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Would a RAVE review make you see a ballet?


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Poll: Would a rave review make you more likely to see a particular performance? (27 member(s) have cast votes)

Would a rave review make you more likely to see a particular performance?

  1. Yes, always. (3 votes [11.11%])

    Percentage of vote: 11.11%

  2. Possibly, depending on the review. (16 votes [59.26%])

    Percentage of vote: 59.26%

  3. Not usually. (3 votes [11.11%])

    Percentage of vote: 11.11%

  4. No, never. (3 votes [11.11%])

    Percentage of vote: 11.11%

  5. I never read reviews. (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  6. Other. (2 votes [7.41%])

    Percentage of vote: 7.41%

Vote

#16 carbro

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Posted 14 February 2004 - 08:37 PM

Oh, present company excluded, of course!

Just a theory deduced by remembering a not-too-long ago clunker (unanimous by the word-of-mouth I got, anyway) that was greeted by positive-to-tepid press reports. Not raves, but certainly not pans. It was my aforementioned spies, not the critics, who warned me that it wasn't even a good trainwreck.

#17 Alexandra

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Posted 14 February 2004 - 09:32 PM

I think the original ballet Mel referred to was "Billboards," which I panned, so I have no dog in this fight :( But the idea of a giant, underground cabal among critics keeps coming up (not just here) and it really doesn't happen. There are factions among critics as there are in any field, and the idea of a monolithic reaction simply isn't true.

#18 Paul Parish

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Posted 14 February 2004 - 10:27 PM

oy, Billboards-- it had some interesing qualities, it really did, though by hte time the Joffrey had performed it SO MUCH, it was looking really tattered.

The real problem was that the music couldn't stand up to that much attention, and hte whole experience seemed woozy at the time and still does.... But the drug-overdose super-star meltdown (to "Purple Rain," wasn't it?) is an image i will never forget, it crystallized something very true of those times.... a kind of dance journalism....

#19 Mel Johnson

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 04:58 AM

No supposition. It was contained in an article by Clive Barnes ca. 1980, when the NYCB Don Q was safely retired and presumed dead, that he stated that the NYC critics had agreed among themselves, via phone, meeting or whatever, that if they bombed it, the way it deserved (it was premiered choreographically semi-finished, and it showed), it would probably kill the company. After the second season of it, when it actually looked like it had been finished choreographically, they began subjecting it to the "death of a thousand cuts".

#20 Guest_George_*

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 10:10 AM

Collusion by the New York critics to kill Balanchine's Don Q? Don Q not worth keeping? Answer to the first - highly unlikely. Answer to the second -- nonsense.
The NY critics hardly speak to each other. I remember riding the Gray Bus with a press group from NYC to see the Blue Train (Nijinska's ballet danced by Oakland) up in Connecticut. I almost wrote a short story about the experience, going and returning. There were very few hellos as people boarded the bus and walked down the aisle. The "major" critics existed in different universes, seemingly unaware of each other. Each one sat in a different section of the bus. Yes, they were surrounded by coteries, the "minor" critics, and there was conversation within each group but not between groups. Go to any DCA meeting, usually held in NYC. Who doesn't show up? The "major" NY critics.

Balanchine's Don Q is an imperfect masterpiece. It was changed at almost every performance, far more so than the usual adjustments Balanchine liked to make and that his viewers either loved or hated. It was never finished. I happened to sit behind its composer, Nabokov, at its last performance. At one point he turned to his wife and whispered that now he knew what changes he must make. Unfortunately, he died not long after. I suspect the choreographer's decision to retire the ballet had more to do with his own dissatisfaction with the music than with pressure from the critics. And which critics? I don't remember devastating reviews. There are things in that ballet that are sublime, lots of things. Mainly what isn't sublime is Act 1, before the Don appears. That's because there is no moral point of view, just local color.

I look forward to Don Q's announced revival by the combined forces of the Bolshoi and Suzanne Farrell companies, and would travel even to Moscow to see it.

#21 Alexandra

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 10:29 AM

Thank you, George :) I don't remember the Clive Barnes comment Mel referred to, but I can't imagine who he would call -- Arlene Croce? Tobi Tobias? They weren't in the same circle.

Anyway, if our mini-polls are any judge, fans don't go to see a ballet based on reviews, or at least a pan (how did this get on the rave thread?) won't drive them away.

As for raves bringing in viewers, I can think of two instances in Washington where a company could not have had more favorable press coverage and it had no effect. The first was of Mark Morris, in his early days. Huge preview piece in the Post, rave-rave-rave review of opening night. Result = empty seats. It took a few years for Morris to have enough of a following to fill the house. Also, Bournonville. Every DC critic has written "you've got to see this, there's nothing like it!" pieces about Bournonville, since at least 1976, when I first read them. Kriegsman's review of the 1982 tour were the best reviews the company ever got overseas -- best, not only in the sense of unmitigated raves, but that they are beautifully written pieces that explain the repertory and the aesthetic. Washington dancegoers, after 30 years of propaganda, still do not like Bournonville. Not one bit. (Of course, some do, but generally, from lack of applause and overheard intermission comments, there's not enough dancing and they're too old-fashioned.)

#22 LisaY

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 11:03 AM

Writing from an area of the country where there is not a great ballet following, I definately read any review or preview in the local press with skepticism. Particularly since whatever articles appear are about local, regional/city/school companies. Most of the time the 'review' is written more to generate interest and get tickets sold. Not a bad thing, but I consider the subjectivity of the term when I read that the dancing is "top-notch."
I'm more likely to check past (or present) BalletTalk posts if I'm going to see a nationally known company - with thanks to Alexandra for the resource.

#23 Nanatchka

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 12:09 PM

What did they do, hire a cat herder to get them into the same room, a caterer to feed them so they'd stay there,  someone with a whip to get them all to stop bickering, and someone with a gun to get them to agree to agree? I'm really sorry I missed that....

Very close! If Mel is talking about what I think he is, said critics, like a colony of rats, followed the tune of the piper. :)

I don't know what is being talked about. What is the dance, who is the piper, and who are the critics being discussed here? How did they "collude?"

#24 Alexandra

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 12:36 PM

Nan, go up a few posts; Mel answers you. :)

#25 Mel Johnson

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 04:26 PM

George, the collusion was not to destroy the ballet, but to keep from saying what a disaster it was when it opened. After the initial season(1965), it was still a near-sacred cow, but the various writers kept sniping at the stuff that was still below par as time wore on. The forest pas d'action is a masterpiece, but all the rest was quite awful that first season and much of it remained so ever afterward.

#26 carbro

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 05:09 PM

I don't know what is being talked about. What is the dance, who is the piper, and who are the critics being discussed here? How did they "collude?"

Nanatchka, I thought (mistakenly) :( that Mel meant ABT's recent disaster, the Pied Piper. I was trying to make wordplay of it. :) :shrug:

#27 Alexandra

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 01:42 PM

It's interesting that, by our small, unscientific poll, more people would be like to go to see something because of a rave than to stay home because of a pan. I like that, actually. It seems natural that, whether by writing or by phoning a friend, people say "You've got to see this!" because it's good, they like it, and they want people, at least people with similar tastes, to see it too. On the other hand, I don't think I've ever written a pan with the hopes that people would stay away -- if anything, you want them to go so that there are witnesses :clapping: ! (That's an unscientific comment, of course, but I hadn't thought of a difference in motivation before.)


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