Talking Moves Series 5 Episode 1: Building Audiences

Talking Moves | 29 April 2022

In this episode, we talk to Deborah Light and Tom Hobden about building audiences for your work.

We make art for people – and if we have no audience, what is the reason for the work? How do we then bring audiences to the work? How do we introduce dance to people who haven’t had an opportunity to discover it? And what do we want of them other than to be spectators?

We begin by asking our guests more about their work and the work itself – Deborah making work in Wales with the company Light, Ladd and Emberton as well as being an independent maker and discussing the part installation, – part dance performance Seeds & Bones which incorporates both personal as well as audience stories.

We then move on to discussing the work of UNIT – where Tom Hobden is artistic director and how the pandemic shifted the very local audience to one that is online and from everywhere. We speak about how UNIT is making dance for the “everyday people” and what that means.

A big question that comes up is – what comes first? Do we make work with our audiences in mind, or do our audiences come to our work? We discuss the need to “make things”, regardless of the outcome and the audience participation, and how as makers we need to practice making things without the pressure of who will see it and who will like it.

We discuss how we invite and allow our audiences to participate in the work, and talk about a very special moment being one of a very few number of people experiencing a show.

Finally, we discuss whether everyone does want to dance or take part in dancing – is it for everyone? And who decides what dance is, and what dance isn’t?

Who's Who

Tom Hobden. A smiling man with spiked brown hair leans against a concrete wall. He wears a light blue open shirt with a white tshirt underneath

Tom Hobden

Tom Hobden has been a dancer, choreographer and all-round mover and shaker in the dance world for over 22 years. He started his dance training a bit too late and never did understand good toes or naughty ones. Some might say this could have been the swift end to his dance career, instead Tom turned what he ‘didn’t know’ about dance into his secret weapon. He became a leader in making people see the dancer in themselves, a champion of uncomplicating and democratising dance and nation’s cheerleader of dad dancing, twirling free spirits and all-round booty shakers. It is his energy, enthusiasm and passion to help others see that dance belongs to everyone that led him to create We Are UNIT.

Tom’s is the founder, face and force behind We Are UNIT and in the same way Jamie Oliver brought cooking to the everyday family and Joe Wicks told the world It’s easy and fun to exercise, Tom Hobden with his UNIT team will champion the vision to see ‘every body dancing everyday’

With UNIT and his parcelled freelance career Tom has built a reputation as an energised, smiley dance motivator who has worked with hundreds of leading dance organisations and artists in the UK, including Royal Opera House, Sadlers Wells, Royal Ballet School, New Adventures, Studio Wayne Macgregor, Ballet Boyz, Trinity Laban and Dance East amongst others. He is a choreographer, dancer, qualified educator, mentor and award-winning national leader in community dance practice. He holds a BA in performing arts, an MA in choreography, is a Clore graduate, Guildhall creative entrepreneur and most importantly an embarrassing dancing dad.
Deborah Light. A headshot of a woman with short grey hair

Deborah Light

Deborah is a mover, maker and mother based in Cardiff. She creates work as an independent dance artist and co-directs Light / Ladd / Emberton.

Light / Ladd / Emberton makes bilingual dance productions, which move people physically and emotionally, and are performed with and for audiences in castles, village halls, theatres, urban spaces, and on beaches, across Wales. Their work has features in British Council Edinburgh Showcase, Surf the Wave UK dance showcase, A Nation’s Theatre at Battersea Arts Centre, Wales in Kolkata, and BBC’s Dance Passion. Mae Light / Ladd / Emberton yn gwneud sioeau dawns dwyieithog sy’n cyffroi’r enaid ac yn ennyn i’r gynulleidfa i rodio gyda ni ledled Cymru, i gestyll, neuaddau pentref, theatrau, trefi a thraethau. Mae’r gwaith wedi ymddangos yn Showcase Caeredin Y Cyngor Prydeinig, Surf the Wave, A Nation’s Theatre yng Nghanolfan y Celfyddydau Battersea, Cymru yn Kolkata, a Dance Passion y BBC.

Light / Ladd / Emberton projects include: amser/time, a climate-focused short film for BBC Dance Passion; Danfona Ddawns/Deliver A Dance doorstep dances for Christmas 2020; Disgo Distaw Owain Glyndŵr Silent Disco and Disgo Zoom Disco tracking the rise and fall of the rebel Prince of Wales performed live and online; Croesi Traeth/Crossing A Beach on Harlech beach; and CAITLIN, an immersive performance for an audience of 20.

Deborah’s independent work, described as ‘bold, beautiful and intimate’, spans theatre/studio performance, installation, site based practice and still image and includes a series of works focused on female identity. Seeds and Bones is a research project that has been in gestation while Deborah has had 3 children and during lock down she researched a project together with her family called Who’s in Charge. Deborah also works as a movement director for theatre, lectures in movement for actors at RWCMD and continues to perform in other artists work.

Deborah offers strategic and individual support to freelance artists and the dance sector in Wales. She was part of UK/Wales freelance task force, is a Freelance Champion for Creative Industries Federation and Arts associate for Arts Council Wales.

More in the Talking Moves series

Talking Moves Bonus Episode: Arts Funding in Crisis

Talking Moves bonus episode: Arts Funding in Crisis with Nicholas Hytner and Tarek Iskander

Making Positive Change. Talking Moves title

Talking Moves Series 5 Episode 6: Making Positive Change

Parenting in the Arts. Talking Moves title

Talking Moves Series 5 Episode 5: Parenting in the Arts