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#91 Marga

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 09:49 PM

..... I had to leave without polishing, and thanks to your post, I plan to make a point to go back and polish by paragraphing asap.

Thanks! I'll wait 'til then. :wink:

#92 carbro

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 11:09 AM

:wink: SOOO much better, sweetnut!

#93 bart

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 12:38 PM

I'm enjoying reading this, and I want to thank you, sweetnut, for jumping into the lion's den and expressing your positions so thoughtfully and passionately.

Recently, I came across a statement by the philosopher Karl Popper. Since no one can be certain of what is ultimately true, he wrote, "let us make sure above all that it remains possible to give different answers."

All arts change over time -- as to training, style, technical accomplishment, ideals of what is "beautiful," etc. The best in any art will survive because it continues to move and enlighten people without having to distort itself too far from the standards of its greatest work.

I confess that I am not fond of the epithet "vulgar," which really tells us nothing about the thing described, though possibly something about those who use it. Much of what has been dismissed as vulgar in the past now seems beautiful and moving. On the other hand, much of what used to be called vulgar is still considered inferior, though not necessarily for the reasons it was once attacked. It's a label against which there is no defense, which makes it less than useful.

#94 Marga

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 01:37 PM

.... In honest criticism, at least in my own field, the critic goes as deeply as possible in exploring all of the positive attributes and every unique nuance that she or he might notice that perhaps others did not notice in quite the same way... and weaves this together with anything that could be refined, perhaps for a purpose of creating better harmony with the overall spirit of the piece. Or person. When dancers are respected in a similar manner, then the art of ballet will rise to a new, higher level. .....

I believe so deeply in what I said in an earlier post, because when I see potential greatness, I want to urge it in every way. Great spirits inspire and breathe life into all of us: The real superstars are the ones that even the teachers don't understand. They're the ones that transcend what is understood and therefore fall out of bounds.

You have made some significant points, sweetnut. Your passionate, articulate defense of your stance impresses me and also informs the critic in me (I do actually write dance reviews). Thank you for elucidating your position and for helping me define my own. I dislike saying "bad" things about any of the dancers I critique, and try to sandwich negative remarks between positive ones. It may be the mother in me, yet I remember writing with the same sensitivity over 40 years ago as well, when I wrote critiques in college.

I fully agree that attention to nuance is a requirement for good criticism. We must be able to see what others cannot, and interpret in ways that others don't. When I read reviews of regional companies in their local papers, for example, I am usually appalled at the lack of any knowledge of ballet in the writer. There are exceptions, of course. Although some may argue that it's good to be noticed and reviewed at all, I find such shoddy reporting to diminish the value of the entire paper. But that's sort of another topic.

Responsible criticism is what we should all strive for, whether we only post our thoughts on forums or write for publications. While there is always room for subjective response, it should be tempered, or well-explained, maybe, when it gets nasty, especially in reviewing teenage dancing stars, for example. I'm with you in assessing potential and encouraging, not lambasting it, when we see it. I know how hurtful a jabbing review can be, especially when the dancer strove to convey everything that the reviewer, after the dance, says was not conveyed!

As a reader of reviews of all kinds, professional companies' performances, ballet competitions, student workshops, etc., I must admit it's exciting to read something juicy and derogatory about a dancer's missteps or failings. We all like to dish. But it can go too far. I, too, have read reviews where the writer seemed to be "groping for reasons to dismiss someone" and, you're absolutely right, it says much more about the writer than about the dancer being reviewed. Ultimately, I want to read about the good points of a dancer's performances, about the unique nuances, about the way he/she interacted with his/her partner. I want to know how high the jumps were, how fast the turns, how intricate the footwork, how beautiful the line, how delicate the interpretation, how surprising the improvement, how well-acted, how magical - or charged - or inspirational - or heartrending the atmosphere.

If there are negatives as well, tell me, do, but make sure that's not all.

So, you've given us lots of food for thought, sweetnut! I thank you for your posts.

#95 sweetnut

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 06:38 AM

:P SOOO much better, sweetnut!


Thanks much! :(

#96 sweetnut

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 06:53 AM

.... In honest criticism, at least in my own field, the critic goes as deeply as possible in exploring all of the positive attributes and every unique nuance that she or he might notice that perhaps others did not notice in quite the same way... and weaves this together with anything that could be refined, perhaps for a purpose of creating better harmony with the overall spirit of the piece. Or person. When dancers are respected in a similar manner, then the art of ballet will rise to a new, higher level. .....

I believe so deeply in what I said in an earlier post, because when I see potential greatness, I want to urge it in every way. Great spirits inspire and breathe life into all of us: The real superstars are the ones that even the teachers don't understand. They're the ones that transcend what is understood and therefore fall out of bounds.

You have made some significant points, sweetnut. Your passionate, articulate defense of your stance impresses me and also informs the critic in me (I do actually write dance reviews). Thank you for elucidating your position and for helping me define my own. I dislike saying "bad" things about any of the dancers I critique, and try to sandwich negative remarks between positive ones. It may be the mother in me, yet I remember writing with the same sensitivity over 40 years ago as well, when I wrote critiques in college.

I fully agree that attention to nuance is a requirement for good criticism. We must be able to see what others cannot, and interpret in ways that others don't. When I read reviews of regional companies in their local papers, for example, I am usually appalled at the lack of any knowledge of ballet in the writer. There are exceptions, of course. Although some may argue that it's good to be noticed and reviewed at all, I find such shoddy reporting to diminish the value of the entire paper. But that's sort of another topic.

Responsible criticism is what we should all strive for, whether we only post our thoughts on forums or write for publications. While there is always room for subjective response, it should be tempered, or well-explained, maybe, when it gets nasty, especially in reviewing teenage dancing stars, for example. I'm with you in assessing potential and encouraging, not lambasting it, when we see it. I know how hurtful a jabbing review can be, especially when the dancer strove to convey everything that the reviewer, after the dance, says was not conveyed!

As a reader of reviews of all kinds, professional companies' performances, ballet competitions, student workshops, etc., I must admit it's exciting to read something juicy and derogatory about a dancer's missteps or failings. We all like to dish. But it can go too far. I, too, have read reviews where the writer seemed to be "groping for reasons to dismiss someone" and, you're absolutely right, it says much more about the writer than about the dancer being reviewed. Ultimately, I want to read about the good points of a dancer's performances, about the unique nuances, about the way he/she interacted with his/her partner. I want to know how high the jumps were, how fast the turns, how intricate the footwork, how beautiful the line, how delicate the interpretation, how surprising the improvement, how well-acted, how magical - or charged - or inspirational - or heartrending the atmosphere.

If there are negatives as well, tell me, do, but make sure that's not all.

So, you've given us lots of food for thought, sweetnut! I thank you for your posts.


I appreciate all you said here, and fully agree with these thoughts. Very eloquently expressed, too! You too have given food for thought, especially by putting the overall concept into concrete terms, as in the last sentences of the 3rd to last paragraph. I can also appreciate your honesty, too, where you mention that we all like some "juice" at times. But clearly a higher purpose is your focus when you review dance / dancers. The life and spirit you have for your "subject matter" shines through and makes me want to read your work right away! Who would not be eagerly awaiting opportunities to read your reviews after reading what you wrote here? Thanks so much for your reply.

#97 dirac

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 09:13 AM

I confess that I am not fond of the epithet "vulgar," which really tells us nothing about the thing described, though possibly something about those who use it.


Although “vulgar” is often used as an epithet, it’s also a perfectly useful descriptive term if used properly, nor is it always deployed as an insult. There are many adjectives frequently used in criticism that don’t necessarily tell us much either, but that’s generally the fault of the writer. As for using “vulgar” negatively – well, sometimes there’s just no other way to say it.

Welcome to the board, sweetnut.

#98 sweetnut

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 09:36 AM

I'm enjoying reading this, and I want to thank you, sweetnut, for jumping into the lion's den and expressing your positions so thoughtfully and passionately.

Recently, I came across a statement by the philosopher Karl Popper. Since no one can be certain of what is ultimately true, he wrote, "let us make sure above all that it remains possible to give different answers."

All arts change over time -- as to training, style, technical accomplishment, ideals of what is "beautiful," etc. The best in any art will survive because it continues to move and enlighten people without having to distort itself too far from the standards of its greatest work.

I confess that I am not fond of the epithet "vulgar," which really tells us nothing about the thing described, though possibly something about those who use it. Much of what has been dismissed as vulgar in the past now seems beautiful and moving. On the other hand, much of what used to be called vulgar is still considered inferior, though not necessarily for the reasons it was once attacked. It's a label against which there is no defense, which makes it less than useful.


I love what you say in the second paragraph. It's so important to remember. One person's opinion is simply that: one person's opinion. That does not make the opinion unworthy of appreciation.... unless, of course, that opinion slides so far down a slope that it says nothing-- as in the case of an opinion labeling a dancer or dismissing a dancer altogether.

What you say in the third paragraph reminds me of the famous Thomas Kuhn work (The Structure of Scientific Revolution). When I read his book years ago, I was fascinated throughout by how this very work itself mirrored the very phenomena it described-- particularly in how it was received. For me, this illustrates the inextricable connection between acts of creation and acts of criticism. Changes in Science (and Art), as a Kuhn book reviewer points out, "pass through phases from disdain through doubt to acceptance." People found Kuhn's work to be "profoundly irritating." Now it is a classic that "has had a wider influence than any other book on the history of science." That quote came from one of the profoundly irritated scientists, ironically.

In the context of ballet, tradition is greatly valued, as it should be. Yet, one pattern that concerns me is when it is automatically assumed that tradition is compromised in the act of breaking boundaries and/or including / adding something new. This might sound paradoxical, but I believe that what was valuable within any tradition is not harmed and is brought forward as part of the change-- if anything, tradition is enhanced.

Every time a new person enters and creates some controversy, I think it is critical to watch closely and find out what makes that person draw such attention. In glancing across history in ballet, it is easy to find some examples. Personally, I am most interested in the choreographers, directors, dancers, and artists of this day who are daring to be unique-- the ones who are adding a layer of individuality-- authenticity-- without discarding the foundations. This is not to say that I disregard weaknesses, but I can appreciate more than I would otherwise. I do realize that objections to this line of thinking have to do with the way that some classical pieces must represent a more modest presentation that harkens back to the proper context. Yet, even in portraying the most 'traditional' pieces, I have heard stories of dance artists who presented a new means to the same ends; of those who portrayed the meaning with a different style; of dancers who revolutionized the standards and expectations.

The best way I can illustrate my overall point is to refer to the dichotomy issue I brought up earlier. There do not need to be dichotomies that limit dance to choices between two things that are not opposites in the first place. This is also why I found the discussion of the two young ladies so fascinating (I have seen both of them dancing live). Both pre-pro dancers have solid classical foundations, but they also bring something new. Both are exquisite in their artistry, and their mastery of technique is surprising based on their unusual heights and proportions. Most notably, both of these dancers bring a few exceptional individual instances of skills that are so unique and so "off-the-charts" that they shock audiences.

When a dancer enters the field whose classical technique is enhanced with unusually fast turns, high extensions, or some other extraordinary set of skills, I am not sure why she would be needing to be tamed. Yes, that dancer will have to hide those qualities while dancing in the corps since the objective therein is to conform and match everyone else. But suggesting that a dancer should be "tamed" (as an aside, an image of wild horses being stripped of their natural movement quality comes to my mind when I hear the word "tame") -- seems frighteningly dangerous to the field of dance in general.

Referring back to Kuhn's book, with regard to the concept of progress: the illusion of a linear movement seems to take place in all fields, but it is only an illusion. Sadly, many times, cultures and communities recognize the virtues of an "agent of change" after the fact-- not always, but often. We all know the stories of artists who were not appreciated during their lifetimes. It seems that the best "revolution" that could take place in any field is one which would change this pattern.

#99 Marga

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 08:51 PM

Since she has been a topic of discussion within this thread, I'll post an update here:

Sara Michelle Murawski

Sara Michelle is joining the Dresden SemperOper Ballett. I wish her well!

#100 ami1436

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Posted 21 August 2009 - 07:29 AM

This was posted on Ballet Talk for Dancers this morning -- apparently, Ms. Jensen is now a corps member with the Boston Ballet:

http://www.bostonbal...ney_Jensen.html


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