by Jessica Wilson
Being invited back to university to co-present a lecture on Dance Writing was an honour indeed, particularly because I am hugely passionate about writing, and the institution itself. Whilst preparing my material, such as my journey into and through dance writing, writing whilst at university and then in addition to my role at the Royal Academy of Dance, some points struck me as particularly useful for the undergraduate, which I had not consciously registered, previously.
It became clear, as I considered what would be useful for the third year students at Middlesex University to hear, that it was important to sell your skills as best you can when pitching for dance writing. Opportunities do not always knock, so I advocated the importance of both seeking out and creating your own opportunities rather than waiting for them to emerge. In this sense I felt it was important to offer your writing skills at every possible moment by getting involved with work experience or new dance projects, enabling the art of networking to evolve and increase. However, I also considered that it was not wise to rely on networking for opportunities, or even work: confidence to push yourself and your skills forward is key to writing success.
Something which comes with experience was the act of adapting to many different people and their requirements, being flexible and reliable as a writer to deliver work on time. Different editors of different publications and websites require different lengths of copy, for different target audiences, on different topics and issues, and so on. I felt it was important to relay to the students that in those early writing days, it is paramount that you do not become lazy as a writer and assume that one method works for all. This is, I believe, parallel to the fact that the same covering letter cannot be used for all job applications for example, which is, essentially, what pitching is.
I feel the most important part of dance writing is keeping up-to-date and informed about the dance sector and its ‘goings-on’, in order to retain the passion for dance as a whole, be your interest in technique, performance, academia, and more! To be able to provide context for your work and where it sits in the dance sector demonstrates interest, insight and a reasoned approach, being able to appreciate and respond to the many strands which make up the sector, with the knowledge to do so effectively and accurately. This will mean that you are constantly learning and informing your opinions, especially if you are able to regularly see new dance work, experiencing the sector first hand and ultimately expanding your knowledge.