Today on 10 Questions With… we welcome dance blogger Ryan Wenzel…
1. How did you become involved with dance?
Completely by accident. I never danced or saw any professional dance when I was growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. A friend of mine in New York has been a fan of New York City Ballet for years and convinced me last year to join him at a weekend matinee. It was an all-Robins program: Dances at a Gathering and West Side Story Suite. I didn’t love it at the time – I was intimidated by it – but I was intrigued, so I bought books about Robbins and George Balanchine and devoured them. By the end of New York City Ballet’s next season, I was hooked, and I started seeing other types of dance as well.
2. What are you currently doing in the field?
I write Bodies Never Lie, a blog mostly about the New York dance performances I see. I also work full-time as the online communications manager for Henry Street Settlement, a nonprofit organization on Manhattan’s Lower East Side that includes the Abrons Arts Center.
3. Would you share your thoughts about where you think dance is headed as an art form?
I have no idea. At this point I’m working overtime just to figure out where dance has been!
4. What gave you the idea for your blog?
When I started writing it last December, the blog served as a journal. I was seeing so many dance performances – sometimes as many as four or five a week – and I wanted to keep a record of what I had seen and what I thought about it. I didn’t mention the blog or show it to anyone for months, but when I did it had a positive reception, so I kept sharing it with others.
5. What is that you enjoy so much about watching dance performances?
I’m still figuring that out. I think I like watching dance because it’s mysterious: I have strong reactions to what I see, and it’s challenging for me to articulate why I react the way I do. That makes it fun, though. I’m also a lover of music, and some of my favorite dances have helped me hear new things in the work of my favorite composers, such as Bach and Stravinsky.
6. When you write about dance, how do you go about capturing what you have seen through the written word?
Writing about dance is hard. I don’t think I do it particularly well, but it’s getting easier. The key for me is not to be intimidated by what I’m seeing – to just take it in and start writing about the overall experience rather than individual steps. A friend gave me a good piece of advice a few months ago: “You can only write from where you are.” I try to keep that in mind, and avoid trying to sound more knowledgeable or experienced than I am.
7. Do you have any favorites in terms of dance companies or current dancers?
New York City Ballet will always be close to my heart because they helped me discover dance. My favorite principal dancers there include Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck, and Robert Fairchild. Alina Cojocaru (of the Royal Ballet) and Natalia Osipova (of the Bolshoi Ballet) blew me away when they danced with American Ballet Theatre last summer, and I seek out performances by Mark Morris Dance Group, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and Paul Taylor Dance Company.
8. What about choreographers? Does anyone stand out?
I admire the work of Mark Morris, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, and Christopher Wheeldon, but my favorite choreographer is probably George Balanchine. The first two Balanchine works I saw (Concerto Barocco and Symphony in Three Movements) sealed my love of ballet. I’m not sure I can go 24 hours now without saying “Balanchine.”
9. What do you like most about being involved with the dance world?
I’m really amazed by how passionate dance fans are. They’re a small but enthusiastic and knowledgeable group. I enjoy seeing many of the same people at performances, and I’ve started to make friends with some of them. I’ve also had fun connecting with other dance fans through Twitter. You meet people across the world whom you never would meet otherwise. I think it gives us all a sense of solidarity, which I need sometimes, since my friends tend to think I’m a bit obsessive.
10. What is next for you?
I just plan to keep seeing dance and writing the blog, and ideally more frequently!
BIO: Ryan Wenzel discovered a passion for dance in early 2010, and since then has seen as many performances in New York as he can afford. He enjoys most forms of dance, but is particularly fond of Balanchine ballets. Ryan grew up mostly in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and graduated in 2007 from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. His first job out of college was as an online editor for Details magazine, where he conducted scintillating interviews with movers and shakers such as RuPaul, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Kevin Bacon. He now works as the online communications manager for Henry Street Settlement, a not-for-profit agency on Lower East Side that includes the Abrons Arts Center.
Ryan lives in the East Village with Oscar, his five-year-old Boston terrier, who also loves watching dance but isn’t allowed inside most theaters.