationship between the organization and the communities should be. A relationship based on horizontality and active listening in order to equally share the responsibilities and power (decision).  These key principles also feed into the creative process involving artists and the community to create a safe space for exploration and welcoming the differences.  

It follows that the audience developer is the "mediator". In other terms his role is significant to take care about the whole process of engagement: starting from the “invitation” to participate; to the creation of local networks of alliances to support the process. Moreover, another important aspect to be careful is the creation of conditions for a long-term commitment of the groups involved in the dance practice.

In addition, some challenges has emerged. Especially in relation to leaving the process really open and to the difference between giving the possibility to evaluate the structure and influencing the process.  

A shot from the past edition: Performing Gender - Dance Makes Differences

Finally, it has been in depth discussed the meaning itself of “community” and how it can be translated in practices. A common view among participants was that the community work and the artistic work as well as the gender issues could be artistically explored from an intersectional perspective

All these issues are fundamental to give birth to an “artistically-led” process of working with the communities, based on a collaborative process between cultural organizations, artists and communities. 

Challenge ideas, negotiate meanings and create new transformative representations, are at the core of Research of Performing Gender, conducted by DAMSLab - University of Bologna. 



Giulia Allegrini