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Writing About Dance

by Nataša Kočar

What is the first thing that crosses your mind when you hear about the connection between

writing and dance? Description of dance movements and dance steps maybe? Or writing about dance history, describing the work of famous dancers, or writing a review about a certain dance show?  All this and more is where these two words, writing, and dance, connect.

MY DANCE WRITINGS

For me, everything starts as an idea written on a piece of paper. Later, after I gathered some of the ideas, I sit down behind my laptop, where I open a new file and start filling it with words and sentences.

I personally write about dance in four different ways, and each of them requires a different approach to the topic and, above all, a very different style of writing: I write about:

- dance movements, steps, and dance didactics;

- other aspects of dance such as historical, health-related themes, etc ;

- dance trips and related research;

- interviews with dancers;

WRITING ABOUT DANCE MOVEMENTS AND DANCE DIDACTICS

When I wrote my book 1001 Oriental Dance Moves, I was writing about dance movements, steps, and dance didactics. Before I started writing, I made a kind of an outline, a table of chapters and sub- chapters, which served as a compass for my writing. Then I tackled the individual chapters and started with the first words.

Dance didactics is a topic I enjoy writing a lot because I can draw from my practical experiences of a dance-teaching career. The most challenging part was describing a movement, and translating dance moves into words in a way that is understandable and vivid. So, what I did was, I imagined I am standing in the studio, talking to my students, leading them through the movement. This was my main technique for the description of dance moves. It required a lot of concentration and many re- readings of the same text in order to make it understandable. I also shared my text with some of my


fellow dancers and to some non-dancing friends, so that I could check objectivity and

comprehensibility.

WRITING ABOUT THE PAST AND THE BENEFITS OF DANCE

Writing about the history of Raqs Shaqi in Slovenia was a completely different story. At the initiative of the editor of the English magazine for oriental dance MOSAIC, Liz Newman, I undertook extensive research on how Raqs Sharqi developed in our small country. First, I prepared a strategy and focused on talking to colleagues who have been dancing for a long time. These helped me compile a list of dancers and other important people who were the most influential Raqs Sharqi »personas« in Slovenia. This was followed by two months of intensive preparation for interviews (reading other articles, checking websites, etc.) and interviews. Based on the interviews, I created a picture and slowly began to put all the puzzles together, forming a wider picture. I used the storytelling technique of writing and I spiced it up with some quotes from these interviews. The most difficult thing was to decide how much space to devote to a certain dancer or event, so I decided to present the history as a varied puzzle of events: beginnings, festivals, the most successful dancers, the

Slovenian Arab club, etc. In this way, I avoided favoritism. It is difficult to write about all the dancers who danced at one point in time, as each one left a mark in their own way, but it was necessary to focus only on a few of the most impressive facts. The last part of such a large-scale work, writing, where people's stories are included, is, of course, authorizing the text, so that people who were included in the story can add and/ or make final corrections to the final text.

When I write about the historical facts and benefits of dance for the body and soul, I rely heavily on previously written content and combine it with my own experiences. Here, of course, I make sure to always mention the authors of the articles on which I relied or I quote them accordingly and correctly.

WRITING ABOUT DANCE TRAVEL AND RELATED RESEARCH

One of my favorite hobbies is traveling. Ever since I have been dancing Raqs Sharqi (for the last 20 years), I am totally fascinated by the MENATH countries. Whenever I go on a dance journey, I discover something new and I always get inspiration for new dance creations. When I return from my travels, I write down my impressions and publish them on my website and for the last year and a half also on the Slovenian dance portal called »Parada plesa« (the Dance Parade). Writing about a dance trip is a unique challenge, as it is necessary to combine a range of emotional experiences, new knowledge, and facts, which can sometimes be different from the current, experienced situation. So before I travel, I always take the time to read about the destination and the culture, dance genre, and music that I will experience. When traveling, I surrender myself to the experience completely, but  I also take some time to check if the information I read about a certain topic goes together with what I see and what I experience. When I return home, I once again review the set of all the material:

facts, experiences, and impressions, and then I slowly write them down. I choose the timeline of the trip as the frame of the article, if I write about the whole journey, but if I write only about a certain thing on the way, about music and dance in a certain part, then I focus only on that thing. Sometimes I start with an experience, other times with a theoretical introduction.

 INTERVIEWS WITH DANCERS

One of my favorite things is making interviews with my fellow dancers. I like to listen to different stories of dancers and relive their dance journey with them.

In the last year and a half, since I have been working regularly for the Slovenian online dance portal »Parada Plesa«, I have mastered writing interviews. Writing interviews is very interesting, but also a bit stressful, because I'm actually writing down the spoken words of the dancers, and that's a big responsibility. My interviews take place in the form of a conversation, which I record. Then I listen to the recording and try to write down what I heard in the same or at least a similar form as it was told.

The conversation takes place in colloquial language, sometimes in a dialect, but it is necessary to write it down in literary language. It's a challenge.


Writing about dance makes me happy and fills my soul in many ways: I deepen my knowledge, consolidate it, and expand my horizons and the horizons of those who read.


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