Incredibly, LA Dance Chronicle recently celebrated its second anniversary and has published approximately 500 articles that include reviews, preview articles, interviews with dance artists and other dance related subjects. LA Dance Chronicle now has a fiscal sponsor, Fractured Atlas, enabling us to apply for grant funding and to receive tax-deductible donations; funds that will help maintain the site and for the first time pay its writers and staff members and refund their out of pocket expenses to do this work such as transportation and parking.
Writing about dance in Los Angeles is a joy but it can also be challenging. As we all know, Los Angeles is a sprawling city which covers approximately 469 square miles tied together by a complex web of freeways, neighborhoods with the population of small cities, and embraces a multiplicity of cultures. A central dance hub does not exist in LA but there are instead multiple decentralized hubs. In East LA there is the Luckman Arts Complex, Diavolo Performance Space, Brockus Project Studios and most recently, Stomping Ground L.A.. The Pieter Performance Space is in Lincoln Heights, and Meg Wolfe’s We Live In Space is in the Jefferson Park area and Live Arts Los Angeles is up near Glendale. The Music Center, REDCAT, LA Dance Project, and Dance & Movement Center are in downtown LA, and Westside Dance Academy and The Broad Stage are in Santa Monica, with CAP UCLA’s Royce Hall, The Odyssey Theatre, the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and Westside Dance Academy on the Westside. The Martha B. Knoeble Dance Theater is in Long Beach along with the Terrace Theater, and in the South Bay there’s the Torrance’s Marsee and the Redondo Performing Arts Center. Other places that have presented dance include the Fountain Theater and Barnsdall in Hollywood. A very active venue for dance that is not in LA, but still in LA County is ARC Pasadena. The list goes on and I know that there are performance spaces that I have omitted, proving my point that there is no central hub for LA dance. Our community is just like the city we live in, spread out and diverse. It is both a blessing and a curse.
When I retired from performing, choreographing and teaching it was not my intention to become a dance critic. I had written two books and was considering a third when friend and colleague, Laurie Sefton, encouraged me to investigate the path that I now find myself racing through. Beginning as a member of the review staff of SeeDance.com and London based BachTrach.com, my partner, Martin Holman, and I decided to create LA Dance Chronicle (LADC) as the vehicle for me to write about dance on my own terms and to reach the companies and independent dance artists not often covered by the main press. In just over two years, the writing staff at LADC has grown to eleven but we are still unable to cover all that is happening.
When I began covering dance, I soon discovered how great the need was our community. The main newspapers used to employ full time staff writers to write about dance, but that is no longer true. Most reviewers work as independent contractors and as a result, much of their limited dance coverage focuses on the larger touring companies with the funds to hire media representatives who buy ads and pitch previews, interviews and reviews while the local dance companies are often ignored.
LA companies have been and are creating wonderful work, but until recently no one realized it. Over time, I have made connections with local dance companies, their artistic directors, managers and/or public relations staff, as well as continuing to reach out to independent dance artists. I correspond with the mainstream organizations and venues such as Hollywood Bowl, The Ford Theatres, CAP UCLA, The Music Center, Disney Hall, The Pantages as well as the major media reps including Davidson & Choy, The Ace Agency and a few private promotional agents like Lucy Pollak. What is encouraging is that these companies, choreographers and PR personnel are now reaching out to LADC asking us to review both local and touring dance companies, Broadway musicals, and to interview various artistic directors, choreographers and dancers.
My personal favorite is the time I spend interviewing local artists such like Micaela Taylor, Sarah Elgart, Andrew Pearson, Deborah Brockus, Patrick Corbin, Sarah Reich, Donna Sternberg, Linda Yudin, Kai Hazelwood, Linda Valentino, Dimitri Chamblas, Betsy Cooper, Genevieve Carson, Jacques Heim, and Kate Hutter Mason. It is my goal to continue these interviews because I learn so much from these talented, socially aware and intelligent artists. My knowledge expands not just from the interviews, but from the research on particular people, places and/or artforms before, during and after writing an interview, performance or preview article. A single dance company or artist sparks an investigation into many different areas, and I find that very inspiring.
The most time-consuming role for me at LADC is that of coordinator, which I am told translates into publisher, editor in chief, managing editor, and proofreader. I determine which writer is available to cover which concert, who can write a certain article or conduct an interview. Once that has been accomplished, I am the liaison between the writer and the person handling press tickets and those responsible for supplying LADC with photos. We are an online magazine and dance is such a visual art, that naturally any available media is essential to informing readers and/or piquing their interest.
Once all that is accomplished, it is my job to confirm the tickets and follow up on obtaining the photos. When the reviews/articles/interviews have been written, Martin and I trade off on who will edit them. Most often, I am the one who puts the articles into the site’s WordPress, inserts the photos, publishes the articles and distributes them via social media outlets. Martin is the IT person for LADC. He designed and maintains the website, and he adjusts the photos that do not quite fit WordPress’ feature format. Martin is also the one who publishes Ann Haskins’ This Week In Dance at LADC with its multiple hyperlinks and photos, and our newly created Thursday LADC Updates that announces the week’s articles. We make a great team.
Speaking of teams, the LADC staff now includes Ann Haskins, Joanne DiVito, Matthew Shaffer, Lara J. Altunian, Celine Kiner, Corrina Roche, Tam Warner, Mary Pat Cooney, Nancy Dobbs Owen, Kim Gadlin, and, of course, Martin and me. Readers can check out our bios on the LADC About Us page.
Ann Haskins was the first writer to come aboard, followed by Joanne DiVito. We consider both these amazing and multi-talented women to be founding members of LADC. Haskins provides her weekly blog along with wonderful articles and interviews. DiVito has not only written previews, reviews and interviews for LADC, but she has been our best recruiter of new writers, helping to bring aboard Matthew Shaffer, Tam Warner, Nancy Dobbs Owen and Kim Gadlin. So, that is a condensed backstage look at what transpires to produce, maintain and continue publishing LADC.
Another truly rewarding aspect of covering local dance is finding ourselves in areas of LA that we never knew existed. We have covered performances in an abandoned Chinese movie theater, throughout a shopping mall in China Town, multiple dance studios (both large and small), churches, black box theaters like REDCAT and the Electric Lodge, ARC Pasadena, Bootleg Theater, museums, photographers’ studios, art galleries, as well as in the larger venues: The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Ahmanson Theatre, The Ford Theatres, the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, the Segerstrom Center, Musco Center for the Arts, the Herbert Zipper Concert Hall, and others.
LA is sorely lacking in affordable theater venues for local dance companies to present their work, so these resourceful dance artists have been forced or inspired to create their own. Site specific works have occurred in vacant lots, parking lots, city plazas, theater courtyards, water reservoirs, private homes, and inside churches, to list only a very few spaces where we have been. Several studios like Brockus Project Studios, Westside Dance Academy, Downtown Dance and Movement, Diavolo Performance Space, We Live In Space, L.A. Dance Project, Live Arts Los Angeles, and soon Stomping Ground L.A. have converted their studio spaces to accommodate dance classes, Pilates classes, company rehearsals and to act as an informal performance space with functioning lighting and sound equipment.
There are many different dance styles and cultures in LA, and so far LADC has not touched on them all. We try to focus mainly on local LA dance companies, but we also cover the national touring companies. There is a need for more dance writers familiar with Cambodian, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Spanish, Hip-Hop, Street Dance, and more.
One of LADC’s strengths is that the entire writing staff has either studied dance, performed in dance companies, on Broadway, or in commercial dance. Most of us have danced, are still dancing, performed, are still performing, taught or continue to teach dance. We know what it means to be a choreographer, a company member and/or an artistic director, and we know the vocabulary. We understand the aches and pains of being a dancer and we understand that putting on a concert involves more than just the choreographer. Most importantly, we realize that even when a dance is not great, that it was hard work to create, rehearse, costume, locate a venue, produce, and perform. We therefore do our best to have our criticism be constructive.
We hope that the LA dance community understands and appreciates that everyone at LADC understands that in order to continue, companies and independent dance artists need reviews, preview articles, interviews and related articles to help audiences locate and attend dance events in this far-flung town. They need this material to show potential presenters and booking agents, and to include in their grant applications as proof that they are serious about their art.
What can the LA dance community provide to help us improve?
- Please use the following email when contacting LADC: email@example.com.
- First and foremost: Please contact LADC as soon as you have scheduled a concert. The earlier you contact us the better chance there is that we will be able to cover your concert. We generally schedule writers at a minimum, one month in advance. (Our writers also have other jobs and are not always available on short notice)
- Include contact person(s) and all contact information (email address and/or phone number).
- Submit complete concert information: What, When, Where & How Much! Name of the event, venue or location, time of the performance(s), and how to purchase tickets and/or link to ticket site. If you have a press release, please include it in your original email.
- LADC will contact you when a reviewer has been assigned to your event. At that time please set aside two (2) complimentary press tickets in the writer’s name at the box office or will call.
- High resolution photos. Performance photos are best but we know that they are not always available. Send photos that you feel best represent you, your work or your company. At least one of these photos MUST be in a landscape format to work with LADC’s website.
- Please include complete photo credits, i.e. the name of the dance work, company, dancers, and the photographer’s name. If you do not know the photographer’s name, LADC will say “Photo courtesy of the artist.”
- Please proofread your press release and program information. If names are misspelled in your press releases and/or programs, it is very likely that they will be misspelled in the reviews and/or articles. We understand that typos occur and will work with you to change errors that appear in our articles.
- If you have head shots of your cast, please submit them once a reviewer has been assigned to your event. Those are generally sent directly to the writer who is copied on all emails. If these appear on your website or in your programs, please alert us to that fact. (Photos for the articles go directly to firstname.lastname@example.org)
On a personal note, LA Dance Chronicle is a way to give back to the dance community that has been so generous and kind since I relocated here from New York City in 1978. Yes, maneuvering the freeways and back streets to see performances is time consuming and, yes, it can be expensive. Yes, maintaining LA Dance Chronicle is a 7 day a week job, but the biggest plus is experiencing and sharing my thoughts on the excellent, the good and the not so fine dance that is literally booming in the greater Los Angeles area. Dancers are moving from New York to other cities, including LA, to find work and/or to create their own art.
Everyone at LA Dance Chronicle is proud of their contributions to spread the word about the current surge in Los Angeles dance, and we hope that you, our readers, will help us help Los Angeles Dance. Please consider donating.
Written by Jeff Slayton with contributions by Ann Haskins and edited by Martin Holman.
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Featured image: LA Dance Chronicle Writing Staff (top row – L to R) Mary Pat Cooney, Martin Holman, Jeff Slayton, Joanne DiVito, Tam Warner. (seated – L to R) Lara J. Altunian, Celine Kiner, Corrina Roche, Ann Haskin. (writers not pictured: Mary Dobbs Owen, Matthew Shaffer, & Kim Gadlin).