How do we write about performance? Although Lyn Gardner wrote in the Guardian recently that “The first rule” of writing a theatre review “is that there are no rules” she seemed to lose her nerve a little when she reminded her readers that
"A traditional theatre review often begins by giving the reader some background about a production, a brief outline of plot and themes, a sense of what the staging looks (and sounds) like; it offers an evaluation of writing, production and performances and concludes with a summing up."
Sticking resolutely with Gardner’s first rule, this summer, artist Gillie Kleiman ran Dancewatching: a series of workshops exploring watching and writing about dance, with support from Chisenhale Dance Space and Big Dance.
Each week we (I was one of the workshop attendees) were shown a wide range of dance on film, in rehearsals and in performance before responding to what we saw with discussions and by writing.
And when I say writing, I don’t mean a traditional theatre review, I mean we wrote poems, recipes, lists, songs, scripts, titles and letters. We imagined what dances would taste like and we asked questions of choreographers and then answered themselves. The first rule was that there were no rules and by following this we found new ways to watch and think about dance. Ways that were confusing, stimulating and revealing in the best possible ways.
Our writings were then turned into a book by Gillie and artist Ben Connors and throughout Dance Umbrella there will an exhibition on display. I see them as an inspiration, a challenge, a rule (the first rule) for experiencing Dance Umbrella in ways you maybe hadn’t thought of.
Originally published in Platform