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The Secret Dancer - Tate Kids




Tate Kids and Martin Percy


Innovative | Experimental


 Tate Kids commissioned Martin Percy to make an interactive film with the aim of fostering an interest in art and an active attitude to life in its users. The Secret Dancer uses cutting edge interactive techniques and beautifully shot video loops to tell a fairytale story set in Tate Modern and centered around Degas' famous sculpture, the Little Dancer. Users have to have to act quickly to solve puzzles and explore mysterious locations within Tate Modern in order to discover clues that unlock the secrets behind the statue. 

The hero of the Secret Dancer is CHLOE, a distracted and unhappy night guard at Tate Modern, who we see being told off by her boss, DAVE. She would rather be out dancing with her friends, but instead she has to work the night shift. Chloe gives in to Dave – but then things get worse when The Little Dancer magically comes to life and runs away - on Chloe's watch. You have to click quickly on the video to help Chloe chase the Dancer as she runs through Tate Modern and into the basement, leading Chloe down the rabbithole into an area of the gallery never seen by the public: the Oil Tanks, a part of Tate Modern which had hardly changed since it was still a power station. They are shown with over 150 interactively linked video loops. The Oil Tanks are now being redeveloped – this is by far the most vivid record of them as they once were.

You search the Oil Tanks to find nine Victorian fragments left for Chloe. Each fragment contains scraps of paper. Once you've found all the scraps, you play a jigsaw game to piece them together. Once assembled, they tell the story of Marie van Goethem, the girl who was the model for Degas' Little Dancer – before she vanished at the age of 17.

The scraps also lead Chloe to the Little Dancer's hiding place, where she does a beautiful dance for Chloe, with a life affirming message: if you're feeling trapped and unhappy, just break free. The dancer was played wonderfully by 11 year-old Charlotte Edmunds from The Royal Ballet School.

In classic fairy tale style, Chloe then finds herself back in Tate Modern, just as she was at the start of the story, being told off by her boss, Dave. But this time, Chloe blows the Little Dancer a kiss before running off happily to join her friends and – at long last – go dancing. 

Since it was launched, The Secret Dancer has had a wonderful reception. A competition connected to the film inspitred some wonderful kids animations, and it has appeared in many kids websites. One lovely essay about the film was written by a 10-year-old girl in Singapore. She writes:

"It’s your job to play The Secret Dancer game because it’s a great game and trust me, you’ll have fun clicking and exploring. Have you ever heard of a sculpture helping a person? I can almost hear you say no in your head. Amazingly, The Little Dancer helped Chloe understand that anyone can break free of their strings and live a great life."