Firstly, the offending paragraph from Hick's Review on Monday:
Compared with the racy little troupe that was OBT under founding artistic director James Canfield, Stowell's Version 2.1 is profoundly traditional, without cobwebs. Canfield's dancers were always quick, dramatic and athletic. Stowell has added style, precision and a commitment to sophisticated musicality. Canfield threw the dice on new and edgy pop-cultural themes, often demolishing the lines between ballet and contemporary dance. Stowell is taking an almost opposite risk: that he can revive and reinvigorate the traditions of ballet.
...which brought about this response from a reader:
A challenge to Bob Hicks, who covers Oregon Ballet Theatre: I challenge you to write about the current season, troupe and artistic director without trashing the founding artistic director, James Canfield ("A new OBT hits the stage," Living, Oct. 11). Instead of mischaracterizing Canfield's troupe, tell us more about the new dancers. Get over yourself, and quit being clever at Canfield's expense. You had 15 years to make your point about Canfield, and you've made it. You prefer traditional, classical ballet. Now you've got it. So write about it. Shelley Herochik
Bob Hicks responds: . . . and a challenge to Shelley Herochik to re-read the review. I've never trashed Canfield, even when balletomanes were nagging me to do so. I've criticized (and often supported) his work, always with the understanding that I was having a conversation with an artist. Nor do I necessarily prefer traditional ballet; I prefer art that works, in whatever form it takes. OBT has undergone a sea change, and this season-opening program underscores that more than anything that happened last season, Christopher Stowell's first as company leader. Not to address the transformation would be silly, and except with my kids and close friends, silly is something I try not to be.
While I find Ms. Herochik's tone somewhat strident, and would not describe the above as "trashing", I too have grown weary of Mr. Hick's inevitable "mischaracterization" of OBT under Canfield. Not only did Canfield produce one of the country's finest classical Nutcrackers every year, programs including Giselle, Romeo & Juliet, La Sylphide and several works by Balanchine demonstrate that OBT was not just some kind of experimental Rock Joint en Pointe. Hicks' readers who attend this weekend's performance of Concerto Barocco will be suprised to open their programs and read that CB was first performed by OBT years ago. In fact, the mix that Christopher Stowell has come up with in his first two seasons is not all that different from Canfield's attempt to balance the new and the old. Their vision of "new" might be different, but both equally respect the classical repertoire. The dancing at the soloist levels is now generally higher, but only due to the addition of a mere 3 dancers: Larsen, Iino and Cotton. The other new company members are easily matched by dancers under Canfield. Ever wonder what happened to OBT-trained and oft-featured Katarina Svetlova? She's now one of Europe's leading ballerinas. How do you explain that? Give Canfield his due: sure he rolled the dice in the back alley of contemporary dance, but he also took us out to an elegant restaurant at least a couple of times a year.
The last thing I wish to do is champion James Canfield. I had a lot of criticism for his programming, especially in his last two years. And I am as delighted as Bob Hicks is to see where the company is heading. But let's not retrofit the past to boost our pleasure in the present.