Dance is always called the ephemeral art, and it’s never more ephemeral than the moment you sit down to write about it. Critics go to the theater armed with all kinds of paper. Some have those long, skinny, nifty reporters notebooks (the beat goes on), while others scratch violently on yellow legal pads (review as deposition). One critic famously deposits her descriptions in little ledgers the size of a slim cigarette case—one puff per page. I use spiral notebooks, smaller than the ones from grade school, larger than my address book. You could say the scribbling inside is a synthesis of classroom and map.

I don’t like to look back at my notebooks. First of all, they’re messy. The little sentences lurch and weave and drop off into nowhere—their own spastic dance. Second, they’re boring; totally prosaic. Here are three lines picked at random: “4 men in dove gray and diamondite tunics” or...


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