“My first ever professional review was of River North Dance Chicago’s performance at the Auditorium Theatre in April 2013,” Lauren Warnecke said in a recent email. “I remember staying up all night, terrified about Sid [Smith]’s noon deadline. I don’t know if he really wanted me to continue on after Dance Month was over, but I kept pitching and he kept saying yes.”
This week marks the end of an important era for our journalism platform; senior editor Lauren Warnecke is moving on. Lauren began writing for See Chicago Dance nearly ten years ago, at the invitation of program founder, and former Tribune dance and culture critic, Sid Smith. Sid recognized earlier than most of us that the changes in the newspaper industry were going to leave the arts, and especially dance, without an established infrastructure to communicate about our work.
“Sid Smith asked me to contribute a couple reviews to See Chicago Dance during the first ever Chicago Dance Month,” Lauren said.” As an ‘artist-critic’ at the time, I had been dabbling in writing for a couple years and was still active in creating and producing performances. Sid brought me on as a temporary experiment, unconvinced it would work out in the long run.”
Lauren’s dance training was in ballet and modern dance. Her burgeoning professional performance career was cut short by an injury. She found a way to stay engaged with our community and push conversations about the work through writing. After Sid’s invitation to write for SCD in 2013, she worked diligently to develop her craft. She has gone on to write about dance for the Chicago Tribune as well as Chicago Magazine, Milwaukee Magazine, St. Louis Magazine, Dance Magazine, and the list goes on.
At a time when many publications are decreasing coverage or folding altogether, Lauren is especially proud that See Chicago Dance has not just maintained strong dance coverage but expanded the journalism program to feature writing by a variety of voices. She firmly believes that “criticism generates dialog between audiences and artists, and that Chicago’s dance community has been fortified by the city’s strong commitment to dance writing. As the next generation of critics emerges, I have every confidence that See Chicago Dance will remain an important platform that continues to set a high bar for dance journalism in Chicago.”
Lauren has served as SCD’s senior editor since 2019. Just this year, under her watch, SCD has published 125 total pieces of original content written by 36 different individuals (including eight guest writers, eight Critical Dance Writing Fellows, and ten feature writers for Chicago Dance Month). Ninety of the 125 articles were written by 10 staff writers, including Lauren, veteran writers Lynn Colburn Shapiro and Vicki Crain, scholar Gregory King, Jordan Kunkle, Emma Elsmo, and four “graduates” of the Critical Dance Writing Fellowship program (Sophie Allen, D’onminique Boyd-Riley, Tristan Bruns, and Felicia Holman) which Lauren initiated in 2020—in the middle of the pandemic! “Working on programs like the Critical Dance Writing Fellowship, Screendance Club, and Critical Context [with the Harris Theater] has been a tremendous joy and a career highlight,” Lauren noted.
I am very grateful for the year-and-a-half that I have had to work with Lauren. Her dedication to dance and to journalism could not be more genuine. She is inquisitive and outspoken, always striving for journalistic integrity while expanding her own and the platform’s coverage and understanding of an ever-wider array of voices and dance forms.
Lauren loves what she does and what See Chicago Dance stands for. She is leaving for the same reasons that many of us move on: new opportunities, evolving responsibilities, recognition that it is someone else’s turn. She will continue her freelance work at the publications listed above and has started working as a culture correspondent for WGLT, ISU’s public radio station in Bloomington-Normal. (She may be singlehandedly keeping the craft of critical dance writing alive in the Midwest!)
In our email exchange, Lauren also acknowledged those that have shaped her work with See Chicago Dance:
All of us at SCD wish Lauren the very best and look forward to every time we run into her in the lobby in the future. Bonne chance and good change, Lauren. Thank you.
And finally, dear SCD readers, please help us spread the word about our editorial vacancy. We are not going to rush to fill the position. For the next three months Lynn Shapiro, Tristan Bruns, and Jackie Ralles will split up the editorial work that Lauren was doing. But we hope to have someone in the role more permanently by the end of March 2022. You can find the job description HERE.
(If you want to know more about Lauren and her work, follow her on Twitter (@artintercepts) and listen to this installment of Matt Miller’s Talk about the Industry podcast.)
Julia Mayer is the Executive Director of See Chicago Dance.