Danceletter 9

I haven’t been feeling too inspired on the newsletter front lately. But when I started this back in December, I vowed it would be low-maintenance. So, in that spirit, here’s just a story about something nice that happened recently:

A few months ago I received an email, through the contact form on my website, from a high-school senior in Bethlehem, PA. She explained that at her school, seniors have the opportunity to spend their last couple of weeks before graduation, in place of classes, shadowing someone in a field of their choice. Having learned about dance criticism in a summer program at Barnard (led by my former classmate Sydnie Mosley), she was writing to ask if she could shadow me.

Given the niche and impractical nature of what I do, I was touched by this request. I was also impressed that she (Liz is her name) took the initiative to contact me out of the blue. With a warning that my work is not always that interesting, and tends to be pretty solitary, I said yes.

I expected we’d get along, considering our shared interests in dance / writing about it, and we really did. This week and last we met for three shadowing sessions, which included trips to the library, to the ballet, to the New York Times building, and — so as not to give too glamorous an impression of freelance writing — to my apartment for an approximation of “working from home.” It was fun to exchange reactions to the shows we saw, hear about high-school life, and share the minutiae of my day-to-day tasks, which, I realized, I don’t share with many people.

I’m so glad I didn’t turn down the invitation for fear that my job wasn’t shadow-able, or that opening up my process would somehow disrupt my work. If anything, it made work both lighter and more purposeful for a few days.

Speaking of Work

Here’s what I’ve been up to writing-wise:

For Dance Magazine’s June issue, I wrote a cover profile of the divine Okwui Okpokwasili, who will be performing her solo Bronx Gothic at the Young Vic theater for a month, starting June 1. If you’re in London, don’t miss it.

Two Batsheva alumni, Shamel Pitts and Bobbi Jene Smith, happened to have shows around the same time. Their paths have been intersecting since their days as Juilliard students, so I wrote about them together.

It felt strangely appropriate to experience Gillian Walsh’s three-hour Fame Notions, which arises from questions of why dancers dance, on the same weekend as the 13th annual Dance Parade, whose roughly 10,000 participants could (I imagine) answer those questions in many different ways. I wrote about both (separately) in this review and this dispatch from the parade, illustrated by Nina Westervelt’s spectacular photos. (I also posted some parade videos here.)

From the Internet

I learned from this tweet that Ballet Review, one of the very few outlets for long-form dance writing, is planning to suspend publication. I second Marina’s call for institutional support (hello out there, readers with influence at universities and foundations!)

As some publications verge on folding, others try out new arts writing models. Indy Week in Durham, NC, recently launched “The Commons Crit,” a short-term experiment in pairing artists with critics, explained by editor Brian Howe in this introduction. While I have yet to read them all, I’ve eagerly bookmarked the pieces published so far.

At Open Space, dancer Dorothy Dubrule wrote this honest, engrossing, and sometimes disturbing first-person account of stripping for museum-goers in Tino Sehgal’s selling out. Jill Johnston once asked, “why is it that more dancers don’t practice the art of writing about their work?” Reading something like this makes me wish for more such writing.

Shows to See

A few in the very near future: Hadar Ahuvia’s The Dances Are for Us (through Saturday at Danspace), Phoebe Berglund’s Great Expectations at Lubov (Sunday evening), and Mariana Valencia’s Futurity at the Whitney Biennial (Sunday and also June 9 and 16).

On the horizon: The summer season at Mount Tremper Arts begins June 15, and it all looks so good I can’t decide when to go. The free River to River festival is also coming up, June 18-29, with works by NIC Kay, Sarah Michelson, Jennifer Monson, Pam Tanowitz, and more.

What You’re Watching

This one comes from LA-based director, choreographer, and performer Katherine Helen Fisher, submitted with the exclamation “This is it!!!!!” Send me your dance video obsessions at any time, by replying to this email or writing to