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Alastair Macaulay @ NY Times

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I'm not disagreeing with the views on these artists nor Macauley's right to to air them but this is not my issue here. What I find disturbing is the personal scope and condescending tone of the critiques.

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One of my hopes is that Macaulay will personally become more involved seriously learning about, observing, and reviewing dance around the country.

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There is a level of dislike approaching scorn with which Mr Macauley has been treating the Martins family. First the "slap" article, then the review of Nilas in "Orpheus", attacking not merely his performance but his entire career, and now the review of Darci in "Liebeslieder".

Yes this was a bad review of Darci, but I believe his review of her in La Sonambula was quite favorable, no?

And in a performance that had been criticized by some on this board, which gives (me) the impression he is not being hypercritical just for the sake of it.

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One of my hopes is that Macaulay will personally become more involved seriously learning about, observing, and reviewing dance around the country.

Well, he's already been here to Seattle, so he's starting to clock in the frequent flyer miles.

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Another thing thing I've noticed: Macaulay often takes the time (and space) to ...

a) put the performance in some kind of historical context, often a rather specific and quite descriptive highlight of just one part of what was on stage; and ...

b) create word pictures to show us certain specific movements within a ballet, taking care to connect this with feelings being projected, relationship to the music, or some other larger issue. Here's one example, from today's review of "The Dream."

Here's an example of both from today's review of ABT's "The Dream":

Again and again we see the dancers' feet tracing rings, now on the ground, now in the air; it's all part of the magic, never more hauntingly than in the Nocturne pas de deux for Oberon and Titania. Here she slowly revolves while marking a ring on the floor with one extended point, just as Mendelssohn's strings suddenly sing a single high note.

Period though the ballet looks, it's also a clear expression of the new 1960s view of the sexes. It is the first important choreography anywhere where the male dancer (Oberon) raises his extended back leg until it becomes the highest point of his body (arabesque penchée) -- he does other steps usually reserved for ballerinas too -- and often, in unisex style, while supporting his ballerina (Titania) in the same extended line.

Short, but vivid. Makes me feel what it must be like to be seeing these movements (always illustrative of what is special about the larger work). Something to look for the next time I see see this ballet.

I wish this method were more widely shared in the reviewing world. We readers DON'T have eyes, and need a portel to the actdual physical act of dancing that will help us "see" what the performance must have been like.

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Short, but vivid. Makes me feel what it must be like to be seeing these movements (always illustrative of what is special about the larger work). Something to look for the next time I see see this ballet.

I wish this method were more widely shared in the reviewing world. We readers DON'T have eyes, and need a portel to the actdual physical act of dancing that will help us "see" what the performance must have been like.

Well, Edwin Denby, who is a model for a significant number of dance writers, used to say "Don't tell me what you think, tell me what you saw."

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In Sunday's Times article on the retirement of four ballerinas (already posted on Links) Macaulay's gifts strike again.

Speaking of Kyra Nichols:

I recall a 1982 “Apollo” in which, while remaining balanced on point, she brought down her raised front leg in stages, as if neither gravity nor time existed. Days later people were still agog.

And further,

... Ballets that he [balanchine] made for drastically dissimilar ballerinas — spanning from tragic to comic emotion, from soft lyricism to scintillating bravura — she has taken on as if breathing them: the most diverse interpreter his repertory has ever known.

Ms. Nichols, without ever appearing to take on another character, just by dancing truthfully, has become the most unknowable of all ballerinas. That trait, though bewildering, has been part of her humanity. What human is ever fully known to any other? Ms. Nichols, that most selfless and modest of ballerinas, making herself transparent in role after role, is at once the girl next door and an endless enigma. You thought she wasn’t tragic? Comic? Glamorous? Impassioned? Vengeful? Watch her prove you wrong.

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Macaulay's gifts strike again.

That's certainly one way to put it. :blushing: He's blowing hot and cold for me right now.

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In today's New York Times, there is a letter (scroll down) arguing with Macaulay's statement that Kyra Nichols is "long and widely acknowledge as the world's purist classicist." The writer states, "She is a ballerina of the world's premier neo-classical company, Balanchine's New York City Ballet.

Her argument is that Nichols did not dance, Giselle, "a classical work." While I agree with her about the distinction between classical and neo-classical, I find it odd that she's chosen a Romantic ballet as an example of classicism.

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I find it odd that she's chosen a Romantic ballet as an example of classicism.
:) I think it's because she couldn't make the same point with Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty, which complete the triptych by which we measure our ballerinas.

But I do agree with her calling Nichols a neo- rather than a pure classicist. Her line, for one thing, is not and has never been textbook classical.

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But I do agree with her calling Nichols a neo- rather than a pure classicist. Her line, for one thing, is not and has never been textbook classical.

No? Her line always seemed to be the most classical of the NYCB ballerinas I've seen. You have more Nichols viewing experience than I do, but the one picture of her arabesque (Diamonds) featured in the Playbill is close to perfect.

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But I do agree with her calling Nichols a neo- rather than a pure classicist. Her line, for one thing, is not and has never been textbook classical.

No? Her line always seemed to be the most classical of the NYCB ballerinas I've seen. You have more Nichols viewing experience than I do, but the one picture of her arabesque (Diamonds) featured in the Playbill is close to perfect.

She did whatever the choreography called for. She had a wide range -- in NYCB. We can imagine that she would have similarly responded to whatever other choreography she chose to do.....

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But I do agree with her calling Nichols a neo- rather than a pure classicist. Her line, for one thing, is not and has never been textbook classical.

No? Her line always seemed to be the most classical of the NYCB ballerinas I've seen. You have more Nichols viewing experience than I do, but the one picture of her arabesque (Diamonds) featured in the Playbill is close to perfect.

She did whatever the choreography called for. She had a wide range -- in NYCB. We can imagine that she would have similarly responded to whatever other choreography she chose to do.....

It's very likely she could have. I don't think anyone meant any of the comments above as critical of her. Rather that as she danced a neo-classical rep not a classical one, it was questionable of Macaulay to use the precise term he did in his praise of her. Not that she doesn't deserve immense amounts of praise.

If one has to imagine her response to different choreography to make his statement true, then a different commendation seems to be in order.

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I don't think anyone meant any of the comments above as critical of her.
Thank you, aurora. Yes, I was questioning Macaulay's characterization of Nichols, had no intention of criticizing Nichols.

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I have to say I was dismayed that Kyra Nichols' farewell was prominently featured on the first page of the NYTimes Arts page while Ferri's was buried on page 5. Certainly Gia Kourlous wrote a lovely piece on Ferri and R&J, (a much nicer tribute than I suspect MacAuley would have) but the discrepancy in length and placement was unfair. His statement that Nichols is the greatest ballerina in the last 20 years is a comment that many could take issue with, considering the large number of equally great ballerinas it ignores (from Nina Anaiashvilli to Altynai Asylmuratova to Ferri). It was also a rude and disrepectful jab at Ferri (an equally great ballerina who achieved the kind of international superstar dance status Nichols did not) who retired the next day after a long and wonderful career.

While MacAuley paid tribute to Nichols, he didn't miss the opportunity to take a jab at the current state of City Ballet (by saying how the 80's generation of Calegari, Ashley, etc. were the greatest). For someone so new to the current NY dance scene, MacAuley's opinions on dancers has hardened awfully fast (the whole Martins family along with Veronika Part are on his hit list). To say I'm deeply disappointed in how this critic is turning out is an understatement.

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I could not be happier about this new appointment! Finally a critic who will tell it like it is! No more feeble brown nosers for City Ballet.. cheers!

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Mr. Macaulay is not new to the current NY dance scene. His appointment as Times critic is relatively recent, but he is a seasoned and astute observer.

I may be in error, but I believe that editors are responsible for article placement, not the writer.

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NYTimes messed up. Both dancers deserved their due, but the placement of the articles and even the fact that they appeared on the same day was a bone headed decision by the Times. Each article should have been first page of the Arts section on separate days. I wonder who was responsible for that???

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I may be in error, but I believe that editors are responsible for article placement, not the writer.

Perhaps, but the fact that Macaulay, the chief critic, reviewed Nichols' farewell, while another critic (NOT the chief critic) reviewed Alessandra Ferri is not in dispute, and might have influenced the decision of said editors (who are not dance critics and would thus rank the two farewells accordingly).

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NYTimes messed up. Both dancers deserved their due, but the placement of the articles and even the fact that they appeared on the same day was a bone headed decision by the Times. Each article should have been first page of the Arts section on separate days. I wonder who was responsible for that???

I can't imagine it was the editors. That is content. Wouldn't it be the purview of the chief critic?

NB--I'm asking here, not insinuating anything If someone(?) one of the professional critics on the board perhaps?, has any insight, I'd appreciate it!

It could just be that it is typical that fri and sat performances receive their reviews on Monday and no one thought to make any changes even with the unusual circumstances.

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Mr. Macauley is not new to the current NY dance scene. His appointment as Times critic is relatively recent, but he

is a seasoned and astute observer.

Yes, I agree. From reading his work, I find that he is very, very familiar with the dancers and companies here. He has mentioned memories of specific performers and performances as far back as in the 80's, which impresses me a great deal! I also find his writing very intelligent and well constructed.

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NYTimes messed up. Both dancers deserved their due, but the placement of the articles and even the fact that they appeared on the same day was a bone headed decision by the Times. Each article should have been first page of the Arts section on separate days. I wonder who was responsible for that???

I can't imagine it was the editors. That is content. Wouldn't it be the purview of the chief critic?

NB--I'm asking here, not insinuating anything If someone(?) one of the professional critics on the board perhaps?, has any insight, I'd appreciate it!

It could just be that it is typical that fri and sat performances receive their reviews on Monday and no one thought to make any changes even with the unusual circumstances.

It could be simply that Nichols has been a constant in the NY dance scene for 33 years and one of the last of Balanchine's chosen. Ferri has not been as permanent a fixture and of late has been a guest artist (althought a great one) at ABT with a somewhat limited rep.

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Mr. Macauley is not new to the current NY dance scene. His appointment as Times critic is relatively recent, but he

is a seasoned and astute observer.

In one of his earliest reviews MacAuley (when he was lamenting the current state of NYCB) talked about when he first saw NYCB in the late 70's/early 80's (and how great they were then) and mentioned that he hadn't seen NYCB more than a few times since the 80's. The reason he so often mentions NYCB/ABT dancers from the 80's is that he saw those dancers but hasn't seen much in NY since then. He wrote about Merce Cunningham as though he were in current forefront of NY modern dance (I love Merce but he has been a mainstay of modern dance since the 50's and is hardly an example of what is new). To get familiar with the NY scene he should be regularly going to the Joyce, to DTW and the Kitchen to see what is really current and avant garde. The fact that he so often compares specific performances to those of Royal Ballet dancers (despite the fact the his NYTimes audience would likely not have seen these dancers) consistently shows he is much more comfortable and familiar with the British dance scene than NY one.

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Even today in the Nichols' tribute, MacAuley's passing reference to Richard Buckle (a British dance historian/biographer) and Margot Fonteyn, as opposed to someone like Bernard Taper (Balanchine's biographer) shows his bias/comfort level with British vs. American dance.

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