Tonight at Place Gallery, a fundraiser (and "dance karaokeparty"!) for FRONT, a soon-to-launch local publication focusing on dance. Here's how the press release describes the project:
Five of us initiated this project: Tahni Holt, Alyssa Reed-Stuewe, Danielle Ross, Noelle Stiles, and Robert Tyree. We are choreographers, dancers and contributors to contemporary dance performance, who are based out of Portland, OR. We are unencumbered by sponsorship or corporate strictures. We rely on the old-school tactics of the newspaper infused with new, current, future energy of dance theory and practices in the field. FRONT acts as a performance in which the form stays the same but the format is ever-shifting to directly meet the needs it instigates. It is an experiment. It is seeping into the consciousness of other fields both near and far to the form.
The idea of practitioners of an art taking responsibility for some part of the conversation around their art has been bouncing around more and more lately—just yesterday, I Twitter-eavesdropped on a conversation between some local arts journos about the Cleveland Orchestra's creation of a "critic-in-residence" position, responsible for helping explain the symphony's work on their website. Paid arts criticism is not long for this world, at least in its traditional form, and I speak from very first-hand experience when I say most newspapers just don't have the resources to cover every arts beat in town as thoroughly as its practitioners and fans believe it should be covered. (Of course, as someone who wades through press releases all day—all of which offer a best-case interpretation of work that may or may not deliver—the cruciality of independent voices is driven home every time I check my email. Which is why it's encouraging to see that two of Portland's sharpest arts writers, former O arts reporter Barry Johnson and former Portland Monthly critic Lisa Radon, are signed on as contributors for the first issue). I had a bunch of questions about FRONT, which I emailed to Tahni Holt—our Q&A is after the jump.
Why print instead of a website or blog? (Do you guys have a website?):
We do not have a website. We are interested in using old school tactics. The newspaper is a dying breed but what it represents is not: the distribution of information to the masses. It might be the last chance we have to work directly with this form. We like the tactile experience of reading a newspaper and how versitile the formatting can be. FRONT acts as a performance in which the form stays the same but the format is ever-shifting to directly meet the needs it instigates.
Can you be more specific as to the content - reviews, previews, an emphasis on local work or national, all of the above...?
We will have an open theme to each issue. Previews/reviews might not be that relevant considering how infrequently we go to print. FRONT acts as a platform for contemporary dance performance in practice and theory, giving voice to many different opinions. FRONT creates space that does not already exist in Portland. We are less interested in Marketing specific material and more interested in creating dialogue within and about the field.
Why is this necessary?
FRONT exists because there is a lack of information out there about contemporary dance. We feel it necessary to be a part of shaping public opinion. Previews and reviews are about as much print as dance gets in this town and much of it, with a few exceptions, is written by people that are more equipped to be writing about visual art or theater. Contemporary dance is in conversation with so many other forms but does not get the same real-estate. We are pro-active, instead of complain we make a newspaper.
Will contributors be paid?
As of now FRONT is a labor of the heart. We would like to pay contributors, we would like to pay ourselves but these are not our top priority. Top priority is to construct a newspaper that has quality content and has something to say that is not already being said in print (in Portland) and gives voice to those that otherwise would not.
Will there be any editorial parameters, specifically in terms of ethical considerations like conflicts of interest?
Content will be decided by the people who are working directly for FRONT. Right now this is: Tahni Holt, Alyssa Reed-Stuewe, Danielle Ross, Noelle Stiles, and Robert Tyree. We collectively help edit. In regards to ethical considerations none of us will be writing reviews on work that we are in, that would defeat the purpose. Again this is not a marketing strategy. We do this because we know these conversations are being had on people's living room, at parties, after performances. We publicize them to validate them.
The fundraiser/happy hour is from 6-10 pm tonight at Place Gallery, on the 3rd floor of Pioneer Place. No cover, donations accepted for food & drink, "dance karaoke party" from 8-10 pm. ("You ask what Dance Karaoke Party? We don’t know yet but it’s going to be AWESOME!")