Kaija Pepper developed a passion for dancing and writing as a child. “I was one of those kids that writes poetry from the age of 12 or something, probably even younger. I think I was actually writing stories from about age 5, the same age I started dancing.”
Born in Vancouver, Kaija completed her BA in Communication Arts at Montreal’s Concordia University and spent a decade in England before becoming the editor of Dance International magazine in 2013.
Dance International began as a newsletter for the Vancouver Ballet Society almost 40 years ago. Now a 64-page quarterly featuring articles from local and international writers, the magazine is distributed not only in Canada, but also in the U.S. and around the world.
Kaija said considering the huge amount of time and resources that are required to produce a magazine, the writing needs to be great because it’s the basis of the publication.
“As an editor, I love going into a piece of writing and helping to break it open. I think probably some writers get pretty fed up with me: I’m really dogged about the details.”
BC has many prominent locals that have achieved international success in the dance world, including choreographer Crystal Pite. Kaija herself has written three books on Canadian dance and her articles have been published in The Globe and Mail, The Walrus, Queen’s Quarterly and Dance International, among others. Kaija has also taught Dance Aesthetics, Dance History and Critical Writing in the Arts at Simon Fraser University, where she completed her Masters in Liberal Studies.
“I like talking about all kinds of art and I like helping students go deeper into that discussion. A really nice way to develop your thinking is by working on your writing – it gives you something concrete to focus on.”
Kaija believes blogs and podcasts have overall had a good influence on writing.
“What I like about blogs is the voice that has developed, a more relaxed voice. When that relaxed voice is put into a properly edited piece of writing, one with focus and some kind of narrative drive, it can be really engaging.”
Electronic copies of Dance International are available on the Kobo website and staff are in the process of revamping the magazine’s website. All photographs are sourced from dancer portfolios and dance companies, but Kaija said it’s often challenging to adjust supplied photos to fit the magazine cover layout. It would be great to have the budget for cover shoots, but, she says, her designer, Brenda Finamore, always finds a way to make things look beautiful.
Kaija receives a lot of positive feedback about Dance International, and she would like to launch a campaign to draw in more subscribers to ensure the magazine remains a forum for emerging and mature writers.
“For a lot of our writers, dance is their life, it’s their career and they invest a lot of their own time and money researching and being involved in dance. I feel it’s important that we’re there to support them.”
Although she no longer dances herself, Kaija is often at the theatre for shows in her role as critic and she integrates movement into her daily routine whenever possible. She regularly walks across the Cambie Bridge to the magazine’s downtown office at Scotiabank Dance Centre and attends a Tai Chi class.
She loves interviewing because she can focus the conversation on art, and in the past she has conducted a lot of pre-show and post-show talks.
“When you sit down with somebody and say, ‘For the next half hour we’re going to talk about that piece of dance we just saw’ … nothing makes me happier.”
— By Melissa Shaw, Journalist and Summer Intern with MagsBC, June 2016.