Perspectives on "Dance Production: Design & Technology"

by Natalie Robin
The new book from Jeromy Hopgood, Dance Production: Design & Technology
The new book from Jeromy Hopgood, Dance Production: Design & Technology

Our reviewer takes a look at -- and wishes for more from -- Dance Production

Dance Production: Design & Technology is the latest book from Jeromy Hopgood, professor of Entertainment Design and Technology at Eastern Michigan University. It is presented as an introductory text for theatre and dance students studying both performance and production. Hopgood sets out to integrate theater education techniques in collaboration and developing common artistic vocabularies into a dance context.

Hopgood’s text centers around teaching students to participate in productive collaboration. To that end, and starting from outside to inside methodology, Hopgood steps through the aspects of producing (What? Why? Where? When?), and then takes the reader through all of the steps of production (How?). The textbook is divided into three sections: “Thinking Ahead” which covers producing and pre-production; “Production Areas” which introduces students to all aspects of design and production through a dance lens; and “Quick Reference” which provides useful vocabulary for both dance and production. Chapters are finished with review questions and “projects” aimed towards solidifying ideas through practice and repetition.

Hopgood illustrates his points with attractive full-color photographs and diagrams. The book has a high production quality, and looks beautiful. (You can check out his interview with one of the dance photographers he worked with on his website at https://jeromyhopgood.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/dance-photography-closeup-nyc-dance-project/).

In the “Production Areas” section, Hopgood provides in-depth descriptions of the various design elements and introduces the reader to the various players in a production besides the performers, providing a clear introductory guide to the structure of a company. He also includes interviews with professionals working in a variety of those roles. The book follows a traditional production model, though, which does not necessarily reflect all kinds of companies or less-established traditions.

Hopgood’s explanations of production and company structure assume a hierarchical organization, and thus describes the processes of the traditional modes of ballet and modern dance. Surprisingly, though, Hopgood includes not only detailed descriptions of proscenium and blackbox theaters, but also dance in “non-traditional spaces.” True to the “introductory” description, he hints at the presence of other modes of working without delving into them.

And, maybe, in a textbook that’s all you can do. Still, if Dance Production is intended to “address the specific needs of a multidisciplinary production and allow the reader to see different perspectives on the process,” it doesn’t quite fill that mandate.

Although it is always useful to begin by presenting one way of working, Hopgood mostly only describes his own way of working. My favorite part of the textbook was his end-of-chapter interviews with professionals in the dance production fields, who offered more points of view around the production process. It would be great if these were integrated throughout instead of just in interviews tagged onto the ends of chapters.  I also wish that Hopgood had included production photographs and paperwork examples from the work of those professionals instead of primarily his own work and that of his close colleagues. Because of discrepancy in available materials, this makes it seem less like an introduction to other methods, and more of a dismissal of them.

Hopgood’s mission is admirable. Theatre students need a diverse and descriptive introduction into all aspects of production, management and design while dance programs would greatly benefit from integrating these same topics into their curriculums. Hopgood’s addition to the market is strong. Dance Production is probably the only textbook which attempts to contextualize production in a dance context. Perhaps in future editions there will be more from voices other than his own.