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Performing Gender returns to Bologna: looking after communities through artistic practices

By 30 November 2022No Comments

An account of a weekend of dance and gender issues, but also of listening and sharing with the project’s European partners


The 20th anniversary of Gender Bender International Festival saw a Bolognese gathering of the partners and dancemakers of Performing Gender – Dancing In Your Shoes, which has had BAM! in charge of its communications since its first edition (2013–2015).

For the occasion, here at BAM! we followed the work sessions organised by the lead partner Cassero LGBTI+ Center to immerse ourselves in the project themes: three opportunities for meeting and sharing experiences in eight different European countries to date.

Let’s start from the beginning. What is Performing Gender – Dancing In Your Shoes?

A three-year European audience development project that aims to develop new artistic practices in the field of dance and performing arts by involving the cultural and local communities in the various European partner countries, bringing about a discussion on gender and LGBTQIA+ identities.

BAM! has taken care of Performing Gender’s online communication since its first edition, and is responsible for the digital strategy of the ongoing third edition. We also look after the content for this website.

What point is the project at?

The first phase, centred around community dance practices, concluded in August 2022. The cultural organisations in the Performing Gender partnership were called upon to engage local communities through workshop cycles that took the form of artistic co-design and co-creation processes. In community-building practices, a key role is played by the artist and the audience developer, whose task is to cultivate and deepen the relationship with community members..

Summer camp in Bologna

On the Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, thirteen European dancemakers shared their experiences with the partners and the Bologna community.

The first session opened with dance practices in which each dancemaker led one or more exercises, previously proposed in their own country with local communities, during a fifteen-minute session. Through movement, those present listened to their bodies, invented stories, reflected on the shapes and memories that a body can hold, exercised trust and brought their personal stories and identities into play.

After this, during a session for giving feedback on the practices carried out and comparing experiences with the communities in each country, partners, dancemakers and audience developers spoke about the challenges posed by the project and how the theme of gender was brought into the dance community practices. The most important points that emerged during the conversation were problems defining “community” and the elements that should not be missing from the community-building process. Another important aspect that emerged is that the relationship with members of a community requires active listening, time and truly caring for each other by building safe spaces in which people can express themselves and share.

Saturday ended at DAS – Device for Experimental Arts with “Wannaplay”, with dance and electronic music improvisation (curated by Francesco Giorni) open to the public. And so the Performing Gender dancemakers, together with the Bologna community, presented themselves to the Bologna audience and Gender Bender Festival through a performance consisting of free and spontaneous gestures.

The Summer Camp concluded on Sunday 18 September with a day dedicated to sharing the dancemakers’ experiences, along with future awareness-raising activities targeted at policy makers and curated by the British Council. Indeed, one of the final stages of Performing Gender involves networking and PR action with policy makers to make the most of the results of the research being carried out by DAMSLab (Università di Bologna).

What’s next

A new phase has begun during the last few months of 2022. It involves artistic residencies, which will enable dancemakers to travel to different European countries to get to know and local communities and inspire them through their practices.

If you want to find out more about the next steps being taken by Performing Gender- Dancing in Your Shoes, we recommend exploring the website and keeping up-to-date on the Facebook page. Ah! And how could we forget it! There’s also a Vimeo channel.

[Photo by Anna Kushnirenko]