This month’s post comes from Sally Lewis, Freelance Curator & Dance & Heritage Collaborator (X: @sallye_l ), who reports back from APAC’s 2024 Study Day, ‘A Living Archive’: Practitioners and Partners’, held at Clod Ensemble, London.

It was a cold day for April 24th on the Greenwich peninsula, but the Association of Performing Arts Collections (APAC) event at Clod Ensemble was well attended both in person and online.

Back in 2017 I organised a dance and museum ‘Conversation’ event at the Museum of Bath at Work. We focused on working with young people, but when a video was shown of a Bath Spa student piece created for The Holburne Museum, an interesting discussion began around documenting performance. There will have been a lot of research and developments since this time (in particular, Documenting Performance | The Future of Documents Project. City, University of London 2016-2020 currently on hiatus) so it was good to re-visit this topic in the context of working artists, arts organisations and cultural institutions working with different partners.

A street light on a pole in front of a building

After a welcome from APAC and our hosts, Suzy Willson, one of the artistic directors from Clod Ensemble gave an overview of the company’s work and the ‘Choreozone’ project. Suzy described their way of working in the context of everything having movement, holding clusters of ideas in a temporary ‘holding zone’ where they can overlap and mix together. This was illustrated by a micro-exhibition in the meeting space showing tactile objects associated with the work of their ‘Red Ladies’ and a ‘mix and match’ of visual images used for broad inspiration. The creation process was further described using images from other projects such as ‘Anatomy’ which we were asked to react to personally.

Suman Bhuchar, Bhuchar Boulevard associate, talked to us about setting up the ‘Retracing Our Footsteps’ (such a descriptive phrase) initiative, and the work involved in collecting the 100 year history of Asian theatre. Suman showed us a range of visual images reflecting this history and how there is a need for a dedicated archive, not least because she is overwhelmed with boxes! The various productions have often been in response to distressingly violent events (like the ‘Inkalab 1919’) and continue to provide opportunities to discuss and deal with the emotions and issues these raise.

Veronica Castro, project curator from the V&A spoke about the work involved in their recent ‘Diva’ exhibition, in gathering resources from contemporary collections of different sizes. It was interesting to hear various artists’ approach to collecting, in particular how Bjork’s creative director seeks to document the creative process and draws on their archive to create new pieces of work. Priorities for the museum are knowledge sharing, providing access, networking and looking to the future to support this wider sector.

Attendees sitting at tables covered with red leaf-patterned tablecloths while watching a presentation titled

Adesola Akinleye then spoke remotely to tell us about ‘Archiving with Bare Feet’: Archiving the performance work ‘Truth & Transparency’. This was a short-life piece with only a few performances, so examining the creative process gave it more of an afterlife. Adesola described the complex non-linear process of examination from different directions and perspectives which were then brought together through research. There were interesting experiments with light and space. Dancers from the original piece in 2007, and current dancers gave their thoughts from their different viewpoints (one grateful to see the evidence of his performance as he no longer dances professionally), with Adesola reflecting on how the past, present and future can come together. Dance artist Kavina Pound was in the room and mentioned her own artist archive work which is also on the Siobhan Davies Studios website (link below).

Daniel Albon, Archivist at Rambert introduced us to the concept of a passive archive, where the usual controls are switched off and we rely on the integrity of the content itself. The Rambert Archive was the first dance archive to achieve Archives Accreditation from the National Archives in 2015, with its new bespoke store and office lending itself to this process. Daniel aims to record all perspectives of those involved in a performance, not just the choreographer, and gave the recent ‘Peaky Blinders’ piece as an example. He also mentioned the practice of recording an oral history from the depositor when they donate to the archive.

Jim Ranahan, archivist at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust was the final speaker for the day and spoke on their evolving work from a more traditional approach to working in partnership with artists on reinterpreting their collections in a more inclusive way, from cataloguing to engagement. To widen representation, this has included visual, ceramic and soundscape artists and recently partnering performance artist Tom Marshman to find new stories. I saw Tom perform at an event in Bristol Museum’s M Shed ‘Waving Goodbye to Victorian Dad’ (2016) organised by Ruth Hecht, and have since followed his unique and thought-provoking work. Working with these artists brings its own challenge to archiving because of the transient nature of performance, and problems of capturing all the things we sense when we experience it.

A man and woman presenting in a seminar room with a projector screen displaying artwork in the background.

I often find APAC discussions relevant to my own ACE-funded Developing Your Creative Practice project, where I am looking at case studies of dance and museum partnership work with collections, archives and heritage spaces, to establish a framework for my own evaluation. Collections and archives act as choreographic stimuli in a number of these; with the process involved and the final performance adding to the curator’s knowledge and skills, helping them make the archive/collection more inclusive, relevant and accessible. Bringing various strands together to challenge established assumptions and collaborating with different groups, as mentioned by many of the speakers, reflects my own and partners’ way of working. There will be presentations and discussion of case studies at dance and heritage network events this year for ‘The Imagination Museum’ beginning on 13th May 2024 in Ipswich.

I appreciated being able to attend this event in person. It’s been great that a number of events have continued to be online even after the lockdown experience, as it would not have been possible for me to go to many of these. But I feel it remains worthwhile to experience the energy and exchange of a group of people in a physical space, travel for a different perspective, and move to network.

Sally Lewis
Freelance Curator & Collaborator
April 2024

Relevant links, including those mentioned by the speakers

Suzy Willson:
Clod Ensemble – Award-Winning Interdisciplinary Performance
Choreozone: Celebrating the Clod Ensemble Archive – Clod Ensemble
Red Ladies – Clod Ensemble
The Anatomy Season – Clod Ensemble
Choreomania: Dance and disorder (
Jacques Lecoq – Wikipedia
Action, Gesture, Paint – Whitechapel Gallery

Suman Bhuchar:
Retracing Our Footsteps — Bhuchar Boulevard
Home – Tara Theatre
Inkalaab 1919 & The Little Clay Cart PRODUCTIONS IN THE 1980s – Welcome to JV Productions
Hanif Kureishi – Wikipedia
About Us – Stuart Hall Foundation

Veronica Castro:
DIVA – Exhibition at V&A South Kensington · V&A (
Josephine Baker, Le Château et jardins des Milandes
David Corio: music photos, landscapes, portraits
Debbie Reynolds Hollywood costume collection auction and regret over museum now end at death –

Adesola Akinleye:
Digital Archive: Archiving with Bare Feet – Siobhan Davies Studios
Invisible Man – Wikipedia
Kavina Pound’s Live Archive: Reflections by Lucy Bennett – Siobhan Davies Studios

Daniel Albon:

Peaky Blinders Archives – Rambert
Archive Service Accreditation – Archives sector (
The collections – Rambert

Jim Ranahan:
Mimbre, Fierce Sisters
The Women Who Made Shakespeare, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
ShakesQueer – LGBT+ History Month –
Proud Shakespeare’ and the LGBTQ+ Lived Experience, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Waving Goodbye to Victorian dad – YouTube (event from 2016)



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