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Alastair Macaulay @ NY Times

216 posts in this topic

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.

This isn't precisely about reviews of debuts, but more as to various casts...

In my recollection, in previous years (at least up until last year) the general trend was to cover most of the casts.

The first night usually got a review to itself, while the majority (if not all of the casts) were reviewed in a 2nd review.

That seemed less the case this year. I was very disappointed to see no review of Ananiashvili's performances with ABT--granted there weren't many, and they werent opening nights of the ballet, so I didn't expect a review of her cast alone, but still! (for the record, I don't think it was a slight towards her in any way, Macaulay mentioned her in the review of the gala and reviewed two performances by her other company).

From the site I see only the following numbers of reviews for ballets (by ABT)

Swan Lake--1

Cinderella--1

Sleeping Beauty--2

Othello--1 (granted it was a *very* short run, but a review of Ferri's debut in the role might have been nice)

The Dream--1

R&J--2 (including the farewell of Ferri)

Bayadere--2

I think that's it (or did I miss a ballet)

so only 2 of the ballets got reviews of anything other than the opening night cast.

I think that's unfortunate!

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I think some of those Times reviews may have been multiples, aurora. I seem to remember one, Dunning, I think, that covered three casts of .. something.

The Times used to also do capsule reviews of later casts - briefies which just covered the new dancers.

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I think some of those Times reviews may have been multiples, aurora. I seem to remember one, Dunning, I think, that covered three casts of .. something.

The Times used to also do capsule reviews of later casts - briefies which just covered the new dancers.

zerbinetta,

You are absolutely right. I was unclear. The numbers I was citing were the number of reviews, not the number of casts reviewed per ballet.

Both Bayadere and SB (the 2 ballets that got 2 reviews) had multiple casts reviewed in the 2nd review (bayadere--Vishneva and Part were reviewed in the 2nd, I cant remember for SB--Herrera and ?)

But the problem was, they only did that for 2 ballets all season :off topic:

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After reading several of Macaulay’s reviews over the past several months and his wrap-up of the ABT season, it is apparent that he thinks of dance in extremely simplified binary terms: (1) Balanchine/MacMillan/Ashton-God’s gift to the world, (2) everything else-a waste of time.

In his reviews of ABT performances, he had extremely positive things to say about ABT’s performances of Romeo and Juliet (MacMillan), Symphonie Concertante (Balanchine), and The Dream (Ashton). He disliked everything else, largely because the dancers did not take him on “…vast psychological arcs throughout the course of the evening.” This begs two questions. First, how is it that ABT can be so brilliant in R&J, SC, and The Dream, and be so lacking in the other performances?

Second, if the likes of widely acclaimed ABT dancers such as Ananiashvili, Ferri, Vishneva, Corella, Herrera, etc. can’t do the job, who does satisfy Macaulay in the classics? Unfortunately, he does not specify the dancers that provide him with this emotional arc.

In the future, if Macaulay continues with the view that the only worthy performances are from the Balanchine/MacMillan/Ashton mold while everything else, no matter how well performed, falls short of the mark, he will not only be extremely predictable, but also irrelevant.

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Welcome to Ballet Talk, Kent.

In his reviews of ABT performances, he had extremely positive things to say about ABT’s performances of Romeo and Juliet (MacMillan), Symphonie Concertante (Balanchine), and The Dream (Ashton). He disliked everything else, largely because the dancers did not take him on “…vast psychological arcs throughout the course of the evening.” This begs two questions. First, how is it that ABT can be so brilliant in R&J, SC, and The Dream, and be so lacking in the other performances?

Because the choreography isn't as good? Sometimes even brilliant dancers can't save a lousy ballet. This isn't only ABT's fault; we're not exactly in an era of great new ballet choreography, alas. I'm afraid I see Macaulay's point.

Second, if the likes of widely acclaimed ABT dancers such as Ananiashvili, Ferri, Vishneva, Corella, Herrera, etc. can’t do the job, who does satisfy Macaulay in the classics? Unfortunately, he does not specify the dancers that provide him with this emotional arc.

Is it the dancers he dislikes or the productions and the coaching? In some cases (notably Veronika Part), it's definitely the dancer, but I think it would have been hard to like ABT's new Sleeping Beauty had Margot Fonteyn been resurrected to do it.

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What surprised me about Macauley's wrap-up of the ABT season was his description of bracing himself to see four performances of Swan Lake---he chose Vishneva, Herrera, Dvorovenko and Wiles.....apparently he passed up what most of us were waiting to see for the past couple of years---Ananiashvilli's return.

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I have mostly stayed out of the MacCauley debate but his latest review of the Bolshoi's Bayadere makes me bristle.

But it’s also possible, amid these good signs, to overlook the bad ones. Nobody is likely to recall this season’s second offering as its highlight. This was the classic “La Bayadère,” as staged in 1991 by Yuri Grigorovich (Mr. Ratmansky’s long-term predecessor). Until 1978, when the Kirov’s full-length production of “La Bayadère” was first shown on Western television, few people had much clue what this 1877 story ballet, set in India, was like. For the last several years, as full-length “Bayadères” have become staples of international repertory, I’ve begun to feel that ignorance was bliss.

The Bolshoi’s version features, among other horrors, white children dressed as blacks (black-wrinkled tights, black-gloved sleeves and black curly wigs, but with faces lightly daubed in various pale coffee hues). I’d like to think that the old tradition of whites in blackface might work again if it was well done (e.g. white actors as Othello, now exceptionally rare in theater), but this looked too ludicrous to be even grotesque. Almost as irksome was the costume for the second-cast hero, Denis Matvienko. Since he is pale and blond, the company’s idea of presenting him as an Indian warrior is to put him in lilac-colored pajamas with a plunging neckline on top of a tan-flesh-colored undervest. By contrast, the first-cast hero, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, who has darkish skin anyway, danced with an extensively bare midriff, his lilac trousers matched by a jeweled short-sleeved bikini top.

There's a tone of contempt about this most classic Petipa ballet that makes me angry. Yes, to audiences accustomed to Agon and Serenade it can seem campy, but there's also a beauty and majesty to La Bayadere that MacCauley seems unable to grasp. Also a lack of respect for ballet history. This ballet made Anna Pavlova a star. It made Nureyev a star in Paris in 1961 and it was the last thing he did before he succumbed to AIDS. Natalia Makarova is still staging her version of the ballet in companies around the world. For someone who is often so emotional about his favorites (i.e. Kyra Nichols) MacCauley also is frustratingly narrow-minded and dismissive.

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There is a little coterie of British critics (including Macaulay) that has always been sniffy about the Bolshoi. I noted with some surprise earlier on this thread that he never bothered to review Ananiashvili, but as a former Bolshoi star he probably considers her not worth bothering with.

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There is a little coterie of British critics (including Macaulay) that has always been sniffy about the Bolshoi. I noted with some surprise earlier on this thread that he never bothered to review Ananiashvili, but as a former Bolshoi star he probably considers her not worth bothering with.

That's very interesting! thanks Mashinka.

To be fair however, although he did not review Ananiashvili with ABT this season, he did go see her Georgian company (not in NYC--they haven't performed here yet) and reviewed them twice (I believe, definitely at least once).

So it was less of a slight of her than it seems, at least that is how I read it.

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It's not even the Bolshoi. MacCauley seems dismissive of the entire ballet. How is that possible, as a dance critic? A ballet that was so important in ballet history, and that was so important to so many ballet greats? As I said, this is the ballet that Mathilde Kschessinska gave to Anna Pavlova, convinced that Pavlova would be a total failure. She was of course wrong. It's the ballet that Tamara Karsavina fondly recollects as the last ballet she danced with the Mariinsky before being forced to flee Russia with her husband. It's the ballet that made Nureyev a star in 1961 and then it was the last project he devoted himself to, before he passed away. The Kingdom of the Shades scene remains the ultimate test of a ballet company's corps. The pas de deux between Solor and Nikya after they are reunited in the Kingdom of the Shades is one of the most beautiful in all of classical ballet. Sorry, but I find MacCauley narrow-minded.

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It's not even the Bolshoi. MacCauley seems dismissive of the entire ballet. How is that possible, as a dance critic? A ballet that was so important in ballet history, and that was so important to so many ballet greats? As I said, this is the ballet that Mathilde Kschessinska gave to Anna Pavlova, convinced that Pavlova would be a total failure. She was of course wrong. It's the ballet that Tamara Karsavina fondly recollects as the last ballet she danced with the Mariinsky before being forced to flee Russia with her husband. It's the ballet that made Nureyev a star in 1961 and then it was the last project he devoted himself to, before he passed away. The Kingdom of the Shades scene remains the ultimate test of a ballet company's corps. The pas de deux between Solor and Nikya after they are reunited in the Kingdom of the Shades is one of the most beautiful in all of classical ballet. Sorry, but I find MacCauley narrow-minded.

OT--But WQXR radio is playing selections from Bayadere just now as I read this!

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MacCauley seems dismissive of the entire ballet.

The way I read it, it's the full-length versions he's complaining about, compared with the Shades scene done alone.

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That's akin to saying, "I really only like Act 3 of Sleeping Beauty." Yes there are campy cheesy parts of La Bayadere but I find the overall tone of the article to be extremely condescending towards the ballet, and that's my problem with his review.

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I disagree. MacAulay was dismissive of the staging and performing but not of the ballet itself. As I read it, he thinks the Bolshoi owes the world -- and is capable of -- a better Bayadere.

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The Kingdom of the Shades scene remains the ultimate test of a ballet company's corps.

MacCauley writes that "transcendence" is what it's all about. I rather doubt he dislikes transcendence. :off topic:

I agree with carbro that he thinks the Bolshoi can mount a better production. While he notes, for example, that the ballet was seen widely in the West in 1978, it's only in "the last several years," as versions have multiplied, that he's begun to think that ignorance was bliss. As I read that, he's finding fault with some recent versions.

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Thanks, carbro, for reminding us that Macaulay is willing to be controversial. This has apparently been the case for a long time. In 1999 he wrote a similar review of the Bolshoi's Bayadere for The Spectator. There's even a similar criticism of the inappropriateness of the scene with the children in black-face.

Macaulay may be guilty of repeating himself, but I have to agree with Jane and carbro that the criticism seems directed at the way the Bolshoi does the ballet, not at the ballet itself. He extends this to a critique of other recent productions. In support of this, here's his introduction to the 1999 piece, which focuses on the Kingdom of the Shades scene:

The people in Heaven watch the Shades scene of La Bayadere as it used to be danced (on either side of the Iron Curtain) up to 20 years ago. The people in Hell watch all the other scenes of La Bayadere as they are danced (it matters not where or by whom) today.

Maybe this matter should be the starting point for a thread of its own.

(I was unable to copy the link to this article. I located it by typing in "macaulay" + "bayadere" on Google, which turned up the piece at FindArticles. com

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