dirac

Alastair Macaulay @ NY Times

216 posts in this topic

Wow, were those attacks on Darci, Nilas and Yvonne Borree really necessary? And they were attacks, not appropriately toned critiques. To spend 3 lengthy paragraphs savaging them (mainly Darci and Nilas), writing that they are examples of "declining standards". Certainly Darci is a great enough ballerina that she has earned more respect than that - the level of animosity is really too much.

When a critic is writing about a season, and several dancers have been cast prominently and to his/her eyes, dancing inadequately over the course of it, it is his/her responsibility to point this out. A true critic is not a home company cheerleader. Darci Kistler has been dancing beyond her prime, and, as a result, will continue to be subjected to this criticism until she either retires or is cast in repertoire in which her diminishing technique is not exposed.

Rudolf Nureyev was, rightly in my opinion, criticized for dancing well beyond his prime, and he was a far more important dancer historically than Kistler. If he was not exempt, why should Kistler be?

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Wow, were those attacks on Darci, Nilas and Yvonne Borree really necessary? And they were attacks, not appropriately toned critiques. To spend 3 lengthy paragraphs savaging them (mainly Darci and Nilas), writing that they are examples of "declining standards". Certainly Darci is a great enough ballerina that she has earned more respect than that - the level of animosity is really too much.

When a critic is writing about a season, and several dancers have been cast prominently and to his/her eyes, dancing inadequately over the course of it, it is his/her responsibility to point this out. A true critic is not a home company cheerleader. Darci Kistler has been dancing beyond her prime, and, as a result, will continue to be subjected to this criticism until she either retires or is cast in repertoire in which her diminishing technique is not exposed.

No one is asking for a home cheerleader, or to avoid criticism, just a tone that is appropriate, respectful and not insulting. A true critic can make his/her point without being condescending and nasty.

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Darci got her due recognition for her fine performances when she was able to give fine performances. And even here, Macaulay finds gifts to praise:

Ms. Kistler, famous in the early 1980s as Balanchine’s last discovery, now in her 40s, still possessing a lovely face and a ravishing figure, retains an upper-body musical eloquence that I appreciate in her Sleepwalker in Balanchine’s “Sonnambula.”
(I differ with his take on her figure, finding her to look too-soft-for-a-dancer in the torso and belly, evident only in leotard.)

I have retired Darci. I was so disheartened by her mugging through Duo Concertant during the opening week, then dismayed by the sketch she drew of her Liebeslieder role, that I just decided, That's it. I loved this dancer, used to eagerly anticipate her performances, rejoiced and cried through many. I cannot bear to see her caricature the ballets and herself. I can no longer excuse off-performances by giving her the benefit of the doubt. The scale will no longer balance out in her favor no matter how badly I try to add grains of excuses to her side.

Among the photos on display along the walls of NYST this past spring -- a tribute to Kirstein -- was one of Kistler (alongside Stacy Caddell) in Suki Schorer's class. She is bright, animated, vibrant through every inch of her body. I saw it and felt everything that drew me to Darci through the first half of her career. And I decided to let that be the last image I saw of her dancing in that theater.

I might do the same for Nilas, but I never had a strong emotional attachment to him, so his half-scale dancing isn't so painful. And he can be a decent partner.

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About half that article is a love song to Ashley Bouder. And it ends with

There are other dancers here to whom I suspect I will lose my heart on just a little more acquaintance. And there were more than a few performances that made me feel, as the greatest choreographic repertory in the history of the world passed before my eyes, that the State Theater was the only place in the world I wanted to be.

I see his negative remarks not so much personal attacks on dancers past their best as on the AD's miscasting of some of the greatest Balanchine masterpieces.

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Wow, were those attacks on Darci, Nilas and Yvonne Borree really necessary? And they were attacks, not appropriately toned critiques. To spend 3 lengthy paragraphs savaging them (mainly Darci and Nilas), writing that they are examples of "declining standards". Certainly Darci is a great enough ballerina that she has earned more respect than that - the level of animosity is really too much.

I understand your disagreement with Macaulay's tone better in other instances. I don't think these were attacks at all. I think he took a measured tone, and sadly, I think in all three instances he was bang-on.

It ought to have been said for the record (especially about Kistler, much as it hurt to say that) and as far as I'm concerned, he was right.

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Wow, were those attacks on Darci, Nilas and Yvonne Borree really necessary? And they were attacks, not appropriately toned critiques. To spend 3 lengthy paragraphs savaging them (mainly Darci and Nilas), writing that they are examples of "declining standards". Certainly Darci is a great enough ballerina that she has earned more respect than that - the level of animosity is really too much.

I understand your disagreement with Macaulay's tone better in other instances. I don't think these were attacks at all. I think he took a measured tone, and sadly, I think in all three instances he was bang-on.

It ought to have been said for the record (especially about Kistler, much as it hurt to say that) and as far as I'm concerned, he was right.

I have to say, while I've voiced some dissent from Macaulay on here, from what I've seen (and i'm NOT a frequent NYCB goer--keep meaning to change that!) I agree with what he said here, and while it is not kind, its not unwarentedly cruel either. And at least with Kistler and Nilas I think he explained and backed it up unlike with the criticisms i've had issues with (he didn't with Borree so much, but I really think she's awful. So I can't really get up in arms about that). Now one can (and I'm sure some DO) disagree, but he at least gave the reader the tools to do so.

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I have retired Darci. I was so disheartened by her mugging through Duo Concertant during the opening week, then dismayed by the sketch she drew of her Liebeslieder role, that I just decided, That's it. I loved this dancer, used to eagerly anticipate her performances, rejoiced and cried through many. I cannot bear to see her caricature the ballets and herself. I can no longer excuse off-performances by giving her the benefit of the doubt. The scale will no longer balance out in her favor no matter how badly I try to add grains of excuses to her side.

Among the photos on display along the walls of NYST this past spring -- a tribute to Kirstein -- was one of Kistler (alongside Stacy Caddell) in Suki Schorer's class. She is bright, animated, vibrant through every inch of her body. I saw it and felt everything that drew me to Darci through the first half of her career. And I decided to let that be the last image I saw of her dancing in that theater.

That's beautiful, carbro. Thanks.

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i'm probably not doing this right and any moderator that is so inclined can certainly fix or edit as they see fit.

i really like a lively discussion, and lively this one certainly is. for some reason it kept bringing to mind the following caricature by Alex Gard (of "Ballet Laughs" and "More Ballet Laughs"), which is not about critics really

Mme. Hermine---since I don't have the necessary skills to do it, perhaps you can also show the cartoon of the Critics---Anatole Chujoy, Walter Terry and John Martin---one knows where they are coming from by the books they are carrying...

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Does anyone else think the Times would be delighted with Wolcott's response?

I'm wearing rose colored glasses, but I keep thinking a passionate argument about ballet, however vituperative, will bring positive attention. (Do you think we could get them to fight a duel?)

Let's address some of Wolcott's points. Do people find Macaulay's writing overly emotional?

Also, what about Dale's point about Wolcott and his remaining silent on his wife's position vis-a-vis the profession? Can you make that kind of attack and leave that information out?

I am rather disappointed at the rather leaden effect he sometimes has in his New York reviews as he struggles to create in a ponderous manner a sentence to be quoted in posterity as if an echoing of the late distinguished critic Richard Buckle. If this is an unconsious occurrence, I take the opportunity to draw his attention to it.

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I've moved discussion of the Hubbard Street Company and its performance in Durham to a new thread in the Modern and Other Dance forum. Here at Ballet Talk we like to honor the distinction between the two types of dance. The new thread can be found here -- http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.p...c=25125&hl= . Please keep posting! :)

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i'm probably not doing this right and any moderator that is so inclined can certainly fix or edit as they see fit.

i really like a lively discussion, and lively this one certainly is. for some reason it kept bringing to mind the following caricature by Alex Gard (of "Ballet Laughs" and "More Ballet Laughs"), which is not about critics really

Mme. Hermine---since I don't have the necessary skills to do it, perhaps you can also show the cartoon of the Critics---Anatole Chujoy, Walter Terry and John Martin---one knows where they are coming from by the books they are carrying...

will do but it may take a day or two. :)

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I found it very nasty. Although he had great things to say about Ashley Bouder, he crucified nearly everyone else. I thought some of his comments were just unnecessary. In the space that he spent panning Nilas Martins and Darci he could have written something more interesting about Wendy Whelan whom he doesn't mention at all. While I don't necessarily disagree with some of his comments (particularly about Martins) why go to all that trouble to pan him. His faults are nothing new. They weren't exposed this season compared to other years. It just seem like he was out to get Peter Martin's by slamming his son and wife. I just thought it was unnecessary. And while Darci is clearly aging... she is doing it quite gracefully. I think her dancing now has an added dimension even if she is not quite as technically proficient as she once was. Why go to all that effort to slam her as well. Just seems wrong.

He also slams Yvonne Borre. While she is far from my favorite dancer, I thought that she danced reasonably well this season and certainly didn't deserve being spat upon. Again it seemed like negative overkill

He also said some nasty things about Hyltin. To compliment her on one hand and then to slam her on the other just seems WRONG. She is a terrific young dancer and needs encouragement - not the panning she got.

In general I am not opposed to an honest review of a performance. Pointing out an established dancer's faults when reviewing a particular piece seems to be the job of a critic. I don't feel that way about a young dancer however. I think they need encouragement - not highly negative critiques. Positive critical suggestions seem appropriate to me - but not just negative commentary.

But this review was not about a particular performance but rather about wrapping up the year. In that case I don't see why he had to spend so much time on the negative.... especially about the younger performers. There was certainly enough great dancing this season to write about. Why be so negative? It just seems hurtful to me.

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He also said some nasty things about Hyltin. To compliment her on one hand and then to slam her on the other just seems WRONG. She is a terrific young dancer and needs encouragement - not the panning she got.

In general I am not opposed to an honest review of a performance. Pointing out an established dancer's faults when reviewing a particular piece seems to be the job of a critic. I don't feel that way about a young dancer however. I think they need encouragement - not highly negative critiques. Positive critical suggestions seem appropriate to me - but not just negative commentary.

hbl, as you said, MacCauley didn't just criticize her, he complimented her as well. I think that's the combination we all need to help us grow. And I'll bet that's what MacCauley has in mind. :)

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Who does a critic, specifically in this case Macaulay have a responsibility to? In my opinion it's to the audience but also to the ballets themselves. When he sees a dancer fudging or blurring steps in order to facilitate a declining technique or using inappropriate mannerisms for the same reason it's his job to point it out. It's painful for the audience to see these things, and I'm sure it's painful or at least uncomfortable for him to write about it. I'm sure he takes no joy from "slamming" a dancer. Especially a dancer such as Kistler, who he saw in her prime. He also knows how these Balanchine ballets should be performed. When you cast a dancer who is inadequate to the task (privilege) of dancing these Balanchine roles not just once or twice but season after season it's almost the same as taking a knife to a priceless Picasso. As time marches on the more fragile the Balanchine repetory becomes. Don't let a dancer who has no business dancing that part anymore break that fragile, unraveling thread. Give that role to a dancer that can bring it back to glorious vibrant life again. THAT'S the AD's as well as a critic's job, service to the ballet not to a dancer's ego.

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Who does a critic, specifically in this case Macaulay have a responsibility to? In my opinion it's to the audience but also to the ballets themselves. When he sees a dancer fudging or blurring steps in order to facilitate a declining technique or using inappropriate mannerisms for the same reason it's his job to point it out. It's painful for the audience to see these things, and I'm sure it's painful or at least uncomfortable for him to write about it. I'm sure he takes no joy from "slamming" a dancer. Especially a dancer such as Kistler, who he saw in her prime. He also knows how these Balanchine ballets should be performed. When you cast a dancer who is inadequate to the task (privilege) of dancing these Balanchine roles not just once or twice but season after season it's almost the same as taking a knife to a priceless Picasso. As time marches on the more fragile the Balanchine repetory becomes. Don't let a dancer who has no business dancing that part anymore break that fragile, unraveling thread. Give that role to a dancer that can bring it back to glorious vibrant life again. THAT'S the AD's as well as a critic's job, service to the ballet not to a dancer's ego.

Well said Perky.

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hbl, as you said, MacCauley didn't just criticize her, he complimented her as well. I think that's the combination we all need to help us grow. And I'll bet that's what MacCauley has in mind. :thumbsup:

I doubt it. It was not said in a positive way. "But she made a disappointingly trivial impression in both. There is reason to hope that she will yet light up other roles, but there is reason to fear that the triviality is a house characteristic."

Now if he wanted to be helpful he certainly could have phrased it better. And that last segment - "triviality is a house

characteristic" seems to me to be a slam at Martins not just Hyltin. So on the whole I think the article tended to be

very anti Martins.

And as I said before, this was the season wrap up. All this negative crap with not a mention of Wendy Whalen! Come on folks, this article - it was not meant to be a review - was mostly unnecessarily negative and just plain nasty.

Not a word about Damien Wotzel and nothing about most of the terrific young dancers that are starting to come into their own (Tiler Peck, Amar Ramasar, Ana Sophia Scheller, Rebecca Krohn, Ask le Cour, Sara Mearns etc. etc.). A throw away line about Kowroski. Little mention of the retiring Nichols except as it related to Bouder. Is this the way you would review the season. Cheers for Bouder and cat calls for everyone else that you even bother to mention. Give me a break. It seems more British tabloid than NYT.

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I found the overall tone of Macauley's year-end wrap-up to be tremendously positive. My feeling is that things are looking up, both at NYCB and at the NY Times.

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I assume this may get linked in the daily links but in case not...

they are currently doing letters to the culture editor at the times, and some one wrote in on Macaulay:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/09/business...amp;oref=slogin

it conveniently enough ends with a link to all the articles he's written thus far.

Thank you for this link I might have missed it as I usually on check dance on a Sunday along with obituaries.

Leonid in London England

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they are currently doing letters to the culture editor at the times, and some one wrote in on Macaulay:

The arts editor certainly avoided answering the question about covering debuts!

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I have found these NY Times editor chats to be a waste of time. They are very defensive. The ones I've read, the editor has never conceded that the paper could have done better or would look into that in the future.

RE: debuts. I was surprised none of the papers did a review of Bouder's debut in Rubies. (Macaulay mentioned it in his season wrap but it's not the same).

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Gee, he wasn't nearly as nice to me last year when I asked him why in H--- they hadn't gotten rid of Rockwell, who had no experience and no context.

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RE: debuts. I was surprised none of the papers did a review of Bouder's debut in Rubies. (Macaulay mentioned it in his season wrap but it's not the same).

And did I miss it or was there no review of Vishneva's Swan?

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Sifton's tone tends to be a little too determinedly flippant for my taste but I do learn things from these talks every once in awhile and they're certainly better than nothing at all.

ViolinConcerto, I suspect most other editors wouldn't have responded with docility to a question like that, either. :blushing:

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The arts editor certainly avoided answering the question about covering debuts!

Perhaps it's my imagination because I'm so happy to be reading a knowledgeable and highly opinionated critic again, but hasn't MacCauley been writing more often that Rockwell did? Surely Sifton largely leaves it up to him as to which debuts to cover and which to forgo for other performances.

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