SYTYC Write Scientifically About Dance?

While I was a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Illinois I forced (appropriately chosen term) my aerobic conditioning students to write a two-page summary on the benefits of aerobic exercise.  Through this experiment I came to the conclusion that writing is a dying artform.  Basic sentence structure, grammar, spelling, have all fallen victim to autocorrect on the computer, and autocorrect is rarely correct.

Although dance is my primary artistic medium, at this point in my career it feels like I’m doing more writing than dancing.  I spend a great deal of effort writing about how science and dance can benefit from one another.  Furthermore, I’m discovering that science and dance writers can benefit from one another, too.

Reading science is boring. If you have ever tried to make your way through all the goobly gook in a scientific article, it can be frustrating at best and impossible at worst for the untrained eye to actually decipher any meaning or point.  Even after reading hundreds of articles through school and beyond, I still can’t say with certainty that I will be able to understand every article I read, let alone make it all the way to the end without dozing off….

Reading dance is confusing. Because there are no checks and balances, no formulae, no objectivity to dance, dance writing is riddled with inconsistencies, ambiguity, and what I like to call “metaphoria”.

In my attempt to change dance education through collaboration with evidence-based practices learned in science, perhaps I should start with the folks that report the information first.

  • Can science writers chill out a bit and write a little more eloquantly so that (a) other people can understand them and (b) their articles are actually interesting to read?
  • Can dance writers have their stream of consciousness internally before putting pen to paper (or thumb to space bar) so that they can provide concrete, accurate, and relevant ideas to their readers?

Writing is actually a pretty essential skill for both dancers and scientists 9unless you have enough money or a rich uncle who can pay a grant writer for you….  Walking the line between the two fields has forced me to take a close look at my own writing.  Before I publish anything I ask myself three questions:

  1. Does this make sense? Will my dance readers understand the science and will my science readers understand the dance?
  2. Is what I am saying accurate? Ultimately, no matter how eloquent I sound it doesn’t matter if what I’m saying is not right.
  3. How’s the grammar?Let’s face it. Bad grammar is bad business.

So, what is your experience with writing?

What tips do you have to improve writing skills?


Author: Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance dance critic, contributing to the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Magazine. She is senior editor of See Chicago Dance. Lauren covers dance across the Midwest and writes regularly for Dance Magazine and Pointe with additional bylines in Milwaukee Magazine, St. Louis Magazine and Dance Teacher. Forthcoming publications include essays on ballet training in Chicago (University of Illinois Press) and Shirley Mordine (University of Akron Press). In 2020, Lauren published an opinion piece on the impact of COVID-19 on the arts in the South African journal Agenda. Lauren holds degrees in dance and kinesiology and has presented research on dance training practices at the National Dance Education Organization and the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. She has co-facilitated critical dance writing intensives in Chicago and Durban, South Africa, and participated in writing residencies at the National Center for Choreography, Bates Dance Festival and JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience. Lauren teaches dance history and kinesiology for dancers, with part-time appointments at Loyola University Chicago and Illinois Wesleyan University.