Moving Museums: Incorporating Contemporary Dance in New Zealand Museums
Dance has been used historically in museums in both exhibitions and public programmes. These events provide opportunities for museums to collaborate with performing arts institutions. Incorporating contemporary dance in New Zealand museums poses a number of challenges for both the dance company and for the museum; however it can provide a unique and rewarding visitor experience. There has been little research into the use of contemporary dance in the museum environment, or the practicalities of holding such events. The impact of dance performances on the museum visitor has also been neglected. This case study of a contemporary dance company performing in a New Zealand museum investigates the relationship between the two organisations and the impact the performance had on the visitor. Ten interviews were conducted with museum staff, dance company staff and one audience member. This case study provides insight into the relationship between the two institutions as well as the visitor experience. It was found that significant practical and financial barriers could potentially prevent both the dance company and the museum from holding dance events. Key areas of concern in organising this event were safety, communication and measuring the success of the event. A strong relationship between the institutions and open channels of communication between the staff involved allowed for practical solutions to these issues. The connection between the dance work and the museum exhibition space was questioned by visitors, who did not overtly see a link between the two despite the artistic intentions of the dance company. Nonetheless meaning was taken from the piece in less direct ways. Firstly, visitors generated meaning from the social aspects of their visit. Secondly, they found meaning in the physical environment of the museum.