November 15, 2005
More on the dance blogosphere
There’s lots of good stuff there, but I’m going to rely on my own experience as a professional writer, Artistic Director and all-around crank to pick at a few things.
A blog may be inexpensive but it is labor-intensive. The things Doug mentions - cultivation of a voice and consistency especially – are not to be taken lightly. Writing is a skill. It takes me a good hour to do a decent blog entry. Good blogging isn’t just a diary or an advertisement. It’s the careful cultivation of a public persona. Expect it to take time and don't necessarily expect to be good at it.
The internet is a phenomenal tool for increasing visibility and profile. I have used it for both. But as much as writing is an art, so is self-promotion. We had an unwritten rule at Ballet Talk that a member was allowed to promote their own work in proportion to the amount he or she contributed to the whole. If someone only showed up when they were announcing their own performance, we suggested they might wish to post elsewhere. My suggestion would be that if you enter into the blogosphere because you want to contribute to the discussion, you will do something of value. If you enter it to promote your dance concert people will, and should, smell it a mile off.
Amateur voices in the blogosphere are essential. The blogosphere thrives on having a large number of voices. I’d also like to self-interestedly say something for recognizing the value of the pros. I’ve been on both sides of this issue – at the mercy of reviewers and one myself. Pros contribute several things to the conversation that others don’t – the greatest is a depth of viewing. I’ve got a bit more than two decades of dance viewing under my belt (I deliberately did not begin writing on dance until I had been watching for more than a decade). John Percival can tell you what Scènes de Ballet looked like in 1948. It’s more than “I was there”. Dance writers place dances in context, tell you what to look for, and what’s changed.
It isn't as if the Internet precludes quality writing. One reason I love writing for Danceview Times is that it adds the value of new media (immediacy, access and SPACE!) while preserving a level of quality associated with print. But there's plenty of dross on the Internet because of the low barrier to startup. I started writing because I thought too many people were looking at the dancers and too few at the dance. I find it disheartening when I see "You too can be a critic" articles. Writing on dance isn’t about voicing your opinions – I mean, who really cares what I think of Christopher Wheeldon or Ashley Bouder? I love her and you loathe her and that’s that. Why do I love her and what can I show you about her? Can I show you a different way of looking at a blackbird? The dance writers I admire are champions of an aesthetic. I skip the ones who write a self-centered and self-aggrandizing litany of opinions.
Getting paid to review doesn’t magically make one a good reviewer. You can train your eye, but some people are blessed with that via instinct (Estelle and Michael at Ballet Talk come to mind quickly). Tom Phillips was a pro writer before he took to dance writing, he’s one of the best I’ve seen enter the field recently – the other being the only writer I can think of who is more of a walking conflict of interest than me, Lisa Rinehart. Rinehart is also one of the best new dancer-reviewers. Being a dancer also doesn’t necessarily make one a good reviewer; dancers tend to think of dance from that unique point of view – and any dancer can name you any number of lousy dances that are still delightful to dance.
I hope that Rachel, Doug and I aren't setting up an echo chamber of links and trackbacks. Rachel Howard wrote hopefully yesterday about the blossoming of the dance blogosphere. I think we need a few more people to join in before we can savor the bloom on the rose - so make a comment or post your own entry!
Posted by Leigh Witchel at November 15, 2005 5:44 PM
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Leigh Witchel offers his thoughts about my white paper, "Embracing Blogs: A New Blueprint for Promoting Dance on the Internet." A blog may be inexpensive but it is labor-intensive. The things Doug mentions - cultivation of a voice and consistency... [Read More]
Tracked on November 16, 2005 11:16 AM
The sys-org dance show rehearsals have been available as a videoblog for 2 years now, it is more an archive now as we now play the show.
Posted by: Bertrand at November 16, 2005 6:56 AM
"We had an unwritten rule at Ballet Talk that a member was allowed to promote their own work in proportion to the amount he or she contributed to the whole. If someone only showed up when they were announcing their own performance, we suggested they might wish to post elsewhere."
I think it would be great if people promoted their own work then we could talk to them about it.
Why have you not linked your blog to Ballet Talk? Is it because of the absurd rules?
Posted by: petipafan at November 16, 2005 9:42 AM
I no longer am on the administration team of the site, so that discussion might be more fruitful at Ballet Talk. As far as I'm concerned, it was one of the most sensible rules we had. It preserved the integrity of the discussion and made sure people contributed.
There's no particular reason I have not linked my blog at Ballet Talk. Blogs there are subject to their terms of service, but mostly I just haven't.
Posted by: Leigh Witchel at November 16, 2005 10:29 AM