This month we hear from Chris Jones, the Rambert Archive’s project manager, who shares with us an overview of the dance company’s new online database recording 92 years of performance history.
While the web front-end was custom-built as a plugin for Rambert’s WordPress website, the cataloguing is done in five interlinked datasets in CALM. The three components of CALM’s performances module – work, performance, and role – are used, along with its standard name and place authority files.
A dedicated team of volunteers has catalogued the performance records, which list the dancers, conductor, and musicians performing a dance work on a particular night at a certain theatre. The ‘national’ volunteers worked at home around the UK inputting into Excel spreadsheets, which were then imported into CALM. The ‘local’ volunteers catalogued straight into CALM at the archive.
This was an enormous undertaking on their part because Rambert predominantly presents mixed bills (evening-length works are rare in the repertoire). Thus, rather than cataloguing a single evening in the theatre, the volunteers had to create three, four, even ten separate performance records, one for each item on the bill. Some fields are repeated across the records (date, venue, festival name); others are specific to the work being performed (dance title, cast).
While the goal of this ambitious project is to catalogue every performance since 1926, at its launch, the Rambert Performance Database contained the first night performances of all dance works and every single performance from 2015 to 2017. Over the summer, further years will be added so that the full extent of Rambert’s performances in the 21st century can be viewed.