Field Guide to Dance Review Writing, No. 1

Want to try your hand at writing a dance performance review? (Yes! Do it! And then submit it to NDR!) Here is a list of Twenty Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start to Write About a Performance, courtesy of the Dance Critics Association.

Compiled for the Dance Critics Association by Deborah Jowitt, Marcia Siegel and Elizabeth Zimmer

  1. How much space (how many words) will I have for this review?
  2. How much time do I have to write it?
  3. What formal demands are made by my publication that will affect the way I structure my lead?
  4. What credits to I have to work into the review? Is an “ID box” required? A title?
    who is the audience for this dance?
  5. Who will be reading this review?
  6. What facts (as opposed to opinions) about the performance are germane to my readership and to the historical record?
  7. What is the strongest impression I carry away for the dance event? How might I build the review around this impression?
  8. What idea can I express completely about this dance within the space and time available?
  9. What can I extract from my notes that is helpful?
  10. Have I read and interpreted the program notes with intelligence and skepticism?
    What were the performers actually doing? What kind of people do they appear to be, and what does their movement reveal about the organization of their society?
  11. Where is the choreographer coming from? What’s the cultural attitude or context or framework behind the choreography? In what movement idiom does it present its ideas?
  12. What information about the artist’s training and background is important for my readers to know?
  13. What was the visual environment (space, sets, costumes, lighting) and what was its effect on the work?
  14. How does the choreographer use the music or other sound accompaniment?
  15. What kind of atmosphere or environment does the music suggest?
  16. Does the work succeed? If so, how? If not, why not?
  17. How skillful are the dancers? What was the quality of their performance?
  18. What else do I think or feel about the work that hasn’t been touched on above?
  19. What extra-dance factors — the seat I was given, my frame of mind that day, the dinner I had (or didn’t have), friendships or enmities with anyone connected with the production — may be affecting my response to the concert? How can I avoid letting these factors distort my review?
  20. What are my difficulties in assembling this review? How can I address these so it is easier next time?
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