A Dance Writer Moves On
After a decade with the Chron, Jonelle Seitz takes her leave
By Robert Faires,
1:40PM, Wed. Oct. 17, 2018
Oh, friends in Austin's dance community, this is news I'm sorry to deliver. After 10 years of writing about dance for the Austin Chronicle, Jonelle Seitz has decided to stop. The review she wrote of Blue Lapis Light's Belonging, Part One has turned out to be her farewell piece.
The first thing you should know is, it isn't you. As her most recent writing has indicated, Jonelle is still excited by her chosen art form as well as the way it's practiced and explored by artists in Austin. In that sense, she's still very much the writer whose Chronicle career started with a preview of a Tapestry Dance Company show in November 2008. What you'll see in that piece if you read it – and I hope you do, and that you take this as an opportunity to read many of the other 175-plus articles and reviews that Jonelle penned for this paper – is a critic with a keen eye and an astuteness in assessing how dance artists make movement and make meaning through movement. She's always seen the bigger picture in a dance work – the point, the purpose, the way gestures and steps connect – but with her practitioner's appreciation of what dancers do, she's also been able to find the telling detail in a move or a rehearsal or a show and put words to it in a way that allows the reader to "see" and comprehend how that dance works.
Please know, too, that Jonelle's decision to leave now isn't because she thinks what she writes is no longer relevant. On the contrary. In a newsletter that she began circulating to friends and colleagues this year, she noted: "I believe deeply that arts journalism is important, especially now and especially in this town, as a record of culture and nonliteral experience, response, and progress."
It's the sentence that follows that one that gets to the heart of the matter: "I just cannot do it as a side gig." The demands of very full work and family lives has left Jonelle less and less time to write about dance, and trying to shoehorn what she describes in the newsletter as her "true vocation and passion" into a couple of hours at a coffeeshop on a Sunday afternoon wasn't working. She was coming to the practice with so little energy and enthusiasm that something had to change. It couldn't be just a break; she'd tried a 6-month hiatus the year before, and it didn't solve the problem. And since "break" implies a return at some point, she's decided to call this “not doing freelance arts journalism anymore.”
The Chronicle sees writers come and go all the time, and most of the time it doesn't rate a mention. But Jonelle's 10 years of writing called out for recognition. Not only has she been a thoughtful and perceptive critic – I consider myself a fan of her writing – as well as a joy to work with, but she's also been a committed advocate for and ally to the dance community in a period when those have come to be in short supply locally. She has sought out younger artists and made sure we were aware of them, that they were worthy of attention and breaking new ground on the scene, and she showed us the established artists on our scene through fresh eyes, acknowledging their significance to the dance community and the larger community of Austin and honoring their work. She closed her newsletter by telling all the artists she's covered "thank you a million times from the depths of my heart."
If you're a dance artist whose work was covered by the Chronicle in the last decade, you have Jonelle to thank. If you were included among the "Movers and Shakers" in the Chronicle's Guide to Austin Dance, you have Jonelle to thank. If you received a nomination for an Austin Critics Table Award, you have Jonelle to thank. I hope you'll consider passing along a word of thanks to her for her 10 years of generosity to and support for the dance community in Austin.