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#1 Guest_Jhora_*

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Posted 12 January 2002 - 11:09 AM

I am a reporter and editor on my schools newpaper, and I usually do the theatre reviews, which includes the ballet. I was wondering if anyone had any tips on how to do this, what others like and dont like about more professional reviews(like in newspapers etc.) and any other general tidbits of information. Thanks!
Jhora

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 12 January 2002 - 11:56 AM

Hi, Jhora. Writing reviews can be fun -- at least, until people read them and complain to you about them smile.gif

When I started writing reviews, a senior critic (the man who hired me) gave me two pieces of advice I've never forgotten. The first was to write from the gut. Meaning, if the news angle that evening is a new work by Choreographer X, but the thing you can't stop thinking about is how absolutely wonderful Dancer Y looked in one of the other works, that's your story. Of course, you have to mention the new ballet, but the excitement you feel about the dancer will come out in your writing, so that should be your "angle."

The second thing is, write as though the dancer's mother is looking over your shoulder. That doesn't mean you have to be dishonest -- if someone doesn't do a good job, say so. But anything can be said politely, or in a way that doesn't hurt. Sometimes there's a temptation to be funny, or sassy, for the sake of the writing, and it's good to remember that these are real, living, breathing people with feelings. (Probably not as much a problem for someone who is also a dancer, although some of the harshest critics I know are dancers.)

And finally, something I've read elsewhere from several people and I think is good advice: write what you see. It's that simple. Don't try to impress anybody, don't try to agree or disagree with your friends. You may be the only person in the room who likes something and everybody else is saying, "So what was that???" Or (more likely) you may be the only person in the theater who is disappointed and thinks a dancer is sloppy, while everyone else is standing on their seats and jumping up and down and cheering. I take my motto from Davy Crockett smile.gif "Be sure you're right, and then go ahead." Meaning, write what you see, write what you think.

Have fun -- keep us informed of your adventures smile.gif

(We have several writers who post here, including those who write for DanceView and Ballet Alert!, and we always jump in first on these questions -- I hope readers will answer as well. Here's your chance to train someone right smile.gif )

[ January 12, 2002: Message edited by: alexandra ]



#3 Nanatchka

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Posted 12 January 2002 - 02:03 PM

So as not to prove Alexandra wrong, here is a writer jumping in. A review is an opinion, but it is also an historical record of an event. You will want to include the following:
Who
What
When
Where

Some questions you can ask yourself to gracefully incorporate these questions and your opinions in a logical sequence are:
What was done?
Was it done well?
Was it worth doing?

I too have covered both dance and theater, and they are more alike than different. Things to keep in mind: Known works, as for instance "Hamlet," or "Nutcracker," require less explanation (though not no explanation) than new work (new ballet, new play). Non narrative work is harder to write about than narrative work (where a story line carries you along), but is challenging and interesting. Try thinking of yourself as a translator--you are translating the language of dance into English.

Since you are writing for a school newspaper and perhaps are writing about people you know, you are in a harder position than critics working on big city newspapers where they don't cross paths with their subjects on a daily basis. I suggest that, if possible, and your location and publication permit, you cover one or two professional events in addition to school events. Or perhaps you are already doing that? That is what the theater critic does on one of our school newspapers here. He has a lot of fun!

Finally, although you are writing about what you see, what you know matters, too. The more background you have in the subject you are covering, the more confident you will feel and sound. Knowledge may not change your instinctive and intuitive responses, but it will put them into an intelligent context.

Maybe you can post one of your reviews here someday. Good luck!

#4 cargill

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Posted 14 January 2002 - 03:20 PM

I agree with everything, but just wanted to add that when I started writing, I tried to keep in mind the kind of reviews I like to read and tried to think about what I liked about them. The main thing I felt about reviewers I liked was that they explained and tried to justify their opinions. Even if I didn't agree with them, I could learn a lot. Reveiws are journalism, too, so they have to be interesting and well written. Style is important, but style without content is just embarassing. The best advise I can think of it to read a lot of critics and think about what you like and don't like about their writing.


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