Arts and cultural activities, Migration

Dancing With Strangers


Who is behind this?

Rita Marcalo

United Kingdom

Who is joining forces?

University of Leicester

United Kingdom

Idea Sketch | Proposal


Idea pitch

Dancing With Strangers is a choreographic act of border transgression where people currently in refugee camps in Europe offer people in the countries where they would like to cross into an embodied experience of their personal story of migration. This act of border transgression is achieved by EU audiences being invited to perform a dance duet with one particular person currently in the camp, and it is made possible by me (my body) acting as a channel for that person’s original choreography.

Where will your idea take place?

Refugee camps and cities in 4 countries|: France, Turkey, Greece and Italy.

Why does Europe need your idea?

The lack of opportunity for people currently in refugee camps to have their voices heard. The lack of empathy with refugees in mainstream news, and the way in which mainstream opinion sees refugees as ‘others’ rather than as people just like we are. Research into the neurobiology of empathy suggests that to physically embody another person can lead to the development of empathy towards them. I believe that, as a piece of participatory performance, Dancing With Strangers could do this.

What is your impact?

I am imagining that (a year from now) a more empathetic/compassionate public opinion would have emerged. I am also imagining that this will lead to the softening of self-other borders on a personal level, not only between non-refugees and refugees, but also between people from different EU countries.

How do you get there?

1 – Partner with humanitarian organisations in 4 refugee camps (France, Greece, Turkey and Italy) to undertake the work. 2 – Arrive in each camp, set up the 'dance tent', and begin by offering a series of open movement workshops to anyone interested. 3 – Explain the Dancing With Strangers project, and get refugee participants to self-select to be involved. 4 – One-on-one sessions with the refugees begin, where we create physical duets (to be performed by them and a person living across that border that they would like to cross into). 5 – I embody their role in the duet, cross the border into the country that they would like to cross, and stage a series of street performances in that country where I invite people to dance with me as I ‘stand in for’ the refugee. 6 - Documentation.

What is your story?


Who are you doing it for?

People separated by borders. On the one hand I am doing it to offer a voice to refugees currently in camps. On the other hand I am doing it for the people inside the borders that refugees would like to cross into, to raise their level of empathy, compassion, and understanding of the reasons behind migration.

What makes your idea stand apart?

Dancing With Strangers is a choreographic act of border transgression where (through my embodiment of the choreographies of refugees and the audio-recording of their stories) people in camps virtually 'cross borders’ into various countries, and get their stories heard and their bodies felt. As an act of border-transgression the work takes place between the cracks of the law: it is true that some bodies can not cross certain borders, but if embodied by a ‘permitted’ body (mine). they will!

€ 35000,-

Funding requested from Advocate Europe

€ 40000,-

Total budget

Major expenses

All costs based on travelling to 4 refugee camps, and performing in 4 EU countries 2000 - design and construction of the 'dance tent' 8000 – lead artist fees 4000 – film-maker fees 9000 – refugee participant fees 2000 – project management 12000 – travel, accommodation, per diems and transportation of artists and the dance tent to 4 different EU countries 1000 – materials 1000 – marketing activity and evaluation 1000 – insurance and unexpected costs

What do you need from the Advocate Europe community?

I would love to receive suggestions from humanitarian organisations working in refugee camps in France, Greece, Turkey or Italy who might be able to support the project in those camps. I would also love to hear from arts organisations in Europe interested in producing a day of performances (of the work created by the refugees) in their city. Very welcome to hear from academics interested in developing research alongside the project. Also happy to consider thoughts on the ethics of the project.



Idea created on March 8, 2016
Last edit on Oct. 30, 2017

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