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Flash Flashback, 6-11: Secret Origins of The Dance Insider
Five Years of Telling Stories not Told Elsewhere
Editor's note: Five
years ago today, a group of dance professionals and journalists
published the first issue of The Dance Insider, with a mission to
tell stories not told elsewhere, give a voice to dancers, and build
the dance audience. We asked founding editor and current senior
artistic advisor Veronica Dittman for some reflections. -- Paul
By Veronica Dittman
Copyright 2003 Veronica Dittman
The Dance Insider in
its original incarnation was a black and white 8" x 11" book that
came out when we could manage it, pretty much quarterly. It was
a good-looking magazine, full of elegant photos, often by Jamie
Phillips. The content included feature stories, opinion pieces,
and essays by Paul and others, my topic-focused round-table Forum
column, and some performance picks and reviews.
bottom: Rebecca Anderson, Mark Santillano, and Gaspard Louis
of Pilobolus, as photographed by Jamie Phillips for the cover
of the premiere issue of The Dance Insider, published June 11,
There was a lot I loved
about the DI as it was then. It was basically a polished zine, and
its grassroots, DIY sensibility was right up my alley. I loved that
it was distributed by hand and through the US mail. I was also very
cozy with the nature of the subject matter we printed; I like sinking
my teeth into longer "think" pieces. I think Paul and others wrote
some terrific stuff, and I was pretty pleased with a couple of the
things I eked out.
The switch to the DI's
current format -- primarily daily Flash Reviews on the Internet
-- was not one I could get very excited about. I still find the
Internet tedious, but at the time I felt its threat acutely and
was downright hostile. (In the first half of the 20th century, our
culture allowed the automobile to completely take over without even
questioning what the effects might be, and we still are reeling
from its effects on our landscape, environment, and social fabric.
In the same way, our barely considered embrace of the Internet has
the potential, I think, to decimate what remains of our connection
to and experience of the physical world.) This attitude, combined
with my earlier realization that I couldn't work on the DI as extensively
as I had been and still dance and earn a living, prompted me to
take a backseat in its operations.
From my thus-removed
point of view, I'm really proud of what the DI has become. (Can
I be proud if I had little to do with it?) Robin's elegant web site
has provided a venue for what is a widely recognized and vital dance
resource. The fact is that if my preferences had prevailed, I'm
not sure the DI could have survived this long. Publishing each issue
was a tremendous effort for Paul and I suspect he would have burnt
out in five years if he'd tried to keep that up. Of course we'd
hoped to move to the next level of publishing, but I'm not sure
we had access to the business acumen and luck we needed for that.
More importantly, the Dance Insider Online fulfills the magazine's
mission more fully than the print edition ever could. The real story
not being told is that dance is happening every day, in myriad venues
and at various scales, and there is almost no acknowledgement of
this in the media. I love how the DI has recognized, reviewed, and
followed so much small-scale dance that otherwise would have completely
slipped under the radar. And finally, how much more gratifying it
is to tell the story to 40,000 readers every month, a number that
was out of reach for the magazine.
Veronica Dittman is a dancer
who lives in Brooklyn, where she teaches ballet and has produced The
Industrial Valley Celebrity Hour with Faith Pilger. She was a founding
editor of The Dance Insider, and takes great pleasure in watching
it grow and contributing to it now and then.
Editor's post-script: In addition to Veronica Dittman, Paul Ben-Itzak,
and current webmistress and art director Robin Hoffman, the founding
staff of The Dance Insider included Ben Zackheim, Rebecca Stenn,
Valerie Gladstone, Aimee Ts'ao, Edward Ellison, Ora Brafman, Kam
Cheng, Jodi Kaplan, Rita Felciano, Elizabeth Roxas, Dancer Z, and
Sara Hook. Special thanks for making the first issue happen went
out to Jamie Phillips, the Eddy Foundation, Ed Winer, Linda Ramey,
Kim Clark, Tunnel Stationers, K.Y. Chow, and Audrey Ross. The opening
bash was hosted by Valerie Norman. The official launch was hosted
by the American Dance Festival in Durham, North Carolina. The cover
featured Rebecca Anderson, Gaspard Louis, and Mark Santillano of
Pilobolus, in an exclusive Dance Insider photograph by Jamie Phillips.
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