Well, having read the original Macaulay piece and then the rebuttal, I would summarize the "controversy" as follows:
(1) Macaulay attends modern/postmodern/contemporary on an irregular basis.
(2) When he does attend, he mostly attends performances w/ works by the heavy-duty moderns/postmoderns/contemporaries -- Cunningham, Morris, Taylor, etc.
(3) Points 1 and 2 should preclude him from rendering an opinion on the state of modern/postmodern/contemporary dance.
It's always possible that Macaulay does attend "downtown dance" performances more regularly than is believed and chooses not to write about them. However, based on his published
reviews (and I've been reading him faithfully since he started), I don't think Point 1 is entirely unfair. Short of tallying each and every review, I would say that he writes much more about the ballet than he does about the modern/postmodern/contemporary dance and that, within the latter genre, he writes much more about the established modern dance than about current trends in the field. So, taking that into account, he was probably pushing things by rendering the opinion he did.
BUT, I don't think it's true that, somehow, the NY Times
is doing a disservice to the "downtown dance". As others have mentioned, Kourlas, La Rocco and Sulcas do a lot of reporting/reviewing as far as this dance is concerned. And, based on their
published reviews, I don't get the sense that what Macaulay wrote is literally untrue. The sense I get from the Kourlas/La Rocco/Sulcas troika is that there's not a lot of major
, new significance going on with this kind of dance.
dirac, on Jan 17 2010, 12:58 AM, said:
We ought to thank Macaulay for producing a document that—like the solemn wisdom of Pat Robertson and the learned policy pronouncements of Sarah Palin—gives us a vivid idea of who he is.
Take that, Alastair. Asantewaa may have a point about that particular article - some of Macaulay's dismissals seem a trifle airy - but then she goes overboard.
Agreed. She's just pandering to the supposed biases of her readers with that quote.
I'm also suspicious of someone who takes lines such as "Dance is the art with no history" and "When a step has happened, it leaves no trace" and presents them as something meant literally when in context it is perfectly clear what Macaulay means.
Also agreed. All he was saying is a variation on what Mindy Aloff said years ago: "Dances doesn't have theoretical realities. They only have performance realities."
I was more put off by one of the responses to the rebuttal:
"[A] critic's responsibility should be to try to better the art and enlighten choregraphers . . ."
Wrong, wrong, WRONG! The critic's job is to tell the audience what happened and give an evaluation. As Arlene Croce astutely noted, a review is a conversation between the reviewer and the reader. It's not a conversation between the reviewer and the choreographer or between the reviewer and a dancer. (That being said, I do think that Croce -- at times -- acted like a wannabe artistic director in print; her late-period City Ballet reviews being a case in point.)