Walker Recipe 4: Talk Dance Podcasts

Organization Name: The Walker Art Center

City: Minneapolis

Program Name: Talk Dance Podcasts

Time of Program: The program is offered at all times because it is available online.

Program Length: The Talk Dance podcasts are typically 45 minutes.

Program When Elaborate: Not offered directly at a performance but is a podcast that can be streamed online and downloadable to mobile devices.

Goal: This online program aims to provide contextual and behind-the-scenes information that allows dance audiences to hear directly from the choreographers about their work. This is part of Walker’s effort to connect all programs through common audience engagement threads, focusing on developing scalable, replicable models to engage audiences before, during, and after performances.

Time of Year Offered: Year-round throughout the run of the season

Program Description:

Talk Dance podcasts are audio interviews between a selected artist (or our curator) and the Talk Dance host, a local choreographer. A choreographer was hired to schedule, host, record, and edit a final digital version of an interview with every guest choreographer who presented work at the Walker during the EDA grant period, or the if the choreographer was not available for an interview, the Performing Arts Senior Curator was interviewed about that choreographer and the specific work to be presented. These podcasts were broken up by time cues into shorter, more digestible segments and indexed by topic. They were then archived and made viewable from the Walker Channel, social media such as YouTube, and iTunes U and can be accessed by the public and remote audiences in perpetuity.

Number of Participants: As of the time it had written its Recipe Book, the Walker had 10 Talk Dance editions so far that collectively had received more than 2,100 total page views to date. The individual podcasts had received, on average, 126 views each. Since it is online, anyone can access it, including audience members, students, presenters, etc.

Target Audience: Overall target audience is generally a younger (under 40) tech-savvy audience drawing from the local communities and Walker's other artistic disciplines.

Private/Public Public

Nature of Audience Engagement: Audience members download and view the podcasts.

Location: In any quiet, uninterrupted space for the interview and then the program is available online.

How Many Staff: 2 staff members are required: one freelance interviewer, who is typically a local artist, to do research, taping, and edits; and then a staff member to digitize sound and get everything ready for the online channel.

Program Cost: $325.00 to cover the costs of the interviewer and staff member.

Attendance To Date: As of the time it produced its Recipe Book, the Walker had 10 Talk Dance editions so far that collectively had received more than 2,100 total page views to date. The individual podcasts had received, on average, 126 views each

What works? Although Talk Dance podcasts are typically 45 minutes, the average viewer is able to choose an aspect of the choreographer's work without requiring any major time investment, since the discussion is broken up by time cues. Initially, shorter, themed clips were posted but the amount of content became unwieldy and a little messy. The Walker now has only the longer format interview posted, but it is accompanied by a key of time cues for when exactly people should click forward to hear a certain topic discussed. Like many of the Walker’s engagement strategies, Talk Dance allowed access for non-dance audiences as well as providing opportunities for experienced dance-goers to dig deeper. Talk Dance podcasts contributed to SpeakEasy discussions, with some participants referencing information from a Talk Dance podcast at a SpeakEasy (see the separate record in this database about the SpeakEasy).

What doesn't work? The podcasts were often recorded over the phone, and the technology to make those recordings sometimes failed (one recording was lost as a result). Sound quality was not always the greatest. Talk Dance is a newer program, so those polled have noted low awareness of this program. (Note that this was at the time it was launched in 2010, and response may have changed since then.) Overloaded staff and host schedules caused these podcasts to often be uploaded after the choreographer had presented their work at the Walker. The interviews were scheduled to occur two weeks ahead of time; in many cases, more time would have been helpful.

Performances Where Offered: Each program during the EDA grant period has a Talk Dance podcast because each guest choreographer that presented work at the Walker during the EDA grant period was interviewed (the Performing Arts Senior Curator was interviewed about the choreographer and work if the choreographer was not available for an interview).

Past Research on Program: Walker’s EDA-related research included distributing surveys to measure differences in audience’s engagement with the performance, comparing those who participated in Walker’s array of EDA-sponsored activities versus those who did not participate with positive results for those who did participate in the survey. This research was across various types of events, so is not specific to the Talk Dance Podcasts. Participation in engagement activities—particularly post-performance, or a combination of post-performance and online activity, resulted in significantly stronger reports of impact (captivation, feeling challenged, emotional and spiritual resonance, connecting with the dancers on stage, connecting with the audience, and the impression left by the performance) compared to those who did not participate in any engagement activities.

Continuing Program? Yes, but the podcasts are for select dance program rather than all dance events.

Additional Comments:

The interviewer prepared for each interview by watching a DVD of the upcoming show when available and doing research online. The value of this program is how it links our local dance scene with the broader world of national and international contemporary dance. It provides a different point of view from the institutional voice and helps orient the audience. Besides modest investment in the equipment necessary to provide high-quality materials, keep in mind that these podcasts also require extra staff time (or hired freelance time) for the final review and edit. Note: This entry was taken from the Walker's Recipe Book for Audience Engagement, a product that their staff created during Round One of EDA. The full recipe book is available on the Dance/USA website (see EDA Audience Engagement Resource Library).

Resources & Links:

Please see the information about the Walker Art Center and its recipe book on the Dance/USA website
Read a profile about the project, and access related products, including the Recipe Book: http://www2.danceusa.org/walkerartcenter
See a resource guide about the project, and view videos from Walker staff about it: http://www.danceusa.org/edalearningexchangescontent

Target Audiences College Students Young Adults, 25-35 Seniors General Audiences Families or kid-friendly

Online Engagement Online

Ideas for Working with Young Audiences Instruction

Social Bonding Aspects With artists - meeting a choreographer, dancers With dance experts - professors, critics, etc.