Keep asking questions…

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Dance is the Word, 2013
By Laura Dodge

“To be a dance critic, you need to keep asking questions” are the wise words of Donald Hutera on the opening morning of English National Ballet’s Dance is the Word course. Now in its third year, the course offers aspiring dance writers the chance to learn more about reviewing performances under Hutera’s watchful eye.

Running alongside the Emerging Dancer Awards, participants are given a behind-the-scenes insight into the rehearsal process and then invited to watch and review the Awards performance. Over three days, they learn how to translate movement into words, what makes good criticism and get direct feedback on their own writing.

The first day of the 2013 course is packed with activities at the Southbank Centre, including watching company class, interviewing English National Ballet principal dancers and watching the Emerging Dancer dress rehearsal. This is preceded by a session where participants and the course are introduced.

95 minutes into this 90 minute session and participants are still enthusiastically explaining their backgrounds and reasons for attending the course. Hutera shows he practises what he preaches, asking numerous questions and insisting “you never stop learning”. Everyone comes from vastly different backgrounds but all share a passion for dance. There’s a dance undergraduate, a trained architect, a primary school teacher and a children’s novelist!

I attended Dance is the Word in its first year, 2011, and it’s no exaggeration to say it has changed my life. I had never written a review before I came to the course and now I get work published in numerous websites and magazines including Dancing Times, Londondance.com and Dance International.

As Hutera says, you never stop learning and even though I’ve been writing for two years, I’ve already learnt a great deal this morning. Did you know that 1940s critic Edwin Denby said that seeing dance is about getting drunk on a performance, then being able to talk about it rationally afterwards? Or ‘drink, then think’. I’m looking forward to getting ‘drunk’ on the talent of English National Ballet’s emerging performers later.

Laura Dodge