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Alastair Macaulay @ NY Times

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Paul, I understand what you're saying. But does the head critic ever sit on the floor in the East Village? Or do they assign others to do that? The way I usually see it, the writers would go to the head critic/editor and pitch an assignment (or the other way around, the people in charge get an idea and then pick which of their writers or freelancers is up for the job). The New York Times hasn't really been covering those sort of events for a long time (if ever).

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Sitting on the floor in the east Village: Dale, I'm sure Denby did it.

And i'd bet Alastair has done it (in London, of course).

And this is really the problem with the Times -- they're gray. The head man is a man and would not sit on hte floor in the East Village, he'd lose caste.

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Nobody doubts that Alastair Macaulay will be a better head critic than either of his predecessors at the Times. I supported Apollinaire because she was bringing an idealist's perspective to the question. It's clear that she knows that Alastair will be a big improvement over his predecessors, and that nevertheless there STILL ARE THINGS about the appointment that are less than ideal.

He is a dancer, demonstrates in the lobby with panache, can lose himself in hte movement with the best of them. What a relief! He won't be rehashing the secondary sources, which was all Rockwell could do.

But if he knows who, say, Ellen Cornfield is, I'd be very surprised. I suspect it would only be as a great jumper in the Cunningham company of old, not as the very fine, almost unregarded choreographer she is. And that's the old guard. He can come to know the scene, eventually, but it won't be easy arriving with lots of fanfare and a high profile to put in hte time sitting on hte floor trying to figure out what the artists are including and what they're in all their fastidiousness excluding from their work, and why, and whether he really cares.

I really respect Paul's well-supported criticisms. While Scherr's feminism may be a bit reactionary, I think we always have to interrogate choices that put yet more men in charge in a field dominated by women's labor, insight, and expertise. As far as Macaulay's expertise goes, Paul's (and other's) criticism in this regard suggests to me that perhaps his writing might constitute a case of style over substance. Too harsh? We'll see... I'll be a careful reader indeed of his Times reviews.

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And this is really the problem with the Times -- they're gray. The head man is a man and would not sit on hte floor in the East Village, he'd lose caste.

There's a reason the Times is often characterized as "middlebrow"!

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Sitting on the floor in the east Village: Dale, I'm sure Denby did it.

And i'd bet Alastair has done it (in London, of course).

And this is really the problem with the Times -- they're gray. The head man is a man and would not sit on hte floor in the East Village, he'd lose caste.

We don't know that, and we won't know that until he's been in town for awhile. This is a guy who long ago demonstrated his passion for dance. He deserves a chance.

Ray wrote:

As far as Macaulay's expertise goes, Paul's (and other's) criticism in this regard suggests to me that perhaps his writing might constitute a case of style over substance.

He had two fill-in stints at The New Yorker, a magazine known for style with substance. :wallbash:

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kfw wrote: "He had two fill-in stints at The New Yorker, a magazine known for style with substance."

Well, them's the pre-Tina Brown laurels they rest on, anyway.

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And this is really the problem with the Times -- they're gray. The head man is a man and would not sit on hte floor in the East Village, he'd lose caste.
I don't know if that's even an issue, whether it should be The Times' job to cover every loft/church basement event (nice as that would be). It is a job that belongs to The Voice and TONY and their ilk.

I don't agree, either, that it is a bad thing for a pair of relatively fresh -- but educated -- eyes to review the New York scene. How often did we read Kisselgoff reviews wondering if she'd written it before the show, or without having been there? We expect to see certain things from familiar dancers in roles familiar to both them and us. We bring our expectations and prejudices to our seats, and I think they sometimes get in the way of seeing what is actually taking place. A critic who arrives without this baggage can be a very good thing.

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I don't know if that's even an issue, whether it should be The Times' job to cover every loft/church basement event (nice as that would be). It is a job that belongs to The Voice and TONY and their ilk.
I agree. And please remember, the Times has not been merely a "New York City" newspaper for a long time. For the elite at least, it's a national and international newspaper. Just as the Financial Times is in the UK and in many other countries.

There's plenty more that can be done to inform readers of the best quality work being done in the rest of the country, in Europe, and all over the world.

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Perhaps, like the so-called "stiff upper lip," his British style of writing translates as "disinterested" to Americans.

Excuse the grammatical quibble, but a critic should always be disinterested (impartial). However, he should never be uninterested (indifferent). :angel_not:

I stand corrected, but I know that my meaning was understood.... Now that I think about it, I should have said "distant," "uninvolved," or "remote" because what I was referring to was tone, not professional approach.

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If I could name a more appropriate candidate than Macauley, I would. I can't. He has the resume, the chops and the gravitas.

I'd like to hear who people wished it were instead.

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I don't know enough about the NYC scene to comment... except to say that I will greatly miss Alastair's presence at Covent Garden and his highly passionate, knowledgable, and entertaining lectures during educational events at the venue. (Yes, he demonstrates. A variety of roles. Usually with red shoes on....)

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It’s not often that a quote from a ballet critic sticks in my mind, but the first time I became aware of Alistair Macaulay was when I was shown a ‘critique’ written by him in a strange, rather obscure UK publication called Ritz. He wrote that Margaret Barbieri, a hugely popular dancer of the time, was “to ballet what Kevin Keegan is to Shakespeare”. I remember that as being possibly the most spiteful and inane thing I’d ever read about a dancer. Macaulay’s early writings were mostly unpleasant attacks on dancers he didn’t care for (I remember he was always particularly vicious in print towards Wayne Eagling) and I decided he was simply beneath contempt and have never bothered to read a word of his since.

Overheard mindless remarks regarding Frederick Ashton when I had the misfortune to be sitting behind A.M. at Covent Garden recently, confirmed that this particular leopard hasn’t changed his spots.

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Some unpleasant things one overhears at the ballet tend to stay with one for life. In my case I was never able to look at Edward Gorey or his works in the same way again after I overheard him holding forth one intermission on what was wrong with Mr. B's "awful" Mozartiana.

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but the first time I became aware of Alistair Macaulay was when I was shown a ‘critique’ written by him in a strange, rather obscure UK publication called Ritz. He wrote that Margaret Barbieri, a hugely popular dancer of the time, was “to ballet what Kevin Keegan is to Shakespeare”. I remember that as being possibly the most spiteful and inane thing I’d ever read about a dancer.

In that same publication he rhapsodised about the Royal Ballet dancer Marguerite Porter, lauding her in the most extravagent terms. Then he suddenly fell out of love and attacked her for deficiencies which had always been there. It must have been most distressing for the poor girl.

His book about Fonteyn is a very slim publication and I know that he never saw her dance - he has said as much in print. And I do rather question his list of "leading experts" on Ashton. I think there are others who might claim as much expertise and certainly more personal knowledge.

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I would certainly hate someone to dig up some of the things I wrote when I started, the passions of youth being what they are :angel_not: Since both Porter and Deane retired some time ago, I'd guess these were writings from the late 1970s or early '80s. And while one should be careful what one says in the theater for fear of someone posting them on a message board or in a blog, what one says really has little bearing on what one writes or one's qualifications to do so.

Alymer, I haven't read Macauley's Fonteyn biography, but I thought (writing from memory) that it was part of a young people's series and thus I'm sure it is slight. I agree with you on the list of Ashtonians. Mine would be longer and include those who'd seen the premieres and actually watched Ashton's work over four decades.

I'd echo Leigh's question above: "I'd like to hear who people wished it were instead." (Surely speculation on something that has already happened would be all right :) )

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I’ve enjoyed Macaulay’s writing over the years and as already noted above I’m delighted with this appointment. I don’t agree with Scherr in this particular instance, but I don’t think that her criticisms are ridiculous or out of line. As Paul Parish says, you can have reservations about what is unquestionably a step in the right direction. It is possible for an outsider to lack a feel for the local situation but that is not something that would show immediately and Macaulay should not be pre-judged on that account, IMO.

scoop writes:

Heavens -- someone get the smelling salts and help the delicate Ms. Scherr to the fainting couch! I've been in journalism for almost 30 years -- and female my whole life -- and have never seen such a ridiculous description of the business. I can't count the number of tough, smart women I've known over the years who are doing just fine in this allegedly hostile "journalistic culture" and have risen to the absolute heights of the editing and writing and, yes, critical, ranks of their newspapers. If this critic didn't find her voice until her mid-30s, maybe she needs to look inward rather outward. I doubt it's because she's a "girl."

scoop, I’d suggest, respectfully, that Scherr has a right to speak of her own experience and that of others she knows, as do you. That hers is less positive doesn’t make her Miss Pittypat. She is not the first to voice such observations and I would hesitate to take the line of ‘they’re complaining because they can’t cut the mustard.’

I'd have liked to see Laura Jacobs in the spot, had anyone asked me, but for some reason nobody did. :wallbash:

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My main objection was to her statement that women don't do so well in a journalistic culture. That struck me as such a blanket statement -- and thus an inaccurate one. It's a culture that's biased in favor of those who aren't shy about speaking their minds -- it's a business based on the ability to express yourself after all -- and that's a characteristic that I don't think is necessarily gender based. In any event, she seems to have done just fine, becoming a dance critic at a major newspaper, so good for her. :clapping:

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Do the powers-that-be at the Times think that natives have just seen too much NY dance to have a clear point of view any more? First Rockwell... now a Londoner? Is there anything to that notion?

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Good question, Amy! There are advantages and disadvantages to having a great deal of familiarity with a local artistic community. I'd love to see it addressed by those closely involved in the NYC-- or any major urban -- dance scene. :clapping:

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Do the powers-that-be at the Times think that natives have just seen too much NY dance to have a clear point of view any more? First Rockwell... now a Londoner? Is there anything to that notion?

Rockwell has been with the NY Times since 1972.

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Do the powers-that-be at the Times think that natives have just seen too much NY dance to have a clear point of view any more? First Rockwell... now a Londoner? Is there anything to that notion?

Rockwell has been with the NY Times since 1972.

Yes, but he was a music critic, not a dance critic, hence the implied "outsider" status--not from New York, but from dance.

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Do the powers-that-be at the Times think that natives have just seen too much NY dance to have a clear point of view any more? First Rockwell... now a Londoner? Is there anything to that notion?

It's possible that, considering the depth of insider knowledge that the rest of the Times' dance writers have, bringing in a relative outsider to the NYC dance community could be a form of balancing the points of view.

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Somehow I don't see this as a consideration with Macauley. He may live in London but I think he's quite well connected to his colleagues in NYC.

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The discussion over at ArtsJournal has not run its course, it should be noted. John Rockwell, among others, has contributed his two cents. Worth checking out.

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