REVIEWING FOR DANCE
I have always had a passion for dance and the arts, but I had always been on the performing side, it wasn’t until I was in my second year of University that I realised my love for writing. One of my modules was theatre criticism and it was here that I began to review and write about all aspects of performance, especially dance.
As a ‘theatre critic’, I often found the word ‘critic’ to be too harsh. I didn’t necessarily want to criticise a performance, I simply just wanted to share my experience, which can be difficult as one opinion doesn’t please all.
I soon learnt that when writing a review, it is all about balance. I realised that your opinion matters and holds a lot of value not only for yourself but also for the performers, directors, choreographers etc. I think it’s important to show respect to the performers and the creatives behind the show, even if you think the piece is bad, as they have put a huge amount of effort into rehearsing, choreographing and putting the piece together - yes, you must be honest, but I think it’s Important to remain respectful.
As a reviewer I think it’s also important to be level headed, you must remember just because you have an opinion on something it doesn’t necessarily mean yours Is the right one.
My process for reviewing...
While there is no set way to review a performance or no rules about how to write a review, I think it’s important to find what works best for you.
A lot of reviewers like to read about the show before they watch it for themselves. I like to go into a show with an open mind, that way I have no pre-conceived notions about the piece. I think it’s handy to take a small notebook and pen and scribble down anything that you see that stands out to you, although this isn’t always possible due to lack of light. In that case, I take ten minutes after the show to jot down my thoughts and always remember to pick up a program.
When it comes to writing the review, I like to get all my thoughts on paper first and then piece it together from there. It can be difficult knowing where to start, but I find once you start you can’t stop. Writers block is a thing, especially if the performance was out of this world and trying to put that into the right words can be extremely daunting, this never changes even if you’ve written 1000 reviews.
I find it’s easier if you pick four or five things that you want to write about instead of trying to write about the entire piece, that way you can hone in on your chosen points. I like to give the reader an insight into what the performance is about first and then move on to talk about the history of the company and any other factual information about the piece. I then move onto the choreography and any interesting sequences, solos, duets etc that stood out to me. I like to talk about the lighting, staging and music as it gives recognition to the designers.
The most difficult part of reviewing is sticking to the wordcount, whether that is over or under as sometimes I’m lost for words and other times I have far too much to say, but as you write more you start to refine your own process and you’ll see a huge improvement in your writing.
So, why review...
Lots of people ask me, why do you like to review, does it not take the fun out of going to see a performance? For me, reviewing never gets old – it actually makes me appreciate the art of dance a lot more. I love the fact that you can re-live the performance on paper and the fact that I have the power to bring a piece to life through words and share this experience with others.