What year did you participate in Resolution and how did you come to be in it?
I first participated in Resolution in 2016, as an emerging dance writer. I was barely ‘emerging’; I would probably describe myself as ‘entombed in the earth’. Earlier that year I’d made friends with a talented dancer and choreographer named James Finnemore, who was performing in Punchdrunk’s immersive play The Drowned Man. I didn’t know anything about contemporary dance, but I was curious about it. I work in book publishing as a commissioning editor, and one of my professional strands is editing literature that has been translated from other languages into English. To me, contemporary dance was a new ‘language’ and I wanted to engage with it at a critical, informed level. Maybe it was overkill, but Resolution’s emerging dance writer programme seemed like a good place to start, so I applied.
If you were not a choreographer presenting, what role did you play at Resolution? How did you come to take part?
I remember that the application process required potential dance writers to submit a review of a contemporary dance piece. I didn’t have the first clue about the scene, but I’d recently seen something of my friend’s, which I had found very moving and strange, so I wrote a review about that. At the time, I was editing a grim true crime book about a cannibalistic Swedish serial killer. It was pretty far from dance writing.
I was amazed when I heard I was one of the successful applicants to the programme. We all met one evening at The Place, along with our new mentors, a group of professional dance writers. We would be covering several evenings of new work as part of the festival, paired with a mentor each time; we would file overnight, and the mentor would read our work the next morning and offer feedback.
Looking back, what do you remember about the experience? What did you take away?
It felt like an unreal privilege. I had the very good fortune to be paired with Graham Watts, Lyndsey Winship and Sanjoy Roy, all of whom are longstanding professional dance writers and kind, thoughtful, enormously intelligent people. I’d never been formally mentored before – even in this lightening quick, overnight way – and their insights into the works we’d seen and the wider dance world made me feel like someone had taken the top of my skull off and dusted the cobwebs off my brain. I’ve followed all of their writing keenly since. Sanjoy particularly remains a professional benchmark I hope to eventually meet, and one of the writers and editors I most admire.
What happened next? Where are you now in your career?
My friend was amused by my sudden enthusiasm for contemporary dance, and suggested that, since I’d had such a good time on Resolution, I might like to apply for the Aerowaves/Spring Forward Festival writers’ programme. I have no idea if he was being sarcastic, but I did, and I was accepted on to the Springback Academy programme for emerging dance writers across Europe (and was overjoyed to be mentored by Sanjoy again).
In Leaving the Atocha Station, Ben Lerner talks about the sensation of having a ‘profound experience with art’, which is often fruitlessly rummaged for and performatively attempted in front of art, but rarely truly experienced. My exposure to contemporary dance felt like I might be on the edge of a ‘profound experience’. I wrote to Rosemary Waugh at Exeunt Magazine (another writer and editor I admire a great deal), who kindly agreed to take me on as a freelance reviewer. Over the past four years, I’ve also written for The Stage, Time Out and the Observer – each time because another, more established critic has kindly put my name forward.
In 2018 I joined the editorial board of the newly founded Springback Magazine, which publishes the best dance writing on the best new contemporary dance across Europe, as well as audio and visual reviews. Sanjoy is the Editor and I’m an Associate Editor of Text. I’ve learned a lot from Springback writers, far more than if I’d just kept quietly banging out reviews by myself. I’ve also returned to Spring Forward Festival every year it has run – even 2020’s online edition – and worked with the legendary Enya Belak on livestreamed events and TV magazine shows for the festival.
What would you wish us, or all the young makers/dancers/writers/designers for the future
Long live Resolution! Not only is it a platform for emerging writers and choreographers to present their work, but it maintains a much-needed space for innovation, conversation and celebration.
To anyone suffering from imposter syndrome – my work isn’t good enough, I don’t know enough, I’ll feel like a fool if I try – I encourage full-heartedly to take the risk. So what if you might feel like a fool? Believe in the fool! Hold your heart out as the fool twenty times and they’ll honour you as Pagliacci.