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New Online Dance Blog/Magazine


Sim
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As a piece of shameless almost-self promotion, I would like to introduce you all to my daughter Julia's new online dance blog and magazine, To The Pointe. 

 

The reason I am putting it in the Doing Dance area is that Julia is passionate about taking dance information to a young audience, those who know about ballet/dance and those who may be new to it.  My perception is that there are a lot of younger dancers who read this thread and might not read the others as much, and it is YOU that I am aiming at in particular, although I do hope that everyone will read it.

 

Please let me have any comments on what you read, and also if there is any aspect of dance or dance background you would like to see covered, please let us know.  Julia has started off just with some reviews of performances she has seen, but will soon start writing articles about the world of dance, and doing interviews as well.

 

I do hope you enjoy this, but please be honest with your praise and/or criticism!  Many thanks.

 

 

http://tothepointemagazine.tumblr.com/

 

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Very good and perspicacious (I think I've spelt that right), Sim - please send her my congratulations.  My only cavils really would be that there are several dancers' surnames misspelt, and perhaps, depending on what her target audience is (newbies or committed balletomanes?) she could be a little less free with the first names until she's made it clear who the dancers are.  For example, there's a reference to Johan and Alina, and a newbie would probably need surnames to put them into context, no matter how famous they are!

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Thank you Janet and Alison for your encouragement.  Alison, the point you make about just using dancers' first names is a very valid one and I will pass it on.  I will also do a spell check for her going forward!!  

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I read through Julia's posts with a critical eye, and found her writing style to be very fluid and expressive.  Most importantly, she conveys her passion and enthusiasm for the subject.  I also sense the presence of a behind-the-scenes editor with a keen eye. However you are doing it, it seems like a very good start to me.  Keep writing, Julia.

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Thank you all so much for the comments above. Stitch....Julia doesn't have an editor although sometimes I am tempted to jump in!! I read through a couple of early pieces but the most recent three have just gone up without me knowing anything about them. Ha ha if I were editing there wouldn't be any spelling mistakes!!

 

Again, thank you all for taking the time to read Julia's writings, it will be much appreciated by her as it is by me.

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I did enjoy the writing and offer my congratulations.

 

The only suggestion I would make is - since this is meant to be read online - that there be more paragraphing.  That makes it easier to read and more welcoming to the eye.

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Very interesting blog - partway between personal observation and formal review. Her enthusiasm is coming across in spades!

 

The editor in me was wanting to do some minor pruning and cleanup, but the writing is a lot better than most of what's on offer online.

 

I was wondering, since she seems to be something of an insider with some of these companies (having her hair brushed by Tamara Rojo, for example!), whether it might be possible for her to get permission to use a photo or two with her blogs.

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Whenever I look at an unknown site I look at the About Me section to see who is responsible for the site and the writing. If you want to be seen as standing behind your words (which you do!) then you really need to use your real name, say what you are about and also give a reliable way that people can contact you. At the moment I cant find any of this on To The Pointe.

Pictures add much but don't be tempted to just rip them off or cross post images hosted on another site - get proper ones that you can use without looking over your shoulder and also caption them properly.

If you do all this then you are presenting a professional image to the world and your pages will all be taken more seriously. Still doesn't mean that your words will be universally liked of course! But you will be differentiated from the detritus and sloppiness of so many other blogs.

Final thing: the name is cute but clearly linked to ballet. Most who start writing about ballet, and see it grow, eventually realise they need to take dance seriously as well. Having myself got trapped for many years under a 'ballet' tag my one big bit of advice to all starting out is to choose a title that does not limit you be colouring readers perceptions of what is covered on the site.

Also worth noting that www.tothepointe.com exists so there is room for confusion. Best to pick a name nobody else is using as a .com and register it (easy) - even if you decide to still operate on Tumblr in the first instance.

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I hope your daughter sees a lot of ballets this season and finds time to write about them - really enjoyed reading her reviews. The writing style is very accessible and I suspect she could end up with quite a few readers outside of her target audience

 

There are a couple of other blogs called "To the Pointe" as well as the site Bruce mentioned

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I just wanted to briefly add some other thoughts.

The USP of the site is that it's targeted at a young audience. What age range would that be? The very young won't want many words and lots of pictures or cartoons. The older ones still like things very short and punchy I think. The very long and dense paragraphs I currently see wouldn't work for a young audience I think.

The writing itself probably needs to use language that speaks to the young. I've just had reason to look at the readability of dance writing and I used this readability checker:
http://www.thewriter.com/what-we-think/readability-checker/

Turns out that most dance writers - talking about newspaper ones we all love(!) etc score between 35 and 60 where the higher the number the more readable the text. But a score of 60 is BBC News level (50 is FT, 40 Shakespeare and 30 Harvard Law School!) and that's probably rather above where a young audience is. The readability site quotes comic books and Harry Potter as being in the 80-90 range.  It would probably be worth running text from an existing and successful site targeted at the 'young audience' through the readability checker and see what score they get - that would logically be where the writing of your site should be pitched.

Good to have a unique approach for a site (nice one) and I think a lot of companies would be interested in communicating and reaching out to younger audiences.

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I very much like the pieces Julia has written on her blog. I find them accessible, chatty even, and shall continue to read them with interest and pleasure. But I am, alas, not in the target audience. So I agree with those above who suggest a more 'broken up' form of presentation would be more attractive to younger readers.

 

And maybe best not to describe the glorious 24 year old Muntagirov as a 'boy'?

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Again, thank you all so much for your constructive help, suggestions and praise. I will pass all of this on and have a chat with Julia to see how she can incorporate the above suggestions into her blog going forward. She has some decisions to make it would seem regarding name, target audience and presentation.

 

Thanks again everyone, and if, like Bruce, you think of anything else, please do let me know!

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A readability checker!  Who else knew such a device existed?  I can see hours of fun ahead - thus far, I'm placed consistently between the FT and Shakespeare.  (Whereas the preceding text - less dense than the extracts tested thus far - is rated with President Obama!)

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Very interesting points here. Some of you seem to have a background in journalism or publishing. Like Ian, I'd never heard of a readability checker. Is it true that the young don't want to read too many words? Has Julia fixed on a target age range (eg 16-24 or 16-35)? Would one write differently for, say, a 21 year old as opposed to a 31 year old?

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Good questions Aileen. She tried Bruce's link with her writing and got 'BBC News' so is quite pleased with that. She says she is aiming more for 20s and 30s, but would also hope to engage 'late' teenagers. She is 23 and says that she and her friends are all happy to read long pieces of writing and literature, but then she did do English at uni. Whereas she does want younger people to read her blog, and hopefully pique their interest in ballet/dance, she wants to appeal to 'older' people as well so as not to exclude a whole swathe of ballet lovers, so she will have to find a happy medium I guess. I think that she will write the way she writes, but have a think about presentation and content.

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I've taken the liberty of pasting in some guidelines I wrote for myself many years ago.  I also used them when the Dance Critics Association gave me the opportunity to mentor some young dance critics. I hope you find it useful.  I am sure others will add many more.

 

 

GUIDELINES

 

 

Do I really have something to say?

 

Have I come to the table with a clean plate or do I have a prior bias? 

 

Does it have a beginning, a middle and an end?

 

Have I set the stage: time, date, place, event?

 

Am I taking the reader along with me?

 

Am I fulfilling implied promises to the reader?  (If I suggested this was going to be an unusual event – is it really?)

 

If I say a dancer or a ballet is different/special - how? why?

 

Am I placing the correct amount of emphasis on each part of the review/story according to its importance to the piece as a whole?

 

Read it out loud and listen to it with open ears.  Is it smooth? Jerky? Does the cadence change?

 

Obscurity is not a sign of sophistication.

 

The writing should be pleasing to the eye as well as the ear - paragraphing is inviting to the eye and gives a moment for the material presented to be "digested." 

 

Check for long run-on sentences which convey too much information at one time.

 

Check for too many short sentences which chop up the thought picture.    

 

Check for repeated words and phrases – and unnecessary phrases or words – such as "like," "very,”  “there.”  Try eliminating a word or phrase and see if it makes an appreciable difference.

 

Maintain the same voice throughout – passive/active as well as the cadence: informative, conversational, jovial, poetic, or casual.  Each piece should have its own cadence, music, voice, sonority.

 

Am I in control of my material?

 

When it is all over will the reader understand what I have said and enjoyed my saying it?

 

Am I writing for the reader or for myself?

 

Have I fallen in love with a phrase I wrote but upon further editing it needs to go? 

 

Get all the basics right: check and recheck all spellings of names and accuracy of dates.  If this is inaccurate the reader will not trust the rest of what I have to say.

 

Do the paragraphs follow in some logical order - a timeline and/or a process of thought?

 

Try flipping paragraphs.

 

When I offer an opinion, have I explained the "why" of it - and can I back it up?

 

Constantly keep in mind - my opinion is subjective, a review is a snapshot in time - one view of a dancer or a ballet is not the entire picture.

 

If at all possible lay the piece aside for a couple of days - and then reread with open ears.

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The USP of the site is that it's targeted at a young audience. What age range would that be? The very young won't want many words and lots of pictures or cartoons. The older ones still like things very short and punchy I think. The very long and dense paragraphs I currently see wouldn't work for a young audience I think.

This made me think of the old "LiveJournal cut", a feature on LJ which allowed you effectively to "cut out" a piece of your text and, I think, hide it behind a link which you had to click on if you wanted to read more. Presumably blogging software has something similar? 

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How brilliant! It's a great idea she's got there.

 

I would just reiterate what others have said... perhaps make it a bit more simplified and maybe add pictures? As a ballet novice myself - but someone who would like to get some understanding - the  blog is a bit alienating. I'm always looking to learn ballet terms etc, but often find ballet terms come partnered with descriptions rather than pictures, when I would like to see a picture/short video to get a clear understanding. If she's aiming for youngsters or beginners, that's my advice. But if she's aiming for people more clued up, she's doing a great job!

 

EDIT: Perhaps once the blog is more developed she could have a section for those ballet lovers and a section for the beginners?

Edited by hellogoodbye
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Thank you 'Hellogoodbye' for your insightful comments, especially from the perspective of a 'ballet newbie'.  It's really good to have your input and I will pass it on to Julia.  If you would like to keep following her blog, please friend her on Facebook if you are on there.  Her page is 'To The Pointe Magazine/Julia Dixon'.  And please keep the suggestions and comments coming as you read her pieces.  Besides us oldies, she really wants to engage with people like you.  

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An interesting exercise in writing about dance - including but not limited to reviews - is to write the same piece but for different readers.

 

Write it for those who know very little about dance.

 

Write it again for those who are somewhat familiar.

 

Write another version for the truly knowledgeable.

 

And write yet another for a mixed readership.

 

Then decide which group you want to engage.  If your answer is "all of the above" - you will have to offer something for each group.  If you are reviewing or discussing "Nutcracker," the truly knowledgeable probably won't want - or need - a recitation of the Nutcracker story, whilst those who have little familiarity with ballet would need such a recitation.  

 

For instance for those who are knowledgeable you might say:  "Dancer Joe Jones gave Uncle Drosselmeyer a new character twist....."   But for those unfamiliar with Nutcracker, you will first have to describe who Uncle Drosselmeyer is.

 

I am not suggesting this as part of your blog  - but as a private exercise for yourself.

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What about having a section on ballet 'steps' with photographs and video clips? When a particular step is referred to in the reviews there could be a link to this section for an explanation of what it is.

In which case, she could just link to the ABT dictionary, presumably?

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Hi there everyone!! Julia here!! Thank you so so much for all of your feedback. It has been beyond helpful having everyone pitch in to give me their ideas for my blog. I have tried to take everything on board and although there is still a lot to work on, I have changed a few things to make it look a bit more professional so please click the link below for the latest update. Although I'm 23 and I want to try to engage a younger audience (i.e 20s-30s) I also don't want to disregard anyone else outside of this age group! My aim is to get people who wouldn't necessarily go to the ballet reading my blog, but to also have those of you who go all the time and understand it to read what I have to say. I want to keep everything young and fresh but also professional and informative and all of your words of encouragement have made me feel that I'm hopefully on the right track!! 

 

Please keep posting your thoughts and feedback! 

 

http://tothepointemagazine.wix.com/tothepointemagazine

Edited by ToThePointe
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