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Wheeldon's women, as seen by Macaulay


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#1 bart

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 02:51 PM

Today's Times has a review of a Fall for Dance performance at Lincoln Center (NYC). In it, Alastair Macaulay reviews a section from Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain as follows:

Most dispiriting is Christopher Wheeldon's pas de deux for Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall, "After the Rain," to Arvo Pärt music. The way Mr. Wheeldon connects a range of choreographic images in a single legato flow is a clue to why so much has been made of him. But this dance also exposes how dismayingly passive his presentation of women often is. Perhaps only with a strong-looking dancer like Ms. Whelan can it be tolerable to watch a woman repeatedly swoon, drape herself on her partner’s neck or back, ecstatically abase herself at his feet, and let him lift her like the sail to his mast or the prow to his ship.

Is Mr. Wheeldon (a genuine talent) taking ballet forward or backward? Here, the latter.

This seems quite extreme. Any truth in it?

#2 Haglund's

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 05:06 PM

Thanks for posting the Macauley review excerpt. At least I won't waste time reading the rest of it.

Of course, his views are extreme. How much of The New York Times writing represents moderation and reason, or accuracy for that matter? It doesn't sell papers. Whenever Macauley doesn't want to put forth the effort to write something thoughtful, he'll write something inflammatory - which comes so naturally to him.

While Macauley saw that pose of Whelan's as a mast or prow to a ship, others may have seen her as a bird taking flight, a leaning crucifix or something else. His remark about Wheeldon's presentation of women as being that way "often" is left unsubstantiated. It's lazy writing.

#3 Mashinka

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 04:57 AM

My own take on the following:

Is Mr. Wheeldon (a genuine talent) taking ballet forward or backward? Here, the latter.


Is Mr. Macauley (a genuine talent???) taking ballet criticism forward or backward? Here, the latter.

#4 Ray

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 06:16 AM

Today's Times has a review of a Fall for Dance performance at Lincoln Center (NYC). In it, Alastair Macaulay reviews a section from Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain as follows:

Most dispiriting is Christopher Wheeldon's pas de deux for Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall, "After the Rain," to Arvo Pärt music. The way Mr. Wheeldon connects a range of choreographic images in a single legato flow is a clue to why so much has been made of him. But this dance also exposes how dismayingly passive his presentation of women often is. Perhaps only with a strong-looking dancer like Ms. Whelan can it be tolerable to watch a woman repeatedly swoon, drape herself on her partner’s neck or back, ecstatically abase herself at his feet, and let him lift her like the sail to his mast or the prow to his ship.

Is Mr. Wheeldon (a genuine talent) taking ballet forward or backward? Here, the latter.

This seems quite extreme. Any truth in it?


I'm sorry but I don't see this as particularly extreme, although I agree with Haglund's that the Times, like most newspapers, likes the provocative hook. Macaulay is careful to praise Wheeldon's talent and limit his negative criticism to a single work--indeed, a single PDD ("Here..."). It is also true, I acknowledge, that he says this only after he's already implied a larger pattern--"how dismayingly passive [Wheeldon's] presentation of women often is" (my italics). Yet I'm not sure why his writing is any lazier than any other dance critic tracking a choreographer's work over the years--in fact, I think he's doing a pretty good job in trying to raise what for him is clearly a painful thing to have to say. (And I can't say that I disagree with his reading of CW's handling of women.) I think this is a hard thing to accept sometimes: we can be critical of choreographers we like--and even love--and it's not tantamount to dismissing their talent. It's not a zero-sum game, it's art.

If you guys want extreme, check out some theater reviews!

#5 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 07:56 AM

I found it interesting that Macaulay chose to make that objection with this specific work, simply because what he's objecting to (a strong woman being vulnerable) was the entire point of the dance. The dance was not a piece d'occasion like Martins' Tala Gaisma, but it was certainly prompted by Jock Soto's retirement and his long partnership with Whelan. Picking up women and moving them around is what he does best. Also, given that it's one of Wheeldon's most personal pieces with a refreshingly genuine seeming sentiment I'd see more in an objection to something like Shambards.

#6 jllaney

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 08:46 AM

For those of us who don't live in the city, is there a version of this piece available on video?


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