Writing Performance Assignment #1: Dance Review Essay

Essay #1 – a 4-6 page review essay of a dance performance viewed on video (eg: Martha Graham’s Night Journey)


Using the principle of “description-as-evidence” as elucidated in the Jowitt article, characterize the experience of watching this performance for a reader who has not seen it him/herself.  Try your best to conjure it in his/her “mind’s eye,” and in a manner that provides evidence for your argument concerning the performance’s power and worth.


The intelligent general readers of publications such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine (no geographical bias here!) who are likely to be interested in this choreographer’s work but have not seen the performance in question.

Versions submitted

Two, first draft and final, with in-class peer review after first draft

Learning Goals

  • Development of descriptive writing skills with emphasis on choice nouns and active verbs over copious modifiers
  • Use of description-as-evidence
  • Building an argument up from a personal reaction.

Pre-draft assignments

  • In-class exercise on “Elements of the Academic Essay” (Harvey) as relevant to the performance review form
  • In-class exercise on descriptive writing, in response to a 5 min live guest dance/movement performance
  • In-class exercise on note-taking during performance, in response to a 5 min video clip
  • In-class exercise on using active verbs
  • In-class exercise marking up professional reviews to locate the components of “description/analysis/interpretation/evaluation” (Feldman via Oliver)
  • In-class exercise on moving “Beyond Description” to “description-as-evidence”
  • Blog assignment on descriptive writing, in response to physical action witnessed in everyday life
  • Blog assignment on “my strongest reaction to this piece.”

Source materials

  • Contemporary professional reviews sourced in the recent weeks of New York Times, The Village Voice, The New Yorker and New York Magazine.
  • Graham, Martha.  Night Journey .
  • Harvey, Gordon.  “Elements of the Academic Essay.” Harvard University, date unknown.
  • Jowitt, Deborah.  “Beyond Description:  Writing Beneath the Surface.”  In Moving History/Dancing Cultures:  A Dance History Reader.  Middletown:  Wesleyan U Press, 2001.
  • Oliver, Wendy R.  “Chapter 4:  Dance Critiques” in Writing About Dance. Champaign, IL:  Human Kinetics, 2010.


Posted in Critique a text to support an arguable thesis

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