What is Community Performance?

Dialogue defines Community Performance as socially-engaged methodologies and strategies that involve the Performing Arts in projects facilitated by, with and for community groups.

Our definition covers various Performing Art forms, including:

  • Circus
  • Clowning
  • Dance
  • Drama
  • Puppetry
  • Storytelling

Our definition includes work that is socially-engaged in many different, albeit interrelated, sectors, including: disability, education, health & wellbeing, human rights, international development, prisons & the criminal justice system, social change, social justice and young people.

Often, but not always, Community Performance work takes place outside of professional performance spaces. Some projects take place in schools or community centres, whilst others take place at festivals, in prisons, and sometimes even in forest clearings.

Dialogue recognises the value of Community Performance as it holds many versatile benefits for community participants, which include:

  • Communicating experiences
  • Developing creativity
  • Encouraging collaboration
  • Establishing creative literacy
  • Exploring personal voice
  • Fostering emotional safety
  • Improving physical and emotional well-being
  • Inspiring social change and civic engagement
  • Promoting tolerance
  • Supporting education and training
  • Underpinning human rights.

“community performance involves a set of attitudes or precepts more than anything else. The diverse practices […] share the belief that artistic practices can have an effect on the social world […] there is a commitment to dialogue, interaction, and a fundamental belief that the audience – the community – has something to offer”
-Petra Kuppers and Gwen Robertson [Page 2 of Kuppers, P. and Robertson, G. (2007) ‘General Introduction’ in Kuppers, P. and Robertson, G. (eds.) The Community Performance Reader, Abingdon, Oxon and New York: Routledge]

Community Performance is “an activist form of dramaturgy which aims to influence and alter the actual world, not just reflect it. It provides an avenue to individual empowerment and community development as it moves the audience into a new role: an artist, a maker of culture who can create a community”
-Susan Chandler Haedicke [Page 132 of Haedicke, S. C. (1998) ‘Dramaturgy in Community-Based Theatre’, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, vol. 13, 1: 125-132] 

“Given the field’s capacity to respond to various arenas of human endeavour it is not surprising that every practitioner I have talked with considers community-based performance not a career but a way of life”
-Jan Cohen Cruz [Page 6 of Cohen-Cruz, J. (2005) Local Acts: Community-Based Performance in the United States, New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press.]