by Kat Richter for The Dance Journal
This January, the Dance Journal will launch our new Student Author Program. The program is in modeled in part after that offered at The Place, one of London’s premiere contemporary dance schools. As a graduate student in London, I was fortunate to gain acceptance into The Place’s Resolution! Review program, which paired six aspiring writers with six professional dance critics. My mentor was journalist Keith Watson, and for several months, I’d take the tube from my student housing in southwest London up to Euston Station and meet Keith at The Place for an evening of dance.
We’d each review the same show and our reviews were published in The Place’s online magazine within 24 hours of each performance. Sometimes I’d read what Keith had written and feel embarrassed that I hadn’t interpreted the piece “correctly” but over time, I learned to really “see” and I realized that my opinion was just as valid as his.
A few weeks later, I landed my first assignment for Dance Magazine. Thanks in no small part to the portfolio I developed at The Place, my dream of becoming a professional writer was finally coming true.
I’ve always wanted to start a similar program here in Philadelphia. With so many festivals, so many up-and-coming choreographers and so many established companies, it seemed like the perfect place to help aspiring writers in the same way that The Place’s program helped me. Earlier this year, a question posed to me by one of my students convinced me that now was the time.
“Miss Kat,” she asked, “You’re a writer, right? Like for magazines? How do you get into that?”
A few emails later, we were seated together at The Wilma for BalletX’s season opener and I was teaching her how to read a press kit.
Her review was published in conjunction with mine for the Dance Journal. She was so excited that she’s now planning pursue a career in journalism.
Although there are several issues to consider when publishing the work of novice writers, including their limited experience with live dance, their So You Think You Can Dance frame of reference and their lack of journalistic training, the benefits outweigh the potential difficulties. We will be holding a crash course in dance criticism for accepted students in January and will be pairing student writers with a number of staff writers from The Dance Journal throughout the spring semester.
We see the Dance Journal’s Student Journalism program as a win/win: dance companies and choreographers get to cultivate new audiences (most of whom have many years of subscribership ahead of them) and local students get to build their portfolios by reviewing the work of local artists. I consider it a real blessing that along with the oft-lamented demise of print media, we have such a wide variety of online magazines, blogs and journals covering dance here in Philadelphia. Now, instead of a single review in The Inquirer, choreographers can look forward to coverage from ThinkingDANCE, The Broad Street Review and of course The Dance Journal.
To apply, interested students should submit a cover letter, resume and 300-500 word writing sample to firstname.lastname@example.org by December 31st. All accepted students will be notified by January 4th and must be available to attend an orientation session on January 12th at 10:00am at our office at Philadelphia Culture Works . Review dates will then be scheduled by student mentors in conjunction with The Dance Journal’s editorial calendar.
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