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Critiquing the CriticsWho's your favorite critic?


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30 replies to this topic

#1 toeprints

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 06:12 PM

Nearly everyone has favorite critic. We love them or hate them, but we always read or listen to them (often mumbling in disagreement). I have deep respect and admiration for a few; Clive Barnes, John Percival, Patricia Boccadoro, Jennifer Dunning, and Anna Kisslegoff.

Who are your favorites? Who are the prominent critics that we should be heeding today?

#2 Quiggin

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 10:16 PM

I like Joan Accocela at the New Yorker. Her talk at Berkeley "Balanchine and Sex"--actually the original title was racier than that--was nutty and good. Judith Flanders at the TLS has a clear eye for ballet and Alastair Macauley has done more for uptown dance at the New York Times than anyone there in a long time. I like his little overarching comments, such as there were only two great geniuses of the 20th century: George Balanchine and Samuel Beckett, which I don't necessarily agree with but do admire the sentiment of.

For classical music I used to find myself in agreement with Anne Midgette, who has happily moved to from the New York Times to the Washington Post where she is their chief music critic.

[And whatever critics we like, we should all remember to regularly click onto their reviews, so that they get good internet traffic marks with their publishers.]

#3 bart

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 04:49 AM

[And whatever critics we like, we should all remember to regularly click onto their reviews, so that they get good internet traffic marks with their publishers.]

A great idea. And one, I confess, that never occurred to me. Thanks, Quiggin.

#4 papeetepatrick

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 11:55 AM

I like Joan Accocela at the New Yorker.

Yes, Acocella is excellent, and I also like Deborah Jowitt, because she said things other people weren't saying, and doesn't seem self-conscious, while being very knowledgeable.

I like his [MacAuley's] little overarching comments, such as there were only two great geniuses of the 20th century: George Balanchine and Samuel Beckett, which I don't necessarily agree with but do admire the sentiment of.


Is it the total outlandishness and outrageous decadence of such a remark that makes it somehow endearing? Thanks for reporting it, though. I think this kind of remark should be the province of the artist like Balanchine or Beckett themselves, not because it's any more true when they say it, but it still seems like an 'earned irresponsible flourish'; whereas when a critic says it, it just sounds to me like the most preposterous and pretentious posturing one could hope to never hear. Because it is grounded in absolutely nothing of substance, and reminds me of once looking through a Judith Krantz novel and seeing the sentence 'Jews are like Paris'. My girlfriend at the time and I howled over that one, got a lot of mileage out of it. Macauley's 'cute remark' is on no higher level--senile. It is interesting to me that certain arts critics get to the point when their idea of daring is to see what the most jaded possible thing is they can possibly manage to float. But I'd never take anything of Macauley's seriously again after hearing such tripe. That remark qualifies as the single silliest remark I've ever heard a critic make--it is as if he were channelling Oscar Wilde--and even makes me long for the halcyon days when the Queenan article was still fresh--two long days ago. Queenan almost seems green and just got off the bus by comparison.

Oh well, Ada Louise Huxtable has always been worthwhile.

#5 Quiggin

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 03:10 PM

Is it the total outlandishness and outrageous decadence of such a remark...


I must apologize for my haste in quoting Mr. Macaulay without double fact checking--and making him sound more decadent and outlandish and absolutist than in fact he was. His whole statement was more limited in reach:

Watching this, as so often when watching the Balanchine repertory, I think it is reasonable to suggest that Balanchine and Beckett were the two supreme dramatists of the 20th century.


This was from a review (NYT: 2/9/2008) of Christopher Wheeldon's "Rococo Variations," in which Macaulay was faulting Wheeldon for his slow ear for variation form, and for his lack of a sense of interesting dance theater. The Balanchine pieces he was comparing "Rococo" to were "Divertimento from 'La Baiser'" and "Stars and Stripes," which were on the same program.

"Neither is among Balanchines greatest. Yet either is an object lesson in both dance making and dance theater."



#6 Mashinka

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 10:20 AM

Cyril Beaumont, Richard Buckle and Peter Williams, sadly all dead. Of the present UK critics nothing would make me happier than to see the whole lot of them made redundant by the internet, except for John Percival.

#7 zerbinetta

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 03:49 PM

Is it the total outlandishness and outrageous decadence of such a remark...


I must apologize for my haste in quoting Mr. Macaulay without double fact checking--and making him sound more decadent and outlandish and absolutist than in fact he was. His whole statement was more limited in reach:

Watching this, as so often when watching the Balanchine repertory, I think it is reasonable to suggest that Balanchine and Beckett were the two supreme dramatists of the 20th century.



Well so much for Richard Strauss.

Among others ..

#8 dirac

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 05:32 PM

Is it the total outlandishness and outrageous decadence of such a remark...


I must apologize for my haste in quoting Mr. Macaulay without double fact checking--and making him sound more decadent and outlandish and absolutist than in fact he was. His whole statement was more limited in reach:

Watching this, as so often when watching the Balanchine repertory, I think it is reasonable to suggest that Balanchine and Beckett were the two supreme dramatists of the 20th century.


Well so much for Richard Strauss. Among others ..


Statements like that aren’t criticism, they’re attention-getting devices. In a daily review aimed at the general public, I’ll excuse it.

#9 kfw

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 05:52 PM

Is it the total outlandishness and outrageous decadence of such a remark...


I must apologize for my haste in quoting Mr. Macaulay without double fact checking--and making him sound more decadent and outlandish and absolutist than in fact he was. His whole statement was more limited in reach:

Watching this, as so often when watching the Balanchine repertory, I think it is reasonable to suggest that Balanchine and Beckett were the two supreme dramatists of the 20th century.


Well so much for Richard Strauss. Among others ..


Statements like that aren’t criticism, they’re attention-getting devices. In a daily review aimed at the general public, I’ll excuse it.

I don't find it a surprising thought for a dance critic. If it was a pronouncement I might see it as attention-getting, but the way it's couched I find it unremarkable.

#10 canbelto

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Posted 17 July 2008 - 04:51 AM

I like Robert Gottlieb. His opinions can be very harsh, but he has a great sense of humor, a genuine and obvious love and knowledge of ballet, and is a great writer. Moreover, as an important editor, his wide knowledge of culture, politics, and history infuses his work with a delightful "wow he knows THIS too" quality. I love reading his reviews not just for his opinions on dance but for his knowledge, wit, and style.

#11 Jack Reed

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Posted 23 July 2008 - 04:05 PM

My other favorites having been mentioned along the way, I'll just add Robert Greskovic's name to the list. But I don't consider anyone writing today quite so valuable to read as Edwin Denby and Arlene Croce, not just in "their" time, but today as well, for part of the value I find in reading good criticism is the way it exercises your mind, tones it, gets it in shape for its present activity, not just for its use as a consumer guide to ticket purchases.

As for (classical) music critics, I pay attention to Mortimer H. Frank and Michael Ullman as scouts to rewarding recordings available today (Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself...), but no one I know of working today really compares with Bernard Haggin.

#12 innopac

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 01:25 PM

The Critic's Point of View: "Why Do They Say What They Say?" by Joseph Carman.


“Being a critic is a very good education,” says Macaulay. “You are learning all the time. That is the most interesting thing about the job. If it stopped being an education, I would move on to something else."



#13 dirac

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 02:03 PM

I enjoyed reading that, innopac. Food for thought there.

#14 bart

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 03:02 PM

Thanks, innopac, for that link -- and for reviving the thread.

I've started a new thread based on one aspect of the article: the question of how far a critic can or should go in writing negatively about a dancer.

http://ballettalk.in...mp;#entry265562

For all other aspects of toeprints' original topic, please keep posting on this thread. There's still LOTS to say. :wub:

#15 innopac

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Posted 26 March 2010 - 12:23 PM

Here is an example of the reverse - protecting dancers, especially those who are stars.

There was a performance where a very important visiting ballerina fell and none of the critics, at that performance, mentioned it. I would hope that if it had been a member of the corps who had fallen the critics' restraint would have been the same.


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