WRITING 305S/Dance 302S: Writing About Performance

Reader requirements: Ideally, readers would be people who write or edit performance reviews, or are otherwise familiar with the genre. 

Course Information

This course is an inquiry into the concept of “performance” broadly construed–not only as it refers to “staged” concerts or plays, but also as social ritual and as self-presentation, appropriately situated in cultural context. Writing experiments with capturing the ephemeral nature of live performance, with attention to how meaning is enacted through movement, sound, lighting, rhythm, voice, emotion, and audience interaction. Regular writer’s workshops and field trips to theater, dance, and musical performances are part of the course.

Student Writing:

What are students writing? The first major project is a performance review. The second is a research paper on a performance genre or specific performance. This would be a more deeply researched performance review for the general public, New Yorker-style.  Readers will give feedback on the first review, and depending on the relationship they develop with student, they may agree to read the second review as well.

For whom? The imagined audience is the general public reading the local newspaper’s “Arts & Performance” section for the first review, and a more academic audience for the second.

Where would such writing typically be found? Magazines like The New Yorker, local papers, and specialized blogs (for the first review) and academic journals on dance, music and theater (for the second review).

Why would someone usually read it? To learn about a performance they did not have a chance to attend, or because they want to make informed decisions whether to attend a performance event or not, or just to learn how someone else experienced a performance the reader has attended.

Schedule (Student – Reader Interactions):

Here are the deadlines for this course as they pertain to the Duke Reader Project:

by Jan. 30: Student should schedule an introductory meeting with their reader. This can be a brief get-to-know-you discussion.

by Feb. 20: Student will submit the 2nd draft of their 1st review to their reader by this date.

by March 30: Reader returns feedback on 2nd draft of 1st review to student.

If student would like their reader to read their 2nd review, they will let their reader know by this date.



Giving Feedback

Giving feedback is the activity around which the entire project is designed. You may have considerable professional experience giving feedback on writing — whether to colleagues, employees, or other contexts — or perhaps this is an fairly novel experience. Given the aims and nature of the Reader Project, we are hoping that our volunteers engage with student writing in a particular way–one that is quite different from what is conventionally done in other contexts.

The primary aim of the project is to help students really understand what it means to write for readers, rather than as a school assignment. Think about the following when you give feedback, whether in writing or in real time:

  • Respond as a reader rather than as an editor. (They can get basic editorial help from others.) Focus on sharing your reactions to the draft as a user of such writing. What are you thinking as you read? More