I have spent a lot of time in the last few weeks exploring other dance blogs. My goal with atimetodance has been to stay focused on dance, its relationship to my life, and things closely related to dance, such as the music, the social and the cultural contexts it exists in. This was to fill a rather self-indulgent need to get some of the thoughts in my brain down on “paper” and to exchange ideas with others who know me or have the same interests. All this to say that I had not been an active reader of the dance blogosphere prior to starting my own blog, and this has made me think about stuff that was pretty peripheral to me just a few weeks ago—Am I writing about stuff someone’s already writing about? Does anyone really care what I think? How do people actually find their way to my blog and what inspires them to read my entries or make a comment?
Anyhoo, two totally different and unrelated postings on dance blogs got me into a mini existential crisis less then a month into my young blogging career. This is the first one, which I found via Tango In Her Eyes:
The implication of this (just in case you didn’t get it) is that blogs are totally navel-gazing enterprises by which any old yahoo can get their message out to the world, assuming anyone cares to read it.
The second item was a review of other dance blogs on Article 19, a British dance blog which has some pretty good feature and opinion writing. While most blogs mentioned were pretty much written off as advertising vehicles, dance company propaganda, and lacking in depth and information, the reviewer had some good things to say about The Winger (which is new to me and I’m sure it is a great blog, but quite frankly, since I subscribed, all I’ve seen is random photos of mostly non-dance related stuff taken by an enthusiastic new iPhone owner) and Great Dance (which I read a lot of since it’s DC based). This, written about the latter blog, really got to me:
Sometimes the posts can go off on an esoteric tangent, such as “Capturing the Essence of Movement” and “Dance Is No Longer an Ephemeral Art Form”. When I showed these particular posts to some dancers they rolled their eyes and immediately lost interest. That type of writing has a place but for many, within the profession, it takes them back to the days of dance theory and dance history and for many it’s not a place they want to be.
The whole point of blogging is that each person has a unique point of view and they can share it with no editorial filtering. The above comment comes across as stiff and condescending to me, as if every dance blog were supposed to fit some sort of mold. Honestly, the stuff that Doug writes about theory, history, and personal introspection about the process are often the most interesting to me because I am at a similar place in my own dance journey, where I’m still learning a lot and having revelations about things that I’m sure have already occurred to a million dancers before me. The difference is that I don’t have the luxury of being guided through that by a structured dance curriculum or constant study with one company. I came to dance having already completed my academic studies and having already grown into an adult body and it is more of an uphill struggle for me to fit all those things into my life and still have time to learn about theory and history and technique.
So what it comes down to is this: to make a successful, relevant blog do you just post whatever you want to a la robots and werewolves, or do you try to rise to the expectations of some unknown cadre of dance cognoscenti and not bore them with your “elementary” level of knowledge?
Obviously, moderation is the best route and a happy medium must be found. If you ramble on all day about your incoherent train of thought, chances are no body (or very few) is going to care about reading it and you may as well be writing in a paper journal with a lock on it. Then again, it’s your blog and you can write whatever you please. On the other hand, as a survey methodologist, I feel that without some reliable source of data about your potential pool of readers, how can you possibly rise to their expectations? For these purposes I have gone the route of collecting qualitative data by seeing what active dance bloggers and commenters are writing about. This has helped me form an idea of what may or may not be relevant– yet at the same time, I want to be sure to keep my own authentic voice.
To wrap up, I hope that my own perspective from my own little corner of the dance world can resonate with the people that find their way here. It definitely serves a purpose for me (so that I can extol to the world my own version of the werewolves vs. robots debate) in terms of my own self-expression. I know my family and friends enjoy keeping up with me, but I also hope that what I have to say is relevant to some dancers out there who may be at a similar place in their journey.