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Why We Write

As part of our dance economic series, we asked our writers to turn their attention from the stage and reflect on themselves. Stories about how dancers and choreographers navigate the financial struggles of being an artist are important to share—but they are also fairly common. How do the dance writers behind the reviews, previews, and interviews make it work? Why do they do what they do in an uncertain financial climate? Here are selected responses to Part I of our survey. Each writer’s full survey will be posted at our Carnival Fundraiser this Thursday, September 11. ―SeattleDances Editors

A writer’s natural habitat

SeattleDances: Why do you write about dance?


Gabrielle Nomura: Growing up, I was the type of girl who not only did ballet, but read thick biographies of 20th century ballerinas for fun. Even though I’m a dancer, I decided to major in journalism in college.Today, I write about dance because writing, like dance, is how I communicate. I consider myself privileged to be able to make dance, and the arts in general, the focus of my personal and professional life.


Ciara McCormack: Writing about dance makes me watch dance in a more present and attentive manner. When I take notes during a performance, I see more details, notice more subtle inflections in the dancers’ movements, or the intelligent references imbedded in the choreography.


Kaitlin McCarthy: Writing about dance helps me process the work that I see. Having to publicly articulate your opinions forces you to really back up what you have to say. Almost every piece I write feels like a journey of self discovery that helps me further develop my relationship to art and dance. It forces me to really engage with the work I am seeing, and to think about it for longer than I might otherwise. It’s very rewarding.


Charlotte Hart: Writing about dance combines two of my passions. The act of writing about dance forces a deep, immediate, and introspective reaction to the ephemeral visuals of this performance art. The challenge of crafting thoughts into the structure of a review in order to convey a sense of the overall performance—metamorphosing visual input into written word—fascinates me.


SD: Why do you write for SeattleDances?


Mariko Nagashima: I write for and edit SeattleDances because when I moved to Seattle four years ago, there wasn’t enough dance writing happening in the city, or really any city for that matter. I wanted to be part of covering this city’s thriving dance scene and to attempt to do all the amazing work that happens here justice in print.


Kathryn Hightower: I am interested in offering support to folk dance traditions from around the world that are happening right here in Seattle. Our city is lucky to have such a thriving contemporary dance scene, which is well-recognized and well-documented in the dance literature. However, we also have several thriving folk dance traditions – from Bharatanatyam to flamenco to Croatian to Hawaiian Hula – and they are too often overlooked. One of my goals with SeattleDances is to offer a space for folk forms to join our powerful forum.


Miranda Chantelois: I write for SeattleDances because it is a fantastic opportunity to engage collaboratively and artistically with the Seattle dance scene, because it pushes me to think critically about interpretive movement, and provides the chance for my growth as a writer. I’ve also been very drawn to SeattleDances because of our goal to generate constructive feedback for dance-makers. Especially for young choreographers and first-time producers, dance writing can be harmful as an overly-critical outlet for personal opinion; I’m excited to be working for a source that seeks to enhance the arts in Seattle, regardless of whether a given production is artistically successful.


Kaitlin: I appreciate that SeattleDances is unaffiliated and works to cover dance across the board. SeattleDances is committed to covering small  independent shows, something no other local press source does. Not only do I find the work of emerging artists most interesting, but they are the ones who most benefit from press. When I write I hope to actively encourage dialogue surrounding dance and that aligns with SeattleDance’s mission. It’s a way of supporting Seattle’s dance community. Also, the editors, Anna and Mariko, are whip-smart, dedicated, and so supportive. I really appreciate how much time they put into a very collaborative editing process. They’ve helped me become a better writer.


SD: Do you have any other outlets for your writing?


Anna Waller: Last year, I started contributing to Dance and Pointe Magazines as a freelance writer. I daydream about writing on other subjects. Somewhere, in an alternate universe, I write witty essays on books and other cultural topics. Hey. I can dream.


Philippa Myler: I have my own blog where I journal about my experiences traveling around the world and broadening my experiences of dance.


Karena Birk: I blog sometimes, write overlong comments on other blogs, and other such written-word communication. I also have to write syllabi and class assignments, which can be a surprisingly difficult exercise in clarity, and striking the right balance between informativeness and brevity.


Imana Gunawan: This summer, I interned for The Jordan Times as well as doing freelance reporting in Amman, Jordan, for three months. Back in Seattle, I work as news editor for The Daily, University of Washington’s student newspaper and a freelancer based in Seattle.


SD: How do think writers should be compensated?


Karena: It depends on the context of their writing. For SeattleDances, I write about the shows that fit into my schedule and that I’m interested in and/or feel I would have something to say about., and I turn in the review as quickly as I can (which does not always mean immediately). In this context, being compensated by getting free tickets to the show seems pretty fair. However, if I were required to see every show possible each week, meet some quota or hard deadline, or have to put aside other work to write, I would expect monetary compensation commensurate with my time commitment.


Philippa: Writers should be compensated for each of their published contributions. As with many art forms, numerous writers, including myself, will produce merely for the love of it, but this practice ultimately devalues our work.


Anna: Preferably with money. Press tickets are great, but I hope that one day we can compensate writers for the time spent writing.


Mariko: Writers should be compensated for their time and efforts just as any other profession should be. Writing is work, and difficult work at that. This is true for writing on any subject. An hourly wage would be amazing, but a per word or per article stipend would also be great. I would love to be able to offer writers a stipend for each article written for SeattleDances. Even if it’s small, it still acknowledges the time they took to a see a show, think about it, and coherently articulate those thoughts. This is a huge goal of the website, and something we’re continually working towards.