Walker Recipe 9: Dance Blogs

Organization Name: The Walker Art Center

City: Minneapolis

Program Name: Dance Blogs

Time of Program: The blog is available at all times online.

Program Length: The program doesn’t have a time because it is available on the website at all times.

Program When Elaborate: The program is not offered directly at a performance but is available online on the Walker’s website before, during, and after performances

Goal: This online program aims to serve as an immediate communication platform tool between the show and the audience. 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:

The Walker's performing arts blog provides contextual and promotional information about Walker dance shows. The blog serves as an immediate communication platform tool to get the word out about behind the scenes aspects of the art or alerts for a call to action (The Walker’s shows often entail local participation). Each blog post ideally presents a thoughtful, sustained viewpoint on a dance show or artist whose work is connected to the Walker's past, present, or future presenting history, yet with content separate from the material covered by marketing efforts. Besides the more constant voice of the performing arts interns and staff, many guest bloggers contribute preview and review articles, or other additional dance-related news and topics. Our blog posts are about 400 words on average.

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 view and read the blogs, and post comments. Ideally, they may respond to each other's comments.

Location: The Walker dance blogs are accessed and viewed online.

How Many Staff: The dance blog takes one or two staff members to research, write, and respond to blogs and then additional volunteer bloggers to write posts and local artists to write reviews and post performance discussions.

Program Cost: The dance blogs do not cost anything and staff bloggers, volunteer bloggers, and local artist reviewers are all given comp tickets in exchange.

Attendance To Date: As of 2012, when the Walker's Recipe Book (see below) was produced, each blog was averaging around 200 individual views.

Past Iterations: At the time Walker produced its Recipe Book, which was during EDA Round One, 44 individual blog posts had been created on the Walker website specifically about dance.

What works? Blogs find the largest and most responsive readership when they include photos and videos. Hyperlinks help greatly. Linking the post to the related live events creates visibility for your programs. Make sure to have each blogger, guest, or staff complete an online profile/bio which helps put a face to a name. Casual blogs without institutional language showcase individuals with unique perspectives. Walker blogs are immediately linked to other social media as soon as they are posted. The blogs automatically appear on the Walker's Facebook page and Twitter account, which ensures visibility. Remember that blog posts may engender a conversation that will need continued attention and responses from staff. While posts may not remain open to comments forever, it is the responsibility of staff members to keep up with any continued activity on old posts.

What doesn't work? Blogs that are text-heavy or devoid of photos and videos lose readers' interest quickly. Not many blog readers add comments (at least for the Walker’s site), which can be discouraging, but if your topic has any controversy, your blog will be flooded with comments, both good and bad,which is exciting to see happen.

Performances Where Offered: We have blogs in place for most of our individual dance programs. Interns have taken this on as something they're interested in doing.

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 dance blogs. 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.

Additional Comments:

At several SpeakEasys (see a separate entry for SpeakEasys in the database), people brought up information from the Walker blogs as starting points for discussion. Blogs host debate and constructive dialogue about dance, the merits of a particular work, and art in general. The Walker’s most striking example of blog response is from two years ago: the blog for the annual Walker event Choreographers' Evening featured a thread with over 100 comments, with people heatedly discussing what is (and isn’t) dance. When creating your own blog, consider what your online readers might find most useful or interesting. What can you provide that other organizations cannot? With press coverage changing, blogs provide a vehicle for information both tangential and core to your programming. It can sometimes be your only “public” face in the community. Blogs are guideposts for your audience.

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

Event Formats Participatory Engagement Methods: involving the audience in activities such as dancing or choreographing

Online Engagement Online

Social Bonding Aspects With artists - meeting a choreographer, dancers With dance experts - professors, critics, etc. With peer audience members With other "guides" such as students, volunteers