Move To Improve focuses on developing dance within our region, improving access to dance across South Somerset, supporting emerging artists, and diversifying the Octagon’s dance offer.
Our aim is for The Octagon to become a ‘Hub’ for dance; a place where professional dancers, companies, dance students, dance graduates, dance enthusiasts, community dance groups and more will come together with a shared passion for all things dance.
Through this project we hope to understand more about why people may or may not come to see dance shows and to share some exciting dance with you on our stage.
What is Contemporary Dance?
Katey Leader, Project Manager explains:
“Contemporary Dance means different things to different people and here is where things can get confusing. If we strip it right back to the beginning then Contemporary Dance was something new, innovative and different, that broke boundaries. It has since become a defined collection of ‘techniques’ which people learn and repeat much like learning pre-determined ballet sequences. The breadth of Contemporary Dance is vast, some companies are quite relatable to ballet; demonstrating the extremely impressive and visually pleasing steps to music like Richard Alston Dance Company. Some Contemporary Dance companies can be similar to physical theatre; using drama and physicality to express a mood, emotion, story or theme like Jasmin Vardimon Dance Company. Some use technology and film to add to the exciting nature and create a movie style performance like Motionhouse. The list is endless. So it is impossible to say you don’t like Contemporary Dance where the menu available is so vast, instead you just need to discover you taste and that’s what this project aims to do.”
Why is Dance an important part of the programme at The Octagon Theatre?
Adam Burgan, Theatre Manager: "
My first experience of live theatre was when I was a small boy and my parents took me to see ‘The Nutcracker’ performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome as a Christmas treat. I remember the tree growing, the snow and the mice! I was capitavated by the music and the dancers and it started my passion and love of theatre. The arts are a universal language and dance and music in particular need no words to convey emotions, ideas, tell stories and bring joy and entertainment. Arts and culture have a pivotal role in our health and wellbeing – they can provide escapism, inspire us, help us to learn things about each other and the world around us. Artists are storytellers at heart and our stage is their canvas – a blank space just waiting to be brought to life. The Octagon Theatre is so lucky to have a large stage and fantastic seating with excellent sight lines that wraps around the stage creating an intimate experience with the capacity to bring medium and large scale companies who are presenting incredibly exciting new work. The programme on stage inspires our participatory work offstage and we are very proud of our dance classes as a place where people can learn new skills, improve their fitness and mental health, make new friends and have fun. Somerset produces amazing talent and there are so many wonderful dancers from our area who have gone on to professional careers – for many their first experience of dance will have been in our theatre. We aim to provide a diverse and exciting programme that carefully balances arts and entertainment and where there is ‘something for everyone’ and our audiences are spoilt for choice and can discover something new. We want the Octagon to develop as a place where our guests can enjoy the very best performances and where inspiration, entertainment and joy can be found everyday."
Our Audience’s Voice
We are keen to listen to our audience and shape our dance programme around what our community would like to see. We want to challenge our audience’s taste for dance and encourage audience members to watch a company or style of dance they haven’t seen before.
Making Dance Accessible
This project aims to breakdown the physical and psychological barriers which may stop people from attending a dance show at the Octagon. This means ensuring the dance we offer is affordable, reaches our community outside of the traditional theatre setting and is representative of our community.
Through this project we hope to inspire local young people to seek and view a career in dance as a viable path. We will provide local dance students, graduates and emerging artists, mentoring support and career advice, signposting opportunities and areas for development within Somerset.
Dance in Somerset
To promote dance activities, performances and opportunities across Somerset we have partnered up with theatres and arts venues across the county to advertise all the dance opportunities in one place.
It is through this project, that we want to put Somerset on the map for dance.
This project is funded through Yarlington (Abri) Housing Association, South Somerset District Council and Arts Council England.