Today I’m excited to introduce Tonya Plank, author of one of the early dance blogs on the web (Swan Lake Samba Girl). I can remember reading it years ago, and it’s every bit as good today as it was then. Say hello to one of the early adopters, and see where her journey has taken her…
1. Can you tell readers a bit about your background in dance?
As a child, I took ballet, tap dance, jazz, and acrobatics, concentrating the longest on ballet. But I gave that up once I went to college. I was just too busy. As an adult, I took up ballroom dancing – mainly to alleviate stress from my day job, as a lawyer. I ended up loving it so much, I started competing at the amateur level. That rekindled my childhood passion for ballet, and I started going to a lot of ballet performances in New York, where I lived for many years, before moving to L.A.
2. When did you begin your blog-and why did you start it?
I started my dance blog in mid-2006. I was competing in ballroom dance competitions and I’d just gone to Blackpool – the mother of all ballroom dancing comps. I started my blog to document my journey as a dancer – really, to capture the trials and tribulations of learning to dance and compete in dance as an adult. Later, I got very busy and ballroom dancing became expensive and I stopped competing so much. But then I started going to the ballet, and to other kinds of concert dance performances in NYC and my blog kind of grew into a blog about watching dance. Soon, I had a loyal following of other dance-goers, other ballet lovers.
3. What does your blog cover?
My blog now covers mainly ballet and modern dance performances.
I’ve moved to Los Angeles, so I write mainly about what’s going on in dance in Southern California. I also try to write about the TV dance shows as often as I can. I especially like to cover the new ones – like “Breaking Pointe” on CW, and now “A Chance to Dance,” which will premiere on Ovation TV in August. I also try to keep up with the ballroom dancing competitions as much as I can.
4. What has been the best part about participating in the dance community online?
The best part of being involved in the dance community is all of the friends and connections that I’ve made. I was recently invited to speak at a Dance Critics Association conference about writing about dance on TV, and it was such an honor. I met the creators of “Breaking Pointe,” the editors-in-chief of the main dance magazines, and a a dancer from “So You Think You Can Dance” who is now a member of Garth Fagan Dance Company. I’ve also spoken about blogging about dance, on a panel organized by the TenduTV founder, Marc Kirshner. It’s just really interesting to talk with people in the know about how dance criticism has changed and about how dance on TV has evolved, and what’s new and exciting in choreography, etc. And it’s just so wonderful in general to have people commenting on my blog, especially after a major performance – like the premiere of the new Ratmansky FIREBIRD for ABT which took place in Orange County, CA in March. It’s so interesting to get different perspectives on the same performance, to find out what other people thought, and sometimes to debate things.
5. What other dance blogs do you read?
I read “Oberon’s Grove,” “Off Center,” “ArtsMeme,” Wendy Perron’s Dance Magazine blog, Apollinaire Scherr’s “Foot in Mouth” blog on Arts Journal, Tobi Tobias’s blog “Seeing Things” also on Arts Journal, “Haglund’s Heel,” James Wolcott’s Vanity Fair blog (which is often about dance, especially during ABT and NYCB seasons, since his wife, Laura Jacobs, is a dance critic), and I also read the blog “OperaChic.” I really like that last one even though it’s focused on opera because the writer is based in Milan, and La Scala ballet often alternates with the opera there. So she writes a lot about the ballet, and in particular about Roberto Bolle, who’s one of my favorite dancers.
BIO: Tonya Plank worked as a criminal appeals attorney in New York for many years before moving to Los Angeles to focus on writing. Her first novel, Swallow, won several awards including gold medals in the 2010 Independent Publishers Book Awards and the Living Now Book Awards, and was a finalist for the ForeWord Book of the Year Award. A former ballroom dancer, she writes the dance blog, Swan Lake Samba Girl, which has been cited in Vanity Fair online, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times Arts Beat blog, and CNN.com. She is currently working on her second novel.