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Alastair Macaulay @ NY Times

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Does it perhaps have something to do with Nichols being older and retiring from a longer career while Ferri is only retiring from ABT and hasn't ruled out dancing for other companies? Does it have something to do with Nichols having been chosen by Balanchine himself? It's funny, but before the Farewell reviews, it almost seemed that Nichols was the one getting less attention... perhaps it was to even things out?

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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.
This would have been truer in the primitive days before the internet. Interested people from all over the globe (and some wi-fi zones beyond, perhaps?) can go to NYTimes.com for all sorts of things. And balletos in the know simply come to our Links forum.
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.
This takes time. He was not at ABT for Ferri's farewell because he was at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, familiarizing himself with the current scene. :)

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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.
This takes time. He was not at ABT for Ferri's farewell because he was at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, familiarizing himself with the current scene. :)

Well of course, but he could have done that friday night during Nichols' farewell or sunday matinee, no? ;)

(I'm not saying he SHOULD have, merely, that he made a choice)

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He was not at ABT for Ferri's farewell because he was at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, familiarizing himself with the current scene. :)

Let's hope he keeps going to the Center even when Baryshnikov, himself, isn't the one performing.

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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.

Well, duh, he's from England, and has only been here a few months (and really, Buckle is a very important historian/biographer and Fonteyn is Fonteyn!).

Would you rather have Rockwell back? A man with experience as a rock critic, whose ONLY exposure to dance (well, maybe nearly ONLY) was a brief, long-ago stint with Ana Halperin in SF -- a very fine woman to be sure, but one whose influence on dance was very brief and very narrow.

I'm really pleased to have someone with the breadth of experience and knowledge that MacCauley brings to the job. I'm sure there will be things he writes that I will disagree with, but he is serious about his work and thusfar I respect him.

I think we're being too quick with our judgements -- give him a chance.

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Although I was greatly dismayed at the "slap" article and continue to be bewildered by MacCaulay's unPARTisanship, he does write from the heart as well as the mind. His Kyra farewell report was more in the nature of an elegy. It's quite possible he was more emotionally invested in Kyra's departure than he was in Ferri's. This was true of many of us.

Also, isn't it part of his job to spread the reviews around the staff and not keep all the "good stuff" to himself?

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Macaulay was the dance critic for The New Yorker after Arlene Croce, which would explain why the last concentration of NYCB performances he saw was during the (late) 80's and why he was so familiar with that time in the Company's history.

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He DID say that Kyra Nichols was the greatest ballerina of the last twenty years -- which A) explains why he was at HER retirement rather than Ferri's, and B) is the sort of assessment and ranking that one expects a major critic to make, and it's a bold one, and I agree with it and commend him for making it -- and for giving it Ciceronian pride of place, as the last word in his article. I think he's doing GREAT.

I take back what I said earlier, when I said he was the best dance writer at the Times since John Martin. I now think he's just hte best dance writer they've ever had.

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He DID say that Kyra Nichols was the greatest ballerina of the last twenty years

This perfectly illustrates why I personally hold this critic in such low regard. Isn't it his job to be impartial and not to make such a sweeping statement about a dancer that will immediately put a lot of backs up?

A wise critic would find other means of praising the lady without being so partisan and dogmatic.

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He DID say that Kyra Nichols was the greatest ballerina of the last twenty years

This perfectly illustrates why I personally hold this critic in such low regard. Isn't it his job to be impartial and not to make such a sweeping statement about a dancer that will immediately put a lot of backs up?

A wise critic would find other means of praising the lady without being so partisan and dogmatic.

I would argue that it is a critic's job to describe what s/he sees and to make judgements on the performance, work, and performers based on the performance in historical and critical context.

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Re: the (implied) Nichols/Ferri comparisons. "The greatest" is quite a different category from "my favorite."

Perhaps Macaulay should address explicitly some of the concerns that have been written above -- especially considering the differences between these two dancers as to breadth of repertory, international exposure, etc. When you call someone "the greatest" of his or her generation, it would seem important to go into considerable detail as to the variables that went into your determination.

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Macaulay was the dance critic for The New Yorker after Arlene Croce, which would explain why the last concentration of NYCB performances he saw was during the (late) 80's and why he was so familiar with that time in the Company's history.

Meant to say, Macaulay's concentration of experience with NYCB was in the 70's.

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Oooh. Catfight. Funny how Wolcott doesn't mention Veronika Part once in his evisceration.

It would have been more honest if he had.

C'mon, James, say it. "YOU HATE MY FAVORITE BALLERINA!! EN GARDE!!!!1!!"

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C'mon, James, say it. "YOU HATE MY FAVORITE BALLERINA!! EN GARDE!!!!1!!"

Exactly. And it brings up how journalistic ethics plays into blogs. If that was in a newspaper or magazine, it might be required for Wolcott to say that he is married to dance critic who holds differing views from Macaulay. Maybe in a blog it is expected the readers to know more about Wolcott's life and therefore he doesn't need the disclaimer.

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C'mon, James, say it. "YOU HATE MY FAVORITE BALLERINA!! EN GARDE!!!!1!!"

Exactly. And it brings up how journalistic ethics plays into blogs. If that was in a newspaper or magazine, it might be required for Wolcott to say that he is married to dance critic who holds differing views than Macaulay. Maybe in a blog it is expected the readers to know more about Wolcott's life and therefore he doesn't need the disclaimer.

I'm guessing that the reason he focused on the style of Macaulay's writing rather than the content, was to avoid the implication that he was criticizing Macaulay for his (differing, or contrasting) views.

I myself had no problem with the "crying review" or with the prose in most of Macaulay's reviews that I have read.

But the phrasing of his tribute to Nichols was positively purple. Especially the section Wolcott focused on, with the summer etc.

I personally wouldn't take issue with Macaulay on this, as it was a tribute to, as much as a review of, a GREAT dancer, at the end of what is, in this day and age, and EXCEPTIONALLY long career. And she deserves all the praise she has received.

But I certainly see what Wolcott was referring to.

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Re: the (implied) Nichols/Ferri comparisons. "The greatest" is quite a different category from "my favorite."

Perhaps Macaulay should address explicitly some of the concerns that have been written above -- especially considering the differences between these two dancers as to breadth of repertory, international exposure, etc. When you call someone "the greatest" of his or her generation, it would seem important to go into considerable detail as to the variables that went into your determination.

Exactly. Unless you have someone like a Baryshnikov, who had no other comparable peers in his generation, ranking is NOT something I expect of someone writing about the arts. Any visual or performing art should be appreciated and understood but ultimately one's personal preference is subjective.(Some people love the pianist Lang Lang while others think he is much too showy and vulgar.) This isn't a competition, and preferences are simply that - preferences.

Also, to make a statement about "best ballerina" on the same day as another tribute was written about another wonderful retiring ballerina was rude and shows poor judgement. Since this isn't the first time MacAuley has slighted Ferri; he omitted her in an early review of the "best Juliets" and lately condescendingly implied she neglected her technique in favor of excelling at drama (discussing her early Royal Ballet days). My guess is that this Brit simply hasn't forgiven Ferri for leaving the RB in favor of ABT (since that implied ABT was the better company) in the mid-80's.

In any case, for a different perspective on how tributes can be written I'm including this link by an AP wire reporter: Ferri/Nichols tribute

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Oooh. Catfight. Funny how Wolcott doesn't mention Veronika Part once in his evisceration.

It would have been more honest if he had. C'mon, James, say it. "YOU HATE MY FAVORITE BALLERINA!! EN GARDE!!!!1!!"

I haven't had much experience reading Wolcott...but yikes... talk about a nasty gusher!

On the otherhand, I have so far found Macaulay to be most honestly eager to learn about the present NYC ballet world. Yes, he knows the 70's better. Most frequent NYCB and ABT fans remember those years most strongly too.... I don't think there's a problem with that and with Macaulay informing his readers about his personal experiences with the ballet world back then as compared to now.

Yes, Macaulay's a bit flowery, a bit gushy, but he's also personally committed to giving the ballet world *his* best views at this time. I think, three or four years from now, if we're still fortunate to be reading Macauley in the Times, that we'll be reading far different reviews -- after he's had some time to digest all that is today's generation of ballet and ballet goers.

I don't agree with every statement Macaulay makes, but he does seem to deeply care not just about the performances he's currently attending, but about ballet in general and its future.

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I agree on Macaulay. I don't think we have much overlap of opinion (of course, I'm the one who's right :dunno: ) but he cares about the subject and knows it, even if his local viewing is not as broad as his total viewing. To give Wolcott his due as well, I think it's great that someone who is not a dance writer is writing about dance as if it mattered enough to get in a brawl about it - and in a platform where it gets read. We need more literate, rabid fans out there. Actually, it would be kind of fun if he and Macaulay decided to feud. Popcorn, anyone?

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I 've found much of Macaulay's writing for the Times entertaining & thought provoking, and there's no doubt that he's a huge improvement over Rockwell - whose appointment as chief dance critic was simply inexcusable. I even prefer Macaulay to the other dance critics at the Times these days, however the more comfortable he get's in his new position the clearer it becomes that he has axes to grind, and I find that very disturbing.

Yes, a head critic is entitled to opinions and preferences, but I find it very disingenuous for him to display them in such a backhanded way. There is no question that referring to Nichols as "this greatest ballerina of the past 20 years" on the same weekend that Ferri retired was a backhanded slap at Ferri - but it's also an insult to Susan Jaffe, Nina Ananishvislli, Wendy Whalen and a host of other ballerinas. If he truly thinks that Nichols is in a class above all others then he should have told us so overtly - and told us why. And if he had any sense of decorum he would have found a more appropriate time to make this pronouncement. Slipping in that comment at the end of his review was malicious and divisive - and told me more about his personality than I really want to know.

The same goes for his comment about V. Part in the review of Romeo & Juliet. We all understand that he doesn't like Part - that's clear, and that's understandable. She has her fans and her detractors, and for good reason. Let him criticize her technical deficiencies as he sees them, her style, whatever - but to criticize her performance of a mime role - that's just being mean. I could understand if he felt that her personality wasn't forceful enough to put the role across, or if he felt that she was overacting but she pretty much plays the role the same way that everyone has every time I've seen ABT do this ballet.

It's starting to look as though when Macaulay doesn't like someone, he'll take any excuse to jab at them, overtly or obscurely. It's a very unattractive trait, and it's not good for dance. Now that it's become apparant I'll read his reviews with a big grain of salt.

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Looks like Wolcott's the one who's parading himself to me.

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Yes, a head critic is entitled to opinions and preferences, but I find it very disingenuous for him to display them in such a backhanded way. There is no question that referring to Nichols as "this greatest ballerina of the past 20 years" on the same weekend that Ferri retired was a backhanded slap at Ferri - but it's also an insult to Susan Jaffe, Nina Ananishvislli, Wendy Whalen and a host of other ballerinas. If he truly thinks that Nichols is in a class above all others then he should have told us so overtly - and told us why. And if he had any sense of decorum he would have found a more appropriate time to make this pronouncement. Slipping in that comment at the end of his review was malicious and divisive - and told me more about his personality than I really want to know.

While it's probably true that AM has axes to grind, I simply can't go with this zero-sum logic in re his Nichols tribute, which I found touching. To honor one ballerina does not constitute a "backhanded slap" at all others. His video presentation at nytimes.com makes it very explicit that he does put Nichols in a class by herself. And after 33 years, she's earned the distinction.

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Too bad we can't have a duel about a pair of non-retiring ballerinas....

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Macaulay was the dance critic for The New Yorker after Arlene Croce, which would explain why the last concentration of NYCB performances he saw was during the (late) 80's and why he was so familiar with that time in the Company's history.

Meant to say, Macaulay's concentration of experience with NYCB was in the 70's.

I don't understand this comment. Croce wrote well into the 80's, with her very famous "non-review" of one of Bill T Jones's pieces. If Macaulay was responsible for reviewing dance in New York in the late 80's, why would his concentration of experience with NYCB be in the 70's?

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Not that this changes the argument, but the Bill T Jones article was from ca. 1994-5. Croce was only writing sporadically by that point.

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