MEET THE ARTBURST WRITERS: Sean Erwin
As an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Barry University, Sean Erwin brings a unique perspective to writing about the arts. Having focused on philosophy, creative writing, and classics in Greek and Latin while in college, he first published both philosophy and poetry articles in publications specializing in those genres.
He began writing about dance in 2000 when he founded and served as editor of the Chicago Webzine Tango Noticias, which he did until 2004.The specialty dance periodical, he says, “was dedicated to examining Argentine Tango as a set of social practices rooted to the Southern cone’s history, politics, and culture. It was the first time I’d written for a media outlet, and I really enjoyed it.”
The only writing he did on art in his early career was connected to literary criticism and critical theory. This fit well with his interest in the field of philosophical aesthetics, but he felt it was truly out of touch with what was actually happening in different arts communities. Recently, though, he figured out how to meld the two.
“I found another way to pursue those interests — through the field of performance studies — and that has allowed me to channel work I do in a number of areas through one broad matrix,” he says.
Besides writing about dance, Erwin is also a dancer, with 20 years under his belt practicing Argentine Tango, something he chose “to have something to clear my head at the end of day while I was writing my dissertation.”
He applied the same obsessive-compulsive disorder approach that was carrying him through his PhD courses to his tango classes, and he eventually became an instructor of the same class he’d taken as a student two years earlier.
“I’ve danced, performed, and taught Argentine Tango all over the world. I just completed a five-year stint as one of the principal instructors for the Miami-based Shimmy Club, a non-profit organization devoted to teaching dance in general, but Argentine Tango in particular, to blind 10- to 18-year-olds.”
When asked if he specializes in writing about dance or also dabbles in other aspects of art, his philosophical background comes through.
“Both philosophically and creatively, I write about performance. As Diana Taylor, professor of Performance Studies at New York University, describes it: ‘Civic obedience, resistance, citizenship, gender, ethnicity, and sexual identity…are rehearsed and performed daily in the public sphere.’ To understand these as performance suggests that performance also functions as an epistemology,” he says.
He was recruited to write for Artburst by his Barry University colleague and Artburst co-founder Celeste Frasier Delgado. The two meet regularly to discuss their writing and it was during one of those meetings and knowing his tango background “that she described Artburst to me and I thought it sounded too good to be true; but I was wrong — it was true,” he says.
“Artburst is the platform that will re-channel funding earmarked for aircraft carriers and advanced satellite surveillance systems to dance scholarships at Dance NOW! Miami or the Miami City Ballet School,” he says.
That intensity he knows will eventually die down a bit, a first phase he says “will end soon and I’ll just settle down to doing routinely good writing covering South Florida dancers and performers who deserve the attention.”