Susan Coffer joins Highlights as the Rural Touring Dance Initiative (RTDI) Coordinator

In January, Susan Coffer joined the Highlights team as the Rural Touring Dance Initiative (RTDI) Coordinator for the North and Scotland.

What is the Rural Touring Dance Initiative?

RTDI was launched in 2015 with the aim of bringing exciting and innovative dance theatre and dance performance to rural locations, and to support the established rural touring schemes and promoters to build audiences for dance in rural spaces.

The Partners

Highlights Rural Touring is one of five partners within the project, alongside leading dance institution The Place and the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF), the membership body for rural touring schemes in the UK. Other partners are Take Art, a rural touring scheme based in Somerset and Sonia Sabri Company; a Birmingham-based dance company presenting Kathak dance in a contemporary context. Please visit the National Rural Touring Forum’s website for full information about this project, along with archives, resources and full UK listings.

Building on the initiative’s success, in July 2022 RTDI was awarded funding of £400,000 from Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and £450,000 from Arts Council England. These two awards will ensure RTDI continues its important work over the next four years, building on its success by working with and supporting more rural touring schemes, venues and dance artists across England, Wales and Scotland.

As well as supporting 10 new associate venues to programme dance in rural areas and market towns, many of them in Priority Places and Levelling Up for Culture places, the funding will enable RTDI to support eight dance artists and companies per year to tour their work to rural areas, with over 200 performances and 90 workshops expected between autumn 2023 and summer 2026.

Highlights & RTDI

Highlights has been involved with RTDI since its origins in 2015, with an encouraging number of venues now enjoying exceptional dance performances including Orton, Amble, Felton, Frosterley, Shilbottle, Lazonby, Wetheral, Askham. Some like Allendale and Appleby are now confidently programming dance regularly and building up loyal audiences. Following a performance in Appleby the promoter was hugely enthusiastic about the whole experience:

The show was a great success… again more punters than seats but the atmosphere was great and comments on feedback forms very positive….”poignant, fascinating, energetic, beautiful, intimate, spellbinding, moving, inspiring.”…I could go on!

The Q and A session was a success… lots of questions and insightful answers. The dancers were really enjoying rural touring and commented on the more intimate nature of the process where they felt very welcomed into the community… they could engage with the audience which seemed to be something they appreciated.

All in all, a fantastic experience. Certainly involves a lot of work putting on dance shows but well worth the effort and having a great team here in Appleby makes it all the more enjoyable!

Susan CofferFind out more about RTDI

If you want to keep in touch with what’s going on in RTDI you can visit, where you will find a wealth of information about the project including latest news, company profiles, previous menus and programmes.

You can also contact Susan at: [email protected]

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