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Alastair Macaulay @ NY Times


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#166 kfw

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Posted 29 June 2007 - 06:20 AM

I wonder if Macaulay is in the position of teachers and writers who assumed that a well-educated populace had knowledge of history, Greek mythology, Shakespeare, and Latin, only to find this assumption overly optimistic.


As someone who teaches undergraduates, I would say any such assumption is misguided, begining with the basic assumption that the populace is well-educated.

That's true, but then not everyone has the money or the interest to attend the ballet regularly. I'll guess that most of MacCauley's core readership has a decent arts and humanities education. And from that I think it follows that these readers will sense where their education is lacking and go fill it in. A good critic is a good educator.

#167 sz

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Posted 29 June 2007 - 07:35 AM

Now there's an idea I'd like to see implemented. How about a link available/attached to every critic's review to a bio/resume giving the reader an opportunity to know the critic's background, years of professional experience, ballet experience, dancer training, theater, music, journalism training, books written, etc.

#168 Klavier

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Posted 29 June 2007 - 09:24 AM

Now there's an idea I'd like to see implemented. How about a link available/attached to every critic's review to a bio/resume giving the reader an opportunity to know the critic's background, years of professional experience, ballet experience, dancer training, theater, music, journalism training, books written, etc.


I'd prefer to see that attached to every blog, but too many frauds would be exposed.

#169 sz

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Posted 29 June 2007 - 11:39 AM

I'd prefer to see that attached to every blog, but too many frauds would be exposed.


I would like to see that on blogs too, but anybody can invent whatever on blogs...
To do so in the written media would be highly difficult to get away with I'd think...

Ok, bios for both!! Why not?! One looks in a Zagat often before trying a fine restaurant, one
hopefully checks backgrounds on doctors before walking into an office. In today's world, it should be
all too easy to link to info/resumes of critics via the Internet.

Maybe Gia ought to start interviewing some of the top dance critics of today for NYC's Time Out.... open them up to the public... I'd be interested....

#170 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 29 June 2007 - 07:50 PM

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, but nonetheless i like a universe in which the matters of classic dance are seriously debated:

the photos are mine and i don't care what happens to them. it is in 2 parts as it was too large to scan in one.

http://img.photobuck...a/PHOTOI407.jpg


http://img.photobuck...a/PHOTOI409.jpg

#171 kfw

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 05:08 AM

Mme. Hermine, those caricatures are a hoot! Thanks a lot.

#172 bart

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 07:18 AM

Colonel de Basil looks especially fetching. :unsure:

You're right, Mme. Hermine. This could easily be about any of us -- critics, dancers, fans -- who become impassioned, and perhaps a little bit insane at times, about the art and its practitioners.

Wish I knew what Macaulay, Wolcott, et. al., actually look like.

#173 Dale

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 07:38 AM

Macaulay has an end-of-the-season wrap/thoughts piece in Sunday's paper:

http://www.nytimes.c...a.html?ref=arts

After reading this, I was thinking that Macaulay took the approach that he was going to be upfront about being away from the New York scene, rather than just avoiding the fact. It's true that many of his reference points are from the Royal Ballet. But isn't that better than none at all (Rockwell) or from a company that lacks a great history?

#174 Alexandra

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 08:14 AM

A word on the references to the Royal Ballet that I hope will be helpful. The Royal has long been on the NYTimes watch, starting with John Martin, partly because it was considered the major classical ballet company in the West and partly because its productions of the Petipa classics were the most authentic, based, as they were, on the Stepanov notations. Every new production of "Sleeping Beauty" was followed with intense interest -- since the Royal had staked its reputation on being the conservator of the classics, it was held up to scrutiny, and often also as a model. During the Ballet Boom, in New York, the Royal was as important to balletgoers as was NYCBallet, and many of the Times readers would be from that time. And when the Royal fell on troubled times, the NYTimes kept watch because it's an international paper, and the Royal is an international company. So I think Macaulay (as had Kisselgoff before him, and Barnes, and Martin) refers to the Royal in that way, not as his favorite little home company, any more than he quotes Shakespeare because he's his hometown poet. :unsure:

On the issue of what is, or should be, the Times standard of writing, I (not surprisingly) hope that it, and the Journal and the New Yorker, keep trudging along, beknightedly or not, in assuming a large part of its readership wants writing, and thought, of the caliber they're now getting. I thought of this reading some of Clive Barnes reviews this spring. Barnes is an excellent writer, often very witty, and now is squeezed into tiny little reviews at the NY Post. There are times when he can do wonders with the four or five sentences he's allotted, and he will write one-sentence descriptions of dancers that are absolutely poetic. If there's no depth, it's not because he can't do it, but because he doesn't have the space to do it -- and the readership wouldn't be particularly interested. It's as though a great chef were working at a diner, flipping burgers rather than making Beef Wellington, or doing something fantastic with sole. The burgers will have a special sauce and be served with flair, but ... there have to be SOME places left where one can get something that isn't a burger!

I'm late on this point, but wanted to say that Wolcott has a brief biography (including family ties :) ) on his About page, so he's covered. I hope he keeps writing about ballet. Maybe he'll start a trend!

#175 Amour

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 11:32 AM

Macaulay has an end-of-the-season wrap/thoughts piece in Sunday's paper:

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.

#176 Helene

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 11:45 AM

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?

#177 Amour

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 12:12 PM

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.

#178 carbro

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 12:32 PM

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.

#179 drb

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 04:35 PM

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.

#180 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 05:45 PM

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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