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Open seven days a week, 10.00-18.00. Entry to the Museum is free.

Unknown Empires

Saturday 15 February 2014, 14.30–15.15 and 16.30–17.15
Virgin Media Studio, Media Space

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Join us for a multimedia performance exploring hidden subcultures of dance among older people in London today, featuring moving image and live dance by amateur groups.

The performance is conceived as a visual poem celebrating the power, joy and playfulness of amateur dance, and is part of an ongoing research project by artist Daniel Baker. There will also be the opportunity to take part and learn some dance steps.

Across London hundreds of older people meet up regularly to dance together in pub function rooms, community centres, church halls and libraries. Often led by older people themselves, many of the dance groups are informal and self-directed: part of a creative subculture that is mostly invisible to wider society. From Scottish Circle, to Sequence and Line, from Disco and Ballroom to Balkan Folk, the dancing is varied and full of life. The music, customs and practices are unique and contemporary: creating new traditions instead of reliving scenes from the past. Staged alongside Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr, the performance is a contemporary reflection on Ray-Jones’s and Parr’s exploration of English custom and leisure in the 1960s and 70s. 

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Unknown Empires is a three-year research project by Daniel Baker, artist, amateur anthropologist and Education Director at Cubitt Gallery and Studios, London. In 2010 he established the annual Spring Ball at Islington Assembly Hall: a contemporary tea dance which brings together older people’s dance groups in a professional, celebratory and creative setting. This project builds on the success of the Spring Ball and maps, and articulates dance subcultures amongst older people across London through performance, visual art and public events. 

Unknown Empires is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, and with thanks to Siobhan Davies Dance.

Image credits: Tony Ray-Jones, Ballroom, Morecambe, 1968, National Media Museum Collection, Bradford

Image credits: Unknown Empires, Daniel Baker, 2014

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Unknown Empires

Performance, Saturday 15 February
Floor: 2
Price: Free