Assignment 3—Dance Review
15% of your grade
Minimum length: 650 words/Maximum length 3 pages, typed, 1.25 margins, 12 point font
Proposal—March 14 (Tuesday)/March 22 (Wednesday) (What Concert do you plan to see? And Why?
Annotated Dance Review—March 21 (Tuesday)/March 29 (Wednesday: Find a review in a
newspaper or online format. Read the Review. On a Separate piece of paper or in the margins of the
review, make notes addressing the author’s approach to the review. What did they write about? How
did they divide their writing?What was important to them?(No credit for late annotated reviews)
Final Paper—April 4 (Tuesday)/April 19 (Wednesday)Hard-copy, turned-in, in class
(Adifferent dance concert is required for this assignment)
Assignment #3 asks you to work as a critic and write a “Dance Review.”All reviews contain multiple strands that are woven together leading to an informed commentary and opinion. A critic (you,)approach each concert with open eyes and an open mind. They do not go with preconceived ideas. Each person will find a different aspect of the dance that is interesting for their own personal reasons and interests.Be an active participant in viewing.
A critic must not only describe, but step back and evaluate what they have seen according to the standards of the field, and acknowledging their own opinions. To evaluate choreography the critic (you), mustuse their knowledge of dance history and current practice to evaluate what they see. Critics discusses the ideas suggested in the dance. Your description illustrates why you have that idea. Ideas can be concrete like a story, or abstract, say a structure with no emotional component.
A critic (you) is, of course, affected by their personal likes/dislikes, boredom or excitement. But they must keep in mind that personal feelings are only one tool for evaluating choreography and performance. Even if an artwork is not to the critic’s (your) taste, you must temper judgment with what was seen so every opinion can be supported by description of what the choreographer presented.
Criticism is different than dissecting a dance concert, though that is part of it. While you no longer will create bullet point lists, the skills of observation and description, the knowledge of the parts of choreography you developed working on Assignment #1 (“Concert Dissected”)will help you describe what you saw illustrating and defending your opinions and ideas. Unlike Assignment #1, you do not have to describe everything! Only what is important to your thinking. Ideas and description should work together.
You do not need to answer all the points below; some questions that are useful to consider in writing a review include:
About the choreography
- What did the dancers do (vocabulary/syntax/action)?
- How did they relate to each other (style/syntax/body/action/energy)?
- How did they fill the performance environment (mode/space)?
- What were the dynamics? Did the choreography flow? (style/energy)
- What were the motivations for the movements?
- Did the dancers work together well? Were they well rehearsed and/or well performed?
- What style of dance is it? Is the performance experimental or conventional?Is the choreography completely original—innovative, or does it fall within an artistic trend or tradition. If a performance is abstract understand it as best you can and try to express your opinion of it as clearly as possible in your
- How do elements of the performance, such as lighting, scenery, and costume, enhance the
- What type of accompaniment or music was danced to? Was it live or recorded, or some combination? How was the relationship of the dance to the music expressed? Is the music important or just background? Or non-existent? What difference did the type and production of music make?
- Did the form of the music influence the form of the dance or vice versa?
- Were the makeup, props (if used), and costumes appropriate?
About the makers and performers—And other parts of the performance
- Who is the choreographer(s)? Are they known for other works?
- Who is performing? Are they professionals or amateurs?
- Who is the composer(s), if any? Who is the costume or lighting designer? If these parts of the show were important in your opinion.
- What are the cultural implications of the performance?
- Is it a new work or classic choreography reset?
- What was your reaction to the concert as a whole?
- How did the sections of the piece or several pieces connect? If at all.
Then you must form an opinion about the performance. You defend your opinion with a combination of your description and other evidence answering the question:
- “What was the task the choreographer set for their self?”
- “How effectively, or not, are the ideas set out in their task expressed and performed?”
- “How well was it executed?”
- “How did the audience react?”
- “How well does the work fit into, or break out of, the style with which it is associated? Was it unusual? Does it work? Why or why not?”
It can be helpful to connecta performance you have already seen to illustrate things about the current one. You can also refer to video from class or other sources.Course readings also provide historic information or information about other choreographer’s ideas about dance-making. Use these as references to help make points in your review.
- Generally, reviews are written in the third person. Some people, however, like to write in the first person when it helps make their point.
- Pay attention to grammar, organization, and spelling. This is important! Go to the Writing Center if you need help.
- Consult program notes, if available for information and sometimes for choreographer explanations about the dance.
- If possible, attach the ticket stub, program or other form of verification.
Below the parts of a review are defined.Beneath that is a New York Timesdancereview. Every review should contain all these parts, though the balance of how much of each will be different in every review.I have identified these same parts in Claudia LoRocca’s article.
You do not need to include the part names in your review. Their identification in this rubric is to help you learn. The rubric at the bottom of these Instructions offers further guidelines.
THE PARTS OF THE REVIEW
- Introduction—In your first 1-2 paragraphs you usually write something jazzy to get the reader interested. This may be an idea you have about the concert, or a description of a particularly tantalizing moment. The idea is both to suggest something about the dance work and to provide a peek at what’s to come. The opening statement of your critique should draw the reader in. Be creative.
- Facts—Who is the choreographer or company?(Always identify them by name.) Where is the performance? When is it, etc? Any facts that are pertinent or important. This may come in the second paragraph, but sometimes comes later or is broken up throughout the review.
- Description—Of what you saw. All description should be connected to your critical view point and to your ideas about the performance. Description is limited. DO NOT describe everything you saw. Instead, include only things that are unique, or that the reader needs to imagine in order to understand the performance’s character and choreographic meaning. This may include aspects of set, music, lighting, costume, audience interaction, and also the actual movement and structure.Everything in Susan Foster’s categories or BASTE should be represented in your review in short form. When you discuss the choreography make general comments. But also include detailed descriptions that support your comments. Try to give at least one specific movement image, more if you are presenting several ideas. You can also describe the sound/music, lighting and costume if it is important to your description. Remember to identify all the artists involved in the creation of the performance.
Example: “In another vignette, a woman seated properly, perpendicularly, on a bench, begins to tilt at an angle. As her legs leave the floor and her torso leans to the side, both she and the bench seem to levitate a little above the floor.” (Vienna-Lusthaus (revisited); Reviewed by George Jackson: Dance Magazine, May 2003: 79).
Comment on the music.
- Summary—Generally a single paragraph, no more than 2 paragraphs, that summarize your feelings about the concert. The summary is not simply a good or bad statement. Thisending explains YOUR OPINION relating if/how the choreographer successfully achieved their intent.Evaluate what you think the choreographer’s intentions were—what they wanted to achieve—and if they successfully communicated their intentions—what the dance said. Were the themes of the individual piece clear? What was the dance about? Analyze the symbolism. What does it relate to?
Try to have a theme when writing your critique. Focus on 1 aspect of the performance and develop your analysis about it.
Finish by reachinga conclusion regarding the performance. Restate your general opinion about the success of the choreography and ideas involved. Refer to what you’ve already said summarizing your main points.Here is a good place to include any thoughts or feelings you had about the concert or piece. Or reflect on what about it made you have a certain reaction. (You’ve already provided the proof in the description.) Never betotally negative. Offer your thoughts in a constructive, thoughtful way.
October 14, 2012
Tension Is Uncorked Before a Parting
(Claudia LaRocco is a reviewer for the New York Times. I have annotated it. Look at how LoRocco weaves the parts of the review together.)
Introduction or “hook”—We audience members are always getting attached to companies and individual performers — it’s one of the deeply human pleasures (and pains: life spans in dance can be so brief) to be gotten from following a live art form.
But what about falling for a series? Thursday night in St. Mark’s Church, where Danspace Project presented the New York premiere of Trajal Harrell’s latest and final live iteration of a series he has been developing for about five years, I felt in a way as if I were at a farewell party. The emotion was both charged and bittersweet; I’ve grown attached.
Facts and Information—The work, “Judson Church Is Ringing in Harlem (Made-to-Measure)/Twenty Looks or Paris Is Burning at the Judson Church (M2M),” and the series are an examination of an imagined meeting, in 1963, of the Harlem voguing and Judson Dance Theater movements. The series will include one more work in the form of a publication, but this is, apparently, the final live piece of the puzzle. (Some enterprising institution should present all six performances en masse; New York loves its marathons.)
In “M2M” Mr. Harrell flips the original question, asking, “What would have happened if one of the early postmoderns from Judson Church had gone uptown to perform in the voguing ballroom scene in Harlem?” (In earlier shows the voguers have come downtown.) It isn’t a question to be taken literally but rather, as the program note explains, as an invitation for “a third possibility” to be created “here and now.”
Description—Still, it’s fun to indulge in a bit of literalist interpretation, as “M2M” gets off to its stripped-down and repetitive start. Dressed in filmy black, toga-like shifts designed by Complexgeometries, Mr. Harrell, Thibault Lac and Ondrej Vidlar occupy three seats in the church sanctuary. They sit upright at first, barely moving, repeating snippets of song lyrics — “Don’t stop the dancing” — and other phrases over a recorded soundscore like high priests (or priestesses) involved in a deadly serious ritual. There is something both severe and innocent about it all; you can almost imagine a trio of Judsonite performers as artsy wallflowers, holding the line for their avant-garde principles (“No” to spectacle and the star image and all that, as Yvonne Rainer’s manifesto called for) as ravishingly costumed voguers swirl around them.
Facts and Information—But, of course, the Judson folks liked to party, too. And one of Mr. Harrell’s propositions is that Judson and voguing shared many of the same values, as fellow politically minded experimentalists pushing identity and the performance of identity into new territory. And both groups delighted in the possibilities of movement — the many everyday, marvelous things that the body can do.
Description—One of these things is walking. Whether one struts down a catwalk in heels or jogs across a loft floor in sneakers, the basic mechanics are the same.
When these three men finally rise, to the dimming of lights, it is for a glorious and extended deployment of hip-angling, arched-feet fierceness.
Information—“Conceptual dance is over,” Mr. Harrell chants.
“Work,” the others echo.
Description—The voluptuous physicality offers a release of tension at once pedestrian and glamorous, and it is worth the long wait through what preceded it.
Summary—More than that — the waiting is essential. Much of the work’s power lies in all of the places it doesn’t go, and all of the space it gives its audience to ponder and question. Restraint and minimalism can be just as sexy and intriguing as vivacity and flair. Combined, they present a seduction impossible to resist.
Total word count: 584 (It’s harder to make things say a lot in a short space.)
|Choreographic Goal||The writer offers an interpretation of the choreographer’s intent or meaning and connects it to critical commentary.|
|The writer may offer an idea about the choreographer’s intent or meaning, but the idea may not beclearly explained and/or the connection to the writers critical viewpoint may not be clear.||Does not offer an idea about the choreographer’s intent or meaning.|
|The Choreography||Writerdescribesthe choreography in clear language and uses it to support critical viewpoints.||Writer’sdescription ofthe choreography is not specific and/or does not specifically support a critical viewpoint.||Writer’s description of the choreography is minimal or non-specific and/or does not support a critical viewpoint.|
|Elements of the performance|
|Writer includes specific description of structural and movement elements observed in performance in their description.||Writer’s reference to structural and movement elements observed in performance is minimal or unclear and non-specific.||Writer does not reference structural and movement elements observed in performance.|
|Introduction to the review||Writer’s introduction refers to some aspect of the performance in a way that makes the reader want to continue reading.||Writer’s introduction suggests why the reader should continue reading, but does so in ways that are not specific or is not interesting.||Writer fails to provide an introduction.|
|Facts and Information||Writer includes facts and information relating to the dance work—it’s meaning, its history—or the choreographer, in the review either from their own knowledge and research or from the program as part of the critical performance evaluation.||Writer includes some information about the dance work but it is not complete or is not tied to the critical performance evaluation.||Writer’s facts and information are limited or nonexistent, or not tied to the critical evaluation of the performance.|
|Summary||Writer includes aconclusion that is both personal and based on the evidence they have provided,||Writer may or may not include a clear summary.||Writer did not include asummary.|
|Personal Interpretation||Writer has developed a personal interpretationfor the choreographer’s choices. answers the question of the achievement of a goal.||Writer has developed a personal interpretationfor the choreographer’s choices; but is unable to connect it to specific aspects or goals of the choreography.||Writer’s personal interpretation is limited to a general statement or not present at all.|