I am a writer: writing about writing

20 Oct

I would like to dedicate today’s entry to Kristen Legg, who gave me the chance to write a review for SeattleDances, of the second week of Men in Dance.  I’m so grateful that she sees something worthwhile in my writing and want to thank her for the opportunity to write for a broader audience.  If you haven’t read the review, here be a link for your perusal: Men in Dance, Week 2

In case you haven’t noticed, I put on my best for this one and upped the professional one of the piece.  I won’t rewrite the review with my perspective here because I think the review speaks for itself and I don’t want to damage its integrity—it’s entirely legitimate and something I’m very proud of.  I do enjoy “funny me” very much and would of course love to be that way all the time…but life isn’t about me, and that review was most certainly not.  What I realized is that a review must be about the performers so I set out to describe what I saw, insert a few neutral ideas and paint an image of the works with the assumption that each piece would appeal to somebody out there.  This task was about truly writing about dance…not indulging my funny bone.  THAT, friends, is what this blog is for!  And like proper addicts, you all just keep coming back…

So I would like to write about my first experience as a true dance writer (and not some nuttercracker with a WordPress account).  My first order of business was to follow the criteria given to me by my editor (note: I like saying “my editor” because it makes me sound more writer-ish).  She asked me to write a review—not a critique, and this was something I decided to differentiate for myself.  To some, they may be one and the same but I made a distinction because I feel that a good review tells it like it is and a critique is where one can get cranky (or positive, but generally cranky).  I still love reading critiques because constructive criticism is healthy and is useful feedback in future performances, but I wanted to look at these dances as finished products.   It’s like buying something and finding an inherent fault with it…registering a complaint isn’t going to change what it is at that moment so focusing on the present was more sensible to me.  Of course I did have my share of criticisms!  One piece (I’m not going to say which one) had a really…well, awful, schmaltzy score that I was not a fan of.  At least it had some amazing choreography but then out of nowhere came a series of Italian fouettes (if you don’t know what they look like, fret not, here’s a link), which made absolutely no sense to me.  One of my pet peeves is when a bravura step sticks out like a sore thumb and breaks the spell of a dance…they have to be used in contemporary choreography very carefully.  One fouette and I won’t notice but eight in a row? Overkill.  However, this is strictly my opinion and there must have been others and obviously the choreographer who felt that it was entirely appropriate and are the most important; my opinion as an audience member (or even a reviewer) still matters, but in a different way.

After figuring out my approach, the next step was to actually get to the show and I have to admit that getting a complementary ticket was pretty cool.  Nothing inflates the ego like going up to a box office and telling the people there that you represent something and a ticket should be there for you.  That, and having press photos e-mailed to me to post in the review was awesome too.  I had access to things most people didn’t (only one photo made it into the entry, but I got to see the rest!) and as mundane as such a thing may sound to some, I was kind of on a high.  I had a general feeling of excitement throughout the whole process and you know you’ve found something you’re meant to do when you look forward to what should be deemed “work.”

There was a certain allure too, in slipping in casually and knowing that I would write something that could reach and inform people.  The only feature that set me apart from other audience members was the fact that I pulled out a legal pad to write on, something I hadn’t done since my days at Ohio State.  I have an excellent visual memory (though it’s not something I can control) and can come up with some good descriptions as I watch a piece, but as fast as my brain works it can just as quickly forget.  My teachers at Ohio State always encouraged us to write without looking at the paper so we didn’t miss anything but writing quick notes to myself in between each piece was working well for me.  Well enough, such that writing the review was a breeze afterwards because I had all of my key phrases set to go.  The only omission was a review on one of the new pieces that evening, which I feel bad about…you see, Men in Dance had two different sets of dances the first and second week.  A review had already been written of the first week so I went with highlights of the second, including only the new works that were performed.  I ended up highlighting all but one “ugly duckling,” and there was nothing wrong with the piece, but I just couldn’t come up with anything…right.  Wouldn’t be the first time I ran headfirst into a writer’s block.

For so long, even though I’ve been writing this blog I always hesitated to call myself a writer.  I always added those adjectives describing a potential like “aspiring,” “hopeful” or “in progress,” but now that I’ve done this I think I can bring myself to say it (a la Yoda): a writer I am.  An editor I have, and in the door my foot I’ve got.  So many thanks again to Kristen…there is no greater gift than to help someone understand on a deeper level who they are.

 

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