Capping a new course this fall, students published a collaborative exploration of the history, modes, applications and future of dance criticism.
In Professor of Dance Cynthia Williams’ course, DAN 314 “Dance Criticism and Embodied Writing,” eight students delved into dance criticism to unpack its practices, the contributions of its practitioners and the way it reveals “prevailing social, political and artistic values.” The course’s collaborative final project, “Dance Matters,” encapsulates the scope of their research and writing with a variety of essays, reviews, poems and images.
As the course developed, the central focus “became the practice of writing dance criticism: learning how to observe, describe, contextualize, analyze, and interpret dance, and to write about it from a somatic/embodied perspective,” Williams writes in “Dance Matters.” Students examined “how somatic awareness contributes to embodied writing, and how the practice of embodied writing might communicate different understandings of the dance being described. We also studied how white-centered bias has traditionally dominated the conversation about dance, and the ways in which this may/should change, both in viewership and in writing about dance.”
As part of the course, esteemed dance critic Elizabeth Zimmer led a two-week workshop with students, offering individual feedback on students’ written critiques. “Watching a group of young dancers learn to read and write and think, and reading the reviews they produced, was really gratifying!” says Zimmer.
The final “Dance Matters” publication was created by the students in the class: Bliss Doney ’22, Bryna Gage ’22, Jenna Hyman ’23, Irini Konstantinou ’23, Caroline Ream ’23, Amelia Rojek ’23, Bella Siddall ’21 and Ella Stier ’23.
The HWS Department of Dance offers a wide range of courses in dance technique for the beginning, intermediate and advanced dancer, as well as dance theory courses in dance history, composition, pedagogy, kinesiology and somatic education. The curriculum is designed to be a basis for graduate study or careers in the areas of choreography, performance, teaching, dance administration and movement science.