background research on the artist Get
an expanded picture of their historical context,
their personal history, their philosophy and
an idea of what makes them unique or significant
as an artist in modern dance. This will
help you to frame your experience and give you a larger context for understanding.
You only have 4 pages, use them as efficiently
as possible. A brief ? page intro paragraph
to establish your "thesis" should be sufficient. Save the majority of your
page space for the body of your analysis.
your thesis. Do not write a summary
of every dance in the concert. Limit your writing to only the most important
material. After seeing the concert, you may find that one or two works,
or something about the style of the choreographer in general is most interesting,
evocative, provocative, intriguing, etc.—this is where you should center
your writing. What interested you most? What made you feel the most? What
made you most want to get up and move? These sorts of places will make
the assignment more interesting for you to write, and more interesting
for me to read.
look for. While you watch the concert,
it may be helpful to be aware of several possible issues on which you might
focus your paper.
Does this dance make
me feel anything?—good, bad, uncomfortable?
Even if you don’t know why, don’t discard the emotions or physical sensations
your mind or body are feeling while you watch a dance. Do your best to
describe them anyway. Sometimes, dance can evoke feelings directly, as
if bypassing the brain. You may not ever truly understand where they come
from, but they are still worth addressing, even if only in the form of
Does the piece communicate
to you? Look at the title, any program
notes, the costumes, the lighting—does it seem as though it is meant to
tell a specific story or theme? Maybe not—consider that some dance work
is not meant to be narrative and is for pure design, architecture, sculpture—something
more abstract than a story. However, even in this case, it still may say
something to YOU.
Don’t look for what
you think the dance is "supposed" to mean, concentrate more on what it
is to you. As for looking for "meaning,"
I find it helpful to think that watching dance is more like reading a poem
than like reading a play. Often choreographers use movement as a metaphor
since it can not easily "say" things in the same kind of intellectual detail
of the paper Start by sketching out
your overall impressions, mixed with any historical or biographical context
that seems relevant.
Be clear here: I don’t
want you to write a research paper. Whatever background info you include
should be used mostly to help enlighten your own personal reflection,
or illuminate meaning, or help you to understand or explain a specific
point from your own experience watching the concert. Stay
focused on YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE. Then once
you have an overview, tighten up your paragraphs by making only one point
per paragraph. Start with a statement of opinion or response, and then
use the rest of the paragraph to support that thought.
Make sure you read your
paper and revise—don’t just hand in the first spell-checked draft.
Be on the lookout for
unsupported general statements like "This
dance was very pleasing and beautiful to me. I liked it very much." When
you see such an unsupported statement, ask yourself
and then fill in the rest of the paragraph
to explain your point.
in the first person "I felt," "I saw," "this
meant to me…" Don’t even pretend that you are writing a objective observation
of a factual event. Everything you see goes through your own private filter.
Yes there may be similarities in how people respond to common events, but
am most interested in what your personal experience is, not what you think
is the norm or the common view. Just do your
best to honestly offer your own perspective, both with the humility to
recognize that others will have equally valid differing opinions, but also
with the confidence that your take on it is just as good, or "right" as
a New York Times critic.