Editor's note: For the complete article on grassroots dance writing, visit here.
By Lisa Kraus
Want to jump-start dance writing opportunities in your city or region? Check out these 10 tips.
- Gather a group of people who know about writing and are eager to learn more about dance or know about dance and are eager to learn more about writing. Screen possible participants to select those who appeal to you for some combination of writing skills, specialized knowledge or special ways of seeing. You also want to sense that the candidate is truly excited about what you propose. Create agreements with the writers about the use and ownership of their writing, the expectations of commitment, etc. Keep in mind that these ideas are scalable. I suggest that three writers is a workable minimum number to get started.
- Create a website. Have a good way of including photos, and an easily readable and searchable format. Make space for reader comments, and time to moderate them, if necessary.
- Make the training of writers an enriching co-learning experience. Plan get-togethers that happen on a regular basis to do writing exercises, talk about relevant topics, and look at the writing of authors within the group and of authors you admire or who you feel fall short. Examine what works well and what doesn’t. Bring in teachers who can bring fresh perspectives and a variety of slants and experience.
- Establish guidelines — what is the editorial vision? What are the priorities in coverage: reviews, previews, interviews, essays? What is house publication style? What do you and don’t you want to include on the site? Put all informational documents relevant to the writers in shared docs.
- Create a system for assigning, editing and uploading pieces. TD uses two editors: the first works initially with the writer on a first draft, while the second catches anything that may have been missed and keeps an eye out for ethical issues or broader concerns.
- Get the word out about what you are doing. We use Mailchimp, Facebook and Twitter.
- Create ways for readers and audience members to engage with you live. Open the final hour of a workshop, set up a time to meet up with audience members after shows to talk.
- Develop partnerships within the dance community and beyond so that writers can get free tickets to performances and events in addition to ones they are writing about, for free space for your meetings and perhaps for donations of food and beverages for your gatherings
- Share the load. Invite all members of the group to use their skills through the areas of editorial (assigning, editing, setting policy and direction); communications (spreading the word in social media and otherwise); development (whatever you do that helps you sustain your operations financially); education (planning workshops and meetings for the group); and hospitality.
- Figure out the best ways to keep your project vital by determining terms of service and systems for rotating in new talent. Connect to others who are doing related projects. Wouldn’t a linked web of similar dance writing projects all across the country (and the world!) be great? Let’s do it.
Lisa Kraus’s career has included performing with Trisha Brown, choreographing and performing for her own company and as an independent, teaching at universities and arts centers, presenting the work of other artists as Coordinator of the Bryn Mawr College Performing Arts Series, and writing reviews, features and essays on dance for internet and print publication. Dancing with the Trisha Brown Dance Company from 1977-82, she continues to restage Brown’s work at venues including the Paris Opera Ballet and Venice Biennale. She was on the faculty of the European Dance Development Center in the Netherlands for a decade and has received numerous fellowships and presenting opportunities for her own choreography. Her writing has been published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dance Magazine, Dance Research Journal and Contact Quarterly among others. She was a 2010 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Dance Criticism and in 2011 co-founded thINKingDANCE, an online dance journal and dance writers’ training scheme based in Philadelphia.
Photo: Johanna Austin
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