I moved to Seattle to dance. I stayed in Seattle because I was not only dancing, but because I found so many ways different ways to engage with the dance community here. One of them was through SeattleDances. Though I didn’t start the website, I became a contributing writer in 2010 and have been acting as the editor and general manager since 2011. I have always felt this site had the potential to be an integral component in the city’s dance culture. Seattle’s dance community thrives for many reasons—its multiplicity of choreographic voices, enthusiastic audiences willing to experience innovative dance, and supply of generous and passionate dance artists to name a few—but it seemed to lack a centralized source of information where all of its different facets were represented. It needed an online resource for anyone interested in seeing, performing, or learning about dance in this city. As Seattle’s link to all things dance, this site aims to provide exactly such a resource.
For the most part, gradually building over the last few years, we’ve been able to do so. With roughly 100 reviews posted thus far in 2013, and over 400 since the site began, we’ve covered everything from Pacific Northwest Ballet, to 12 Minutes Max, to self-produced independent shows, site specific works, international touring companies, and everything inbetween. As a resource for working dancers we’ve posted information about auditions and workshops, established a comprehensive calendar of dance events in the city, and a list of companies around town. One of my favorite things is meeting dancers new to town who used the site to research the Seattle scene before making an informed decision to move here. And yes, this has actually happened. But we wanted to do more. We wanted to diversify the content, provide pre-press for independent shows, interview choreographers, post about events in the community, and refresh the site with an updated aesthetic. SeattleDances is an entirely volunteer run organization, but we try to hold ourselves to professional standards, and our website facelift allows our design to reflect this goal as well.
So we enlisted your help. We had a carnival. Games were played, cocktails were imbibed, and dances were danced. Local dance organizations like Velocity Dance Center, Pacific Northwest Ballet, eXit SPACE, Spectrum Dance Theater, and Seattle Dance Project showed their support by donating raffle items. Entropy and CabinFever performed, and the all-star Annie McGhee emceed the whole evening with panache. I even got a pie in the face. After all was said and done (and the whipped cream was successfully removed from my hair), we came out with renewed energy to transform the site. Through the community’s generous support, we now had the funds to make such a transition possible.
The bottom line is that Seattle deserves a website that measures up to its vibrant, eclectic, and flourishing dance community. It needs a centralized location to find out who’s performing when and where, and what those performances looked like, felt like, and how they were received. We hope SeattleDances provides an easily accessible information hub, a place for discussion and contemplation, and an avenue for engagement and reflection about performances after the curtain goes down. With our community call board and calendar of events we provide a source of news and information, but through our reviews, interviews, and editorials we aim to create a place for critical discussion about the dance being produced and presented in the city.
Arts writing, and dance writing specifically, is in a state of profound change. The shift from print to digital media has transformed the way information is gathered, opening up new lines of communication. As space for dance coverage in print media shrinks, online writing has steadily proliferated in many forms. With the boom of social media, criticism is often diluted to 140-character quips. The majority of our writers being dancers, we recognize how much goes into each performance and believe that the creation of art deserves thoughtful discussion around the product. With this site, we aim to create the space to read, learn, and think about the many issues surrounding dance. We hope to fill the niche of nuanced, and varied dance coverage we found lacking in widely circulated print media.
Arts criticism is essential for a healthy arts ecology. Critical discussion fosters engagement. It provokes thought and places performances in a broader cultural context. At the very least, it creates a historical record of events. And while critics are in no way the end-all-be-all, and even the conventional “arbiter of taste” definition of the critic seems outmoded today, criticism provides a space for talking about the nuances of ideas and aesthetics presented in dance—conversations that are vital for any arts community to thrive.
Ultimately, we hope SeattleDances serves as a barometer of the city’s dance climate. But really, it’s here for you: for the dancers, choreographers, enthusiasts, and performance go-ers who make this community so wonderful. We can’t do what we do, without you doing what you do. In that spirit, thank you, for your support, and for giving us so many interesting things to write about.
Cheers to a great 2013/2014 season and many more to come!
SeattleDances Editorial Director