Men & Girls Dance – a collaboration between male professional dancers and girls who dance for fun – was about far more than simply putting on a performance. MHM’s 360° approach to evaluation ensured Fevered Sleep understood exactly how they had achieved their vision.
An innovative, complex project
Fevered Sleep’s Men & Girls Dance brought together adult male professional dancers and girls who dance for fun to celebrate positive relationships between these adults and children. As well as an artistically successful outcome, Fevered Sleep wanted to confront questions raised by the subject matter and challenge perceptions of contemporary dance.
“Men & Girls Dance is brave and exquisitely beautiful.” – Lyn Gardner, Guardian
The complex project included a performance co-created with local girls in each location. Other key participatory elements were designed to encourage dialogue around the issues raised by this potentially controversial topic: The Talking Place (a space for conversations around the project and topic) and a themed newspaper with contributions from local residents.
A real desire to learn
Fevered Sleep recognised the need for real, insightful evaluation. They didn’t want to tick boxes, rather they wanted to learn from the experience so that, as well as understanding the full impacts of their work, future projects would benefit and their practices could improve.
MHM worked with Fevered Sleep to develop a framework and really challenged the dance company to reflect on the project’s purpose. Through workshops, we helped the team envision what success would look like and articulate the outcomes they hoped to see as part of a visual one-page strategy document. This strategy tree became the foundation of the year-long evaluation with qualitative and quantitative data collection designed to allow measurement of the project’s intended outcomes.
A 360° picture of the project’s impacts
MHM developed a simple suite of tools – vox pop scripts, short audience feedback surveys, participant diaries, etc – for Fevered Sleep to measure their progress against all objectives in a way that was easy-to-use, required realistic resource, and felt authentic to the project.
To understand the full impacts of the project it was important to capture feedback from multiple participant groups and partnerships. Where an outside perspective was required to ensure frank feedback, such as partner interviews or participant discussions, MHM undertook the fieldwork to gain robust, objective and accurate results.
Across this range of tools and mechanisms for feedback, we were able to see the full picture. Men & Girls Dance was about far more than simply putting on a performance and MHM’s 360°-approach meant we were able to illuminate for Fevered Sleep exactly how they had achieved their vision.
Celebrating the real value of the work
Men & Girls Dance was a triumph for Fevered Sleep. As a project of significant scale and scope it was a full team effort and a massive undertaking. Through partnership with MHM, the evaluation really evidenced and celebrated the outcomes of the project, linking them back to Fevered Sleep’s original vision for the project as well as identifying unexpected positive outcomes.
It generated insight into the less tangible results that are often missed through standard ‘evaluation’. The deep intellectual and emotional benefits felt by audiences were captured. The profound impact of the experience on the participants was explored and highlighted. And there was clear evidence that the project had successfully challenged perceptions both of contemporary dance and of the relationships between men and girls.
Fevered Sleep fostered collaborative partnerships with venues throughout the project, allowing for ongoing conversation and feedback. MHM’s fresh perspective brought another layer of insight, enabling us to identify learnings and make recommendations on managing complex projects, partnership working, handling sensitive topics and engaging diverse new audiences.
“MHM pushed us to think deeply about our key objectives for the project, applying a methodology that helped us interrogate what we wanted to achieve and then supported the gathering of meaningful evidence and learning during five different versions of the project. On such a complex project their support was invaluable and we continue to apply this holistic method to evaluation across our current programme.”