Back in October, not long after I moved to the City, I met Mike Hyde who talked me though the work DanceXchange have been doing for the past 20 years. Amongst the things we discussed was WestMidlandsDance.com – a resource that would be delivered by DanceXchange to continue the great work funded by the Cultural Olympiad last summer.
When I spoke to Mike the website was very much at the early stages as they planned how to deliver content that suited the needs of the region. Based on the West Midlands Dance blog that had been run by Chris Unitt (who passed the CiB reigns on to ourselves) and Ian Ravenscroft since 2008, the theory behind the project was to create a central hub for all dance in the West Midlands to be promoted in.
The site launched last month and quite frankly I have been taken aback by the functionality available as well as its generally beauty. It is much more than I expected.
The design suits an events listing website wonderfully, almost like a well thought out what’s on section in a theatre magazine. It’s also responsive, meaning you still get a great experience no matter what device you are on (I was on my phone when I first looked at the site). The homepage displays an array of links to navigate through the site, colour coded to their relevance in a grid system. Magenta for ‘What’s On’, purple for jobs, opportunities and resources and different shades of blue for news, images and video content.
The What’s On page takes a similar shape with the grid structure, making it easy to navigate and find exactly what you’re looking for as well as having the helpful ability to filter results by date of performance and proximity to your location.
The ease of use continues through to the other sections of the site, which I am sure you can discover for yourselves. What is really interesting to me is how the user can contribute to the site’s eco-system.
WestMidlandsDance.com gives you the ability to create one of two profiles. The first – a standard profile enabling you to comment on the existing content, post updates, images and videos to your profile, giving yourself a social platform within the community.
The second is a professional profile. Whilst still a free service, the professional profile gives dance organisations and professionals the ability to be listed in the Directory. This really is a great resource, because it allows the community to thrive off one another. If you’re putting on a production and need someone to perform a specific role on stage or off you can use the Directory to find that person.
The Directory also has a use for people not specifically involved in dance. For example, you may be a photographer or a fashion designer who isn’t particularly interested in dance, but you do have a service that can be beneficial to a dance company and they can find you in the Directory on the website. The same can be said for designers like myself, architects, illustrators etc. If you’re a freelancer listing yourself on WestMidlandsDance.com could be extremely beneficial for both yourself and for the dance production who is looking for someone with your talents, but before had not known where to begin looking.
Over time, the Resources section of the website will be populated with examples of productions that have taken place over the past few years, describing the work done to complete the project and (using the Directory) inform the reader of the individuals and companies involved. The page displays a list of these profiles enabling an easy link to anyone that the reader feels could help them with a future project.
As well as Directory listing, the professional profile also allows an organisation to post opportunities and events to the site, allowing them to create a significant web presence despite their current size or reach. Great for independents who aren’t quite sure the best route for promotion, or even larger companies who want another medium for listing their next production or job vacancy.
When I first spoke to Mike about West Midlands Dance, I imagined a blog similar to Created in Birmingham that simply listed upcoming dance productions chronologically. In reality, it’s much much more.
WestMidlandsDance.com offers a great platform for performers, organisers and viewers of dance to go out and find new opportunities and plan the best way develop their future productions. It also offers ‘the rest of us’ an opportunity to help in any way we can and ensure the community builds and grows, developing lasting relationships with anyone who has something to offer.
It seems a massive project and has been brilliantly delivered, a big well done to everyone involved and I’m sure it will continue to improve even further.
All that’s left is to see how you can get involved. Visit the site, attend a performance, get a profile, write a blog post. Why not start a production company? Get inspiration, create an event, find the people who can help make the event a reality, recruit some performers, list the event on the site, start the process again. All can be done on WestMidlandsDance.com