Please join me in welcoming Emmaly as she introduces herself and her fabulous blog to Bodies Never Lie. Thanks Emmaly. -Jess
Dancing and Writing: Two Halves, One Whole
By Emmaly Wiederholt; Photos by Gregory Bartning
Dancing and writing: I joke these are the only two things I can do. But it’s ironic, because dancing and writing don’t really feel like two different “things.” Rather, they have become two sides of one coin. On the one hand, I physicalize emotions and shapes through classes, rehearsals, occasional performances and my own living room practice. On the other hand, it’s become clear that to simply dance is not enough for me. I have to be in dialogue with it. Literally. I have to be thinking about it and talking about it and, as a matter of course, writing about it.
Interviewing Jamey Hampton, director of BodyVox
Like many of us in the dance world, I started dancing when I was young. I took ballet classes all growing up, and went on to receive my BFA in ballet. After college, I moved to the Bay Area to train at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance under Summer Lee Rhatigan. Before long, I was dancing for local choreographers and small companies, taking open classes and workshops in abundance, and seeing every show I could usher for and thus get in to for free. It was a wonderful time of growth.
But a little thing was nagging me, and that was whenever I happened to read anything about dance, it felt a poor reflection of the rich world I was exploring. In fact, it seemed most dance critics weren’t dancers; they just weighed in. Other pieces seemed driven by popularity and centered on the “it” dancer or company, or were so academically entrenched as to be, dare I say, boring.
I don’t believe in just bitching about something, so one summer in 2009 at a Butoh workshop in the woods of northern California, I decided I was going to start writing about dance. I began with this dinky blog called danceinthebayarea.blogspot.com and proceeded to put together a rambling raucous essay every month or two on whatever seemed to be wreaking havoc in my dance-thinking at the moment. I also started contributing to In Dance and the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
In 2012, I took a blogging workshop, and from there decided to launch Stance on Dance (stanceondance.com). This little mustard seed has grown into an enormous monster. Today, Stance on Dance enjoys original content every Monday and Thursday. There are no reviews or previews. There are no ads. There is no promotional content. There is nothing I wouldn’t myself want to read.
Rather, there are funny cartoons, deeply emotional pieces about “making it,” reflections from older dancers, young dancers trying to figure out how to make a life in dance, dancers practicing dance in unusual places, and generally big questions about what it means to pursue this crazy art form. Over one hundred contributors have shared their stances on dance. Through the many interviews I have done over the past three years, I have come to believe quite deeply that dance has nothing to do with company contracts or pas de bourees. Rather, dance is inherent to being a human; since we all have bodies, the articulation of that body feels paramount to being alive. And to write about it in this incredibly large context feels just as poignant as nailing a turn, enjoying an intimate contact improv duet, or witnessing a powwow. That’s my stance on dance: dance is big, and the ways to practice it are infinite.
Interviewing flamenco dancer Carla Luna
Nowadays, I work full time as an editor for a magazine, but I still keep Stance on Dance thriving, and more importantly, I dance almost every day. I take flamenco classes, I teach and take ballet, I am involved in the African dance community, I joined a local contact improv jam, and I’ve been combining my poetry with dance in performance. Add to the list of ways I practice dance: I write about it. I solicit interviews, essays, cartoons, photos or any other content that might underscore a deeper, more embodied way of thinking about dance. In the process, I have given myself an enormous education. I have gotten to interview people from all over the world who I might never have known if not for my belief that writing about dance IS dancing, inasmuch as it is practicing movement.
So you see, two sides of the same coin. I told someone once: I dance, and then I write about it. And after writing about it, I dance some more. Never did two halves make more whole.
Interviewing Frank Shawl of Shawl-Anderson Dance Center
Emmaly Wiederholt received her MA in Arts Journalism from the University of Southern California and her BFA in Ballet and BS in Political Science from the University of Utah. She further trained at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance and has performed extensively around the Bay Area. She is a founding member of Malinda LaVelle’s dance theater company, Project Thrust. She founded Stance on Dance (stanceondance.com) in 2012 in order to further dialogue around dance, and has also contributed regularly to the San Francisco Bay Guardian, In Dance, Caring Magazine and Cue Newspaper at the South Africa National Arts Festival. She currently works as the Santa Fe editor for Fine Lifestyles Magazine, and dances every second she’s not writing.