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Dance Criticism in “Beyond Description” by Jowitt Essay


The article called “Beyond Description: Writing beneath the Surface” presented by Deborah Jowitt raises a complex question concerning the role of descriptive writing in the criticism of that art of dance. According to Jowitt, in order to describe a dance properly the writer is to possess a variety of different skills allowing them to select appropriate metaphors, apply correct judgment, draw clever comparisons, and present dance from the point of view interesting for the readers.

The author of the article points out that the work of a writer describing such abstract action as dance is complicated by the fact that dance is rather difficult to depict on paper. While dance is a combination of athletic excellence, physical skills, movement, music, costume and shapes, it also includes a very strong emotional component, which is very difficult to pick up for a writer. Besides, each dance has its contents, since dance is a kind of storytelling where movement is employed to replace words. This way, the writer describing a certain dance is to transform into words the emotions turned into movement, which may not only be frustrating and confusing for the writer, but also differ from the emotional representation meant by the choreographers.

Another important aspect of the writing describing the art of dance mentioned by Jowitt is its target audience which includes several different groups of readers. The typical readers of descriptive and critical writing about dance are art critics, art appreciators, average spectators, and dance professionals such as choreographers and dancers. While average spectators wish to read vivid descriptions filled with emotional metaphors and comparisons, dance professionals view their art differently. Choreographers, for example, express the desire to read rather distanced reviews of their work, they want dance to be studied and examined similarly to film and art. This means that dance professionals want to be linked to modern trends in art, compared to other artists, and viewed in a more profound way intellectually. This demonstrates that for the professionals dance is not only a beautiful show or a way to express emotions, but a study, a complex of elements, notions and forms that needs to be accurately appreciated and mentioned.

Jowitt mentions different approaches towards the art of dance from the side of critics during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, when the tendency to psychoanalyze art gradually was replaced by the dramatic and emotional descriptions. The author also states that descriptive writing is not supposed to recreate dance on paper, neither should it be a detailed description of every motion of the dancer’s body. In her article Jowitt presents examples of dance descriptions attempted by a number of different critics and expresses her own opinion and perception of what it right and wrong in this complex occupation. The author also explores her own works written decades ago searching for the notions of ideas and description in them. Jowitt characterizes the approaches of each critic she cites and expresses her ideas about them. In a variety of styles of descriptive writing about the art of dance Jowitt searches for the ones that would be the most suitable for the expression of movement, emotional and symbolic contents of the dance, and professional perception and effort.

In the end of the article the author states that observation is the key to success for a writer, because it provides the writers with ideas that fit the ecosystem of art where all the categories and influences are interconnected.

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IvyPanda. (2020, June 20). Dance Criticism in "Beyond Description" by Jowitt. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/dance-criticism-in-beyond-description-by-jowitt/

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"Dance Criticism in "Beyond Description" by Jowitt." IvyPanda, 20 June 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/dance-criticism-in-beyond-description-by-jowitt/.

1. IvyPanda. "Dance Criticism in "Beyond Description" by Jowitt." June 20, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/dance-criticism-in-beyond-description-by-jowitt/.


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IvyPanda. "Dance Criticism in "Beyond Description" by Jowitt." June 20, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/dance-criticism-in-beyond-description-by-jowitt/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Dance Criticism in "Beyond Description" by Jowitt." June 20, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/dance-criticism-in-beyond-description-by-jowitt/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Dance Criticism in "Beyond Description" by Jowitt'. 20 June.

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