Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Dance Critique Guidelines


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Guidelines for Viewing a Dance Performance:
When writing a dance critique, there are many things to consider prior to the performance. Who is performing? Are they professionals or amateurs? Is it a new work or classic choreography reset? Who are the choreographers? Are they known for other works? It is important to be informed about the performance prior to seeing it so you can take as much from it as you can.
When viewing a performance be an active participant, don’t be a passive consumer. Work as hard at viewing the piece as the choreographer did making the work. Consult your program notes when writing critiques.
During the performance, there are also many things to consider that should be incorporated into your writing process. What style of dance is it? Is the performance experimental or conventional? What are the cultural implications of the performance? How do elements of the performance, such as lighting, scenery, and costume, enhance the choreography?
If a performance is very abstract, take as much from it as you can and strive to deliver your opinion of it as clearly as possible in your writing. Remember that there is no right answer since art is abstract and everyone responds to art differently.
There is a lot to take in when viewing dance, and it can be easy to forget aspects of the performance. It is helpful to bring a notebook and pen to jot down notes and initial reactions to the performance that you may forget later on. Also, write the paper as soon as possible after the performance to prevent a foggy recollection.
If there is a question and answer at the end of the performance, at which the choreographers and/or dancers answer questions and explain the performance more thoroughly, it is highly advisable to stay. It can offer you some insight into the choreographer’s motivation as well as uncover some of the meaning of the performance.
Guidelines for Writing About a Dance Performance:
The opening statement of your critique should draw the reader in. Be creative. Tell the reader where and when the concert took place.
When writing about choreographers, always identify them by name. Try to get inside the head of the choreographer. What were the choreographer’s intentions and were they successfully communicated? What do you think the choreographer was trying to say with the dance, or what did the dance say? Try to have a thematic focus when writing your critique. Were the themes of the individual piece clear? What was the dance about? Analyze the symbolism. Does it relate to current events?
Discuss the choreography. Did the choreography flow, what were the dynamics, how did it move in space and what were the motivations for the movements? Make general comments but also include detailed descriptions. Try to give at least one specific movement image. Example: “In another vignette, a woman seated properly, perpendicularly, on a bench, begins to tilt at an angle. As her legs leave the floor and her torso leans to the side, both she and the bench seem to levitate a little above the floor.”
What thoughts or feelings did the concert or piece evoke? In constructing your critique, reflect on why you may have had certain reactions. Always back up your assertions, positive or negative with concrete examples. Don’t just be a negative critic; offer your thoughts in a constructive way.
Comment on the music and identify the composer(s) and musician(s) when possible. What was the relationship of the dance to the music? Did the music play an important role in the performance? Was the music live, pre-recorded or some combination of both? What difference did it make? Did the form of the music influence the form of the dance or vice versa?
Were the dances well rehearsed and/or well performed? Support your comments with specific examples. Did the dancers work together well in the ensemble pieces?
Were the makeup, props (if used), and costumes appropriate? Discuss the scenic design, lighting design, and overall use of the theatre space. When speaking about any element of design, you must include the designers’ names.
Comment on the overall production; give the reader a sense of what it looked like. What was your reaction to the concert as a whole? How did the piece or pieces connect?
Each critique should reach a conclusion regarding the performance. Support your conclusion with a detailed rational on how the final evaluation was determined.
Do not write in the first person. Your critique should be written in the third person.
Your essay, paying attention to grammar, neatness and spelling, should be as thorough as possible.
All critiques must have a title page, which will include name, date, professor’s name and course.
The ticket stub and/or verification from the performance must be attached to each critique.
Only typed papers, three pages, double-spaced, in standard 12 font, with one inch margins on all sides, are acceptable; do not justify right margin. Check your computer for margin settings.
Student’s last name and page number should be included in the upper right corner of each page.
Tell the reader the name of the performance, the company or dancers performing, the date and place of the performance.
Identify the composer(s), choreographer(s) and title(s) of the work(s) you have chosen to discuss. When writing about a specific dancer(s) identify them, when possible.
When viewing video performances the program information may not be available, however include as much information as you can. Acknowledgements and program credits are normally viewed at the beginning or end of video.
Dance Critique helpful hints:

· Refer to male dancers, men or danseurs (if classical ballet)
Not men dancers, boys, guys or males

· Refer to female dancers, women or ballerinas (if classical ballet)
Not women dancers, girls, gals, chicks or females

· Refer to a piece, work or dance
Not routine or act

· Refer to movements
Not moves

· Refer to live music
Not live musicians

· Refer to recorded or pre-recorded music
Not taped music

· Refer to danced together or in unison
Not in sync or synchronized

· Refer to the performance or the concert
Not the show, play or recital

· Do not use first names only to refer to dancers (“Catherine danced well in Chicago”)

· Do write in the third person
Not in the first person

· Do not make general assumptions for the audience

· Do not include title page information on first page of critique (name, date, professor’s name, class, performance)

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