Dancehunter: Again, why do you interview yourself once a year?
Dancehunter: Because someone has to, it might as well be me. It keeps me from talking about myself during interviews.
DH: What is Dancehunter?
DH: An imaginary feature movie where I, along with a motley crew, hunt for dance. Like a bounty hunter, except no one goes to jail. It’s my twitter handle and also a largely abandoned blog, which is used as a storage facility for stories I publish elsewhere.
DH: How do you describe yourself?
DH: A dance writer with a weakness for theater, music, film and football. I should add that I was recently called a “fame whore.”
DH: You do endlessly hawk your stuff.
DH: And why shouldn’t I? I write so someone besides my mother will read it.
DH: Having a blog is not a life sentence. Sometimes, we finish out our urge to share, or get busy with paying deadlines. Project blogs work well. Set a realistic goal and stick to it.
DH: Artists blogging?
It’s not mandatory, or even advised if you don’t much like writing. If it feels like a chore, don’t do it. For long term projects, tours and such, a blog can be useful to document your travels or process. Wendy Perron addressed the subject of over-sharing artists, touching a nerve or two.
DH: The state of dance writing?
DH: We are like Conan O’Brien. You can’t kill us. We just keep coming back. There will always be people who choose to write about dance. Whether we will ever have a critical mass of people making a living writing about dance is doubtful. I am not sure we ever did.
DH: Why did you stop writing reviews?
DH: For a variety of reasons: There are other people to write them; I find the form a tad lifeless; I am not very good at it. All that said, read the New York Times piece on why we still need literary criticism. It feels relevant.
DH: Where can we find your writing?
DH: Culturemap, Dance Magazine, Pointe Magazine, Dance Spirit, Dance Teacher, mostly. Here and there in other publications.
DH: Where can we find your most unfiltered voice?
DH: Culturemap, but more and more in other places. I am starting to sound like myself everywhere. It’s a function of age.
DH: I don’t recommend it.
DH: What blogs do you read?
DH: Wendy Perron’s Dance Magazine blog, Arts Journal Blogs, Debra Jo Levine’s Arts Meme, Nichelle Strzepek’s Dance Advantage, Andrew Sprung explains politics to me on xpostfactoid , to see all that I am missing in New York, Susan Yung’s Sunday Arts Blog on Thirteen New York Public Media, my son’s blog, The Shape of Junk to Come for amusement and to see the gaps in my parenting. I skip about without much consistency. Mostly, I wait until someone sends me a link telling me to read something. I am of the obedient persuasion.
DH: So we are all front page editors now?
DH: It’s a “my body, my newspaper” world out there as so many people now have a service that aggregates pieces from their twitter lists. I don’t miss the real front page that much. I’m not remotely nostalgic for print. Read Interviews with Notable Aggregaters in the Future for what happens when we take that too far.
DH: How can we get more arts writing?
DH: Hellishly simple, read more arts writing. Your eyeballs are being counted now, and so far, they don’t hold a candle to stories about Kim what’s her name. Share arts stories you like. These days, numbers generate stories. Put your eyes where your desires are.
DH: The fact that we know more about one another is generally a good thing. I have a Facebook page, which will one day have every story I have ever written and will free up a lot of space in my house. Please “like it.” I appreciate that Facebook is always working on its face.
DH: Most people don’t like that. Twitter?
DH: I like that Twitter makes us work on our sentences. I have a Dance Magazine story coming out about how dancers and choreographers use Twitter. I started following every dancer I could find and still do. It’s a marvelous way to get the pulse of a field. Twitter reminds me of dinner time when I was growing up, where everyone fought to be heard. It’s also a great way to keep up with life outside of Houston.
DH: What of Houston?
DH: It’s a love the city you are with situation. It’s impossible to keep up with my field here, not enough dance comes through here, or really ever did. So I go see opera, classical music, theater, film and visual art. Dance is always my home art form, though. I look at all other art forms from a motion detector lens.
DH: You fussed like a maniac over Black Swan before you saw it, then fussed like a maniac afterward about how much you hated it. What gives?
DH: All true. (I imagine I will be soon fussing over Emily Blunt’s performance with Cedar Lake in The Adjustment Bureau.) I had no problem with Black Swan’s depiction of the ballet world. Heavens, we don’t need to go Hollywood movies to find that out. I did not like the movie because it was boring and oftentimes silly. Although, the scene where Barbara Hershey was about to throw the cake in the trash was priceless camp. Also, Natalie Portman was terrific. She got a boyfriend, a baby on the way, and most probably an Oscar out of the deal. And, yes, she almost looked like a dancer.
DH: Sugarplum gate?
DH: Do we have to go there?
DH: Yes, we do. All dance people are required to chime in on the “too many sugar plums” fiasco. It’s a law.
DH: I wonder if Black Swan had not been in the air if there would have been such a fuss. Here’s what’s interesting to me in all of this: regular people now know how screwy ballet can be. Jenifer Ringer is a household name. People who never go to ballet were asking me what I thought about it. Ballet seems nuts to them. It’s as if the bubble burst into middle America’s living rooms. Even Katie Couric had to blab about it. What is also curious to me is how our brains are hard wired to prefer certain bodily proportions. I found myself attending to my own attention during a recent performance, which included larger than usual bodies. Dancing, more than the body doing it, is always more engaging to me.
DH: Do you think the ballet buzz will generate bodies in seats?
DH: I hope so, but its hard to predict. If you read Jenifer Homans’ book, she dissects the dance boom, and it’s not so simple, as it was tied to a confluence of events, both artistic and political.
DH: What did you think of Homans’ book Apollo’s Angels?
DH: I could not put it down. Darren Aronofsky should have read it before he made Black Swan. The history of ballet is like a Matt Damon spy movie, just terrifically exciting. The last chapter declaring ballet dead hit me hard. History tells us if you want to wake something up, call it dead. If ballet is dead, then I love a dead thing. Besides, vampires and zombies are all the rage. I am less enthusiastic about that last chapter, but the rest is just a thrill fest. Ballet in light of the politics of the day makes great reading. I want Ken Burns to make a 10-part PBS series based on it. Oh, and a coloring book.
DH: What about the politics of this day?
DH: If it weren’t really happening it would make a good book. It’s maddening mostly, impossible, depressing as ever.
DH: He had a strong close of 2010, thank god, because it was rough going before that. His speech on the tragedy in Tuscon will go down in history. Otherwise, Wall Street likes him. I am reminded of Jim Hightower’s book, There’s nothing in the middle of the road except dead armadillos. It’s a difficult situation.
DH: What were the most difficult stories you worked on in 2010?
DH: A Dance Teacher story on the top ten dance injuries. No one could agree on a top ten. A Dance Spirit story trying to define contemporary dance. The term really sets people off, mostly due to how So You Think You Can Dance uses it.
DH: Dance on TV?
DH: It’s here to stay. Let’s hope it gets better. I covered my own addiction to it.
DH: Most fun story?
DH: It’s a story about ballet dancers married to normal guys in Pointe. There was lots of laughing on the phone. Writing the piece was better than therapy, very fun and hopeful. It’s a sweet piece, much like the one I did on the Secret Lives of Dancers.
DH: Most poetic?
DH: A Culturemap essay on what is seen and what is hidden.
DH: My Dance Spirit Cover story on Lauren Froderman, a bubbly dancer.
DH: My deep cover investigation of young professional arts groups.
DH: Most rant-ish?
DH: It’s a tie between my Art has Value story, which I yelled more than wrote, and my Dance Civics 101: Being a good dance citizen story in From the Green Room, Dance USA’s e-journal.
DH: The Hurt Factor, about chronic pain, in Dance Magazine.
DH: A story about Houston Ballet, Society for the Performing Arts and Houston Grand Opera’s outreach programs.
DH: My reception diet story.
DH: Most in over your head?
DH: A story on Wordcamp, which is what led me to break up with blogger, a profile on Salman Rushdie, a story on Fashion and dance and my adventures in film at the Cinema Arts Festival. Sadly, for me readers, I like being in over my head.
DH: My story on Justice John Paul Stevens read like a book report.
DH: Story with the strangest start?
DH: A dance studio window with a sign reading “Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Drill Team, Kathak” led to The Global Dance Studio in Dance Teacher.
DH: Dreaded year end lists and wrap ups.
DH: My year at Culturemap, A Year in Culture (dance), A Year in Culture, (theater).
DH: Words that need to die?
DH: “Hot” and “edgy” are zombie words. They will not go away until they have completed their mission in this world. “Curate” is on overuse probation and “buzzy” needs to meet me behind the barn.
DH: What most infuriates your editors?
DH: Making no sense gets them. My unwillingness to ask artists about what they do besides make art. I rarely have any interest in what they do outside of making art. Often, they have no interest in what they do outside of making art, so they make things up. I am more of an art person than a people person. It’s just me, others do this really well.
DH: Best dance moment of 2010?
DH: Chatting with Marge Champion, the Hollywood legend and model for Disney’s Snow White at Jacob’s Pillow.
Watch the magic below.
DH: How best to contact you?
firstname.lastname@example.org, @dancehunter, 832-326-5234, at Caroline Collective on some days, where I co-work and when inspired, dust.
DH: Ideal job?
DH: Clicking “like” for a living. Being a designated art witness.