How to review a dance performance

Top tips from leading dance critics on how to review dance performances.

How to review a dance performance

Crunching through crispy thick snow in Sofia, Bulgaria, this spring, I participated in the Aerowaves Springback Academy for a second time. It's an excellent development programme for dance writers, that runs alongside Spring Forward, an annual pan-European festival of contemporary dance. Before the packed schedule fully kicked-off, leading dance critics shared their top tips on how to review dance. 

Here are a few select nuggets to help sharpen your dance writing:

Sanjoy RoyThe Guardian

  • Verb play. Dance is movement. Choose your verbs well to encapsulate movement. Try to avoid obvious ones like 'move' and 'walk', and be more specific. How about 'saunter' or 'prowl'?
  • Wield poetic licence. Summon up imagery, use effects from literature such as a strong beginning and ending. You could try to mirror the style of the performance: long and beautiful, or youthful pop phrases.
  • Sensational embodiment. Receive the performance with your whole body, and turn on the switch to language. Capture the sensations and embodied impressions with words!

Kelly DonaldsonThe Scotsman

  • Trust and value your instincts and opinion.
  • Keep emotional distance from the makers.
  • Be a language lover and word player.

Donald HuteraThe Times

  • Try taking a synesthetic approach: what does the performance smell like?
  • Always ask: where's the beauty?
  • Use juicy language!

Oonagh DuckworthVarious

  • Use the constraints of the format (word length etc) as your friend.
  • Once written, print out the review (or view it in a different digital way) and re-read. Seeing it in a different format helps stimulate thinking and polish refinement.

For more review tips check out this guide on how to review film from STORGY Magazine

Image: Brother - Marco da Silva Ferreira, Spring Forward 2018
Photographer: Yana Lozeva


Cath Carver

Cath Carver

Cath is the Voice Development Manager taking care of brand strategy, marketing and partnerships. Cath's background spans urban space, visual arts, dance, music, consumer trends and fashion. She is a colour expert, urban visionary, artist, writer and creative project lead. Cath is the founder of Colour Your City, a movement dedicated to transforming urban space with colour. She has also led projects and workshops with world-leading organisations such as Greenpeace, TrendWatching, Centre for Sustainable Fashion, Blippar, TEDx and artist Camille Walala.

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