The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

Write for Us
Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
@TheChrony
Print Issues
Write for Us
Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
@TheChrony

Playing with verbs

By Cressa Perloff

“Walk” is weak. Try “swagger,” “saunter,” “stroll” or “march.”

Believe it or not, these word choices make a significant difference in the world of journalism.

Deborah Jowitt makes this kind of word choice every day. She has been writing about dance for the New York newspaper The Village Voice since 1967. And with her eclectic dance, choreography and teaching background, she knows what she’s talking about.

The week before Spring Break, Jowitt taught theory and workshop classes to students in the U modern dance department as a guest artist.

Jowitt’s mother, who was a writer and an “extremely good literary critic,” always pushed her to choose her words meticulously. Jowitt said she often had “funny little opportunities to write along the way,” and she helped her husband write his thesis for his master’s degree at Yale University.

Jowitt also trained extensively in dance. In a solo she performed for the U modern dance department during her residency before Spring Break, she said, “I decided to become the body eclectic.”

This could be the reason Jowitt studied Western forms of dance such as modern dance and ballet, as well as diverse cultural forms.

“My eclectic body became a sourcebook,” Jowitt said regarding the choreography of her solo. “I had to learn to see deeply into the works of others.”

This training and experience “gives me a kinesthetic awareness that operates when I’m watching dance,” she said. “To some extent, I feel it in my body.”

Jowitt said she doesn’t think it matters whether or not she has performed the style she’s reviewing. Rather, she feels it is important that she understands that “(the style is) expanding in space or that it’s little and curly” or that the “qualities of slowness and speed and angularity and curves (are included).”

When watching dance, Jowitt said, “My instinct is to stay open and to ask myself, ‘What is it?’ ‘What am I getting?’?not ‘What am I not getting?'”

Jowitt said she likes to experience the new when she’s reviewing a performance.

“(To) judge implies a powerful figure who decides what’s good and what’s bad,” she said.

But, Jowitt said, that doesn’t mean she isn’t evaluating what she sees. She described her writing as “analytic description and some interpretation, as well.”

Jowitt’s artistry shows through in her choice of words. For example, in an article in Monday’s The Village Voice on a dance drama of “Edward Scissorhands,” she described “gleaming bouquets of blades.”

Jowitt divulged that “the thing about English is there are so many wonderful rich verbs you can use.” She said that her experience of words bridges the senses. “You sort of savor them in your mouth or in your eyes — you look at it.”

Living in New York City, her dance vocabulary is inevitably vast. “The pleasure of writing about dance in New York is that there’s so much to see; there’s so much variety,” she said. “It’s a feast — the difficulty is making choices.”

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

The Daily Utah Chronicle welcomes comments from our community. However, the Daily Utah Chronicle reserves the right to accept or deny user comments. A comment may be denied or removed if any of its content meets one or more of the following criteria: obscenity, profanity, racism, sexism, or hateful content; threats or encouragement of violent or illegal behavior; excessively long, off-topic or repetitive content; the use of threatening language or personal attacks against Chronicle members; posts violating copyright or trademark law; and advertisement or promotion of products, services, entities or individuals. Users who habitually post comments that must be removed may be blocked from commenting. In the case of duplicate or near-identical comments by the same user, only the first submission will be accepted. This includes comments posted across multiple articles. You can read more about our comment policy here.
All The Daily Utah Chronicle Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *