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Should Critics Receive "Comp" Tickets?

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#16 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 10 April 1999 - 11:37 AM

Ismene -

Welcome to Ballet Alert!

I do need to point out that I am being quoted slightly out of context in your post. I most decidedly think critics should provide "reportage" - but not "impartial". My point is that those of us who write see more and of a wider variety that the average audience goer. It is part of the job to inform them of what's out there that they may not have any other conduit of information to.

I certainly do not expect a writer to be anything other than partisan but if we only talk about the sold-out performance and nothing from the periphery, as it were, it's not good for the audience or dance itself. My emphasis was on bringing what's out there to the readers. Not the impartiality of it.

Of course, that's not even every writer's job. 90 percent of what Arlene Croce wrote was about Balanchine and NYCB. It's invaluable for the depth of it, even though I've gone on and on about the need for breadth. I think it depends on *where* one writes as well. Kisselgoff and Dunning at the NY Times have very different duties than someone might at a weekly or a quarterly. I think a writer of daily copy really is going to have to report with breadth, rather than depth.

Welcome again!

(for disclosure's sake, I choreograph for my own company, and have written on occasion for both Dance Now and Ballet Review)

#17 Paul W

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Posted 10 April 1999 - 11:48 AM

Well Ismene, thanks for the perspective from a critic herself! Do I sense this thread might get more exciting! Posted Image
My reading of reviews is often to actually get a sense of whether I would like to attend a performance or not. If I don't know what a show or ballet is about, reading the review might get me interested or dis-interested. For works well known to me I would not be looking for this "information aspect" in a review. But, I agree with you, conveying simple information about a production is not what the review should be about, that's too simplistic.

You wrote:
"My job is to convey my enthusiasm and hope for what I saw, and my satisfaction or not at the fulfilment of my expectations. I.e., did I have a good time? That simple question covers the quality of skills, of idea/story, of atmosphere (visual and aural), of individual artistry, of, maybe, historical significance of the production in a company's current position."

That is encouraging, because I would like to have critics describe these elements of that simple question with as much detail as the reviewer has space available. But it doesn't seem to be a "simple" question to me. My critique of a critic would involve forming a judgement about whether the review gave me satisfying answers to these aspects of the performance. So I'm pleased that your answer lists some of the criteria I would hope a critic uses (something I had asked earlier). And I would have expected, as you indicate, that the critic's review would sometimes project the "yes" answer and sometimes the "no" answer for this question of whether she/he had a "good time" at the show, ie whether her/his expectations were met.

You go on to say:
"... but it must also answer another - the real question: Would or could the reader have a good time at a dance show? And the answer to THAT question must always be Yes."

This is where I think it gets fuzzy for me. I would think this question is unanswerable, since it depends on the reader's likes, dislikes, mood, reason for attending the show etc. I don't think this question can be addressed by the critic, but I agree, the reader will formulate an opinion of the show based on the answer to the first question, and will have his/her answer. It won't always be "yes" I wouldn't think.

#18 Alexandra


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Posted 10 April 1999 - 05:28 PM

Welcome, Ismene. I shared your feelings at first about critics on the internet, and then thought, what the hell, it should be for everybody. There are several critics here, and there are also quite a few people who aren't critics but who are very knowledgeable and have been watching ballet for years. I'm quite happy with the mix.

I thought you raised several very interesting points, but I want to start a new thread because this one has gotten long. I did want to clear up one thing, about "pairs" and "singles," because I didn't understand your description.

Here, most critics, at least those who write for the major papers or magazines, are given "a pair," unless tickets are really "tight," in which case one might get "a single."

"A pair" means there are two tickets in the envelope, one for the critic and one for his or her invited guest. "A single" means that there is one ticket in the envelope, for the critic.

Another reason for critics getting "a pair" besides the tradtion that the theater is a social occasion and people used to come in couples is a practical one, at least for daily writers, namely, getting back to the paper. If you're on a very tight deadline, it's in the theater's interest to get you to the paper as quickly as possible, and whoever has the second ticket, spouse or not, often has a transportation function -- getting the car, or driving the critic to the paper. I've heard that British critics phone in from the phone box right after curtain; I've only had to do that about a half-dozen times and I hated it. The Post's deadlines are 11:00 p.m. (almost impossibe), and then 12:30 a.m., which is a tight squeeze when the curtain falls at 10:45.

This may be a whiny, weasly "don't take away my privilege" reason for getting a second ticket, but it's the reality in my case and several others I know.



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