What It's Really Like to Write About Dance For a Living
Most dance writers have formal training in both dance and journalism, but when Asimina Chremos joined the Time Out Chicago staff almost a year ago in preparation for its March 2005 launch, she arrived via a less typical trajectory: She had an extensive dance background and some professional writing experience, but learned the conventions of the publishing world on the job at TOC.
Chremos studied mainly ballet and danced with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre before earning her BFA in dance from Temple University in Philadelphia. She then worked as an independent modern dancer, choreographer and teacher in Philadelphia and Chicago. Several years ago, she was spurred by her dissatisfaction with the media coverage of dance in the Philadelphia City Paper to write a letter to the editor. That letter eventually led to her first assignments: two reviews, one on Pennsylvania Ballet and the other on Philadanco. When she moved to Chicago shortly after, she began writing online flash reviews for The Dance Insider.
On the Job: Chremos writes previews of dance events that give readers a peek into the choreographer’s creative process and what they can expect to see onstage.
Research: To keep up with the Chicago dance scene, Chremos collects press releases, searches the web and scours bulletin boards and flyer tables at local studios and theaters.
Printing Process: Early in TOC’s weekly production cycle, Chremos writes descriptions of the coming week’s performances for the dance event listings section, and decides which deserves a special focus as the topic of a weekly feature story. She then researches the topic (usually by interviewing a choreographer or observing a rehearsal), writes the story and requests relevant photos. Her section is then edited by other staff members and sent to a designer to be typeset and laid out with photos.
Coworkers: Editor-in-chief, managing editor, senior editor, copy editor and designer. Chremos also constantly interacts with company and studio publicists, and interviews artistic directors, choreographers and dancers.
Tools of the Trade: Computer, calendar, phone, filing system, thesaurus, style guide and colored pens for correcting galleys (color copies of an article as it will appear in the magazine).
Hours: Writing and editing positions, depending on the publication, can vary from freelance to fulltime. Chremos works three days a week, though the workday often exceeds 9 to 5—for example, Chremos usually sees a rehearsal or dance performance at least once a week, in the evening or over the weekend.
Skills Needed: Ability to write, creativity, organization, attention to detail, critical thinking, knowledge of dance funding structures and choreographic methods, ability to meet tight deadlines, a mental bank of dance history.
Challenges: Writing for readers who know little about dance without boring Chicago’s dance connoisseurs. “I’m writing for a general audience, an audience I have to assume does not know anything about dance at all.” Chremos also points out that unless you work for an all-dance publication, you may be the only dance writer on staff at a magazine or newspaper, so you must be prepared to explain yourself often, as well as vouch for the importance of your field.