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Bad ballet reviews


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#16 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 22 March 2010 - 02:18 PM

Echoing Sandi - at The Post, I am not at all in control of the photo and captions, or the title. I don't see them until publication, and there's a chance it was the same in this situation.

#17 kfw

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Posted 22 March 2010 - 06:41 PM

Pardon the :wink: digression, but I received a mailer today for a Moscow Festival Ballet performance of Coppelia.

This company of leading Russian dancers presents a brilliant new choreography . . .

"A choreography"? I suppose a student wrote that, but it still amazes me. The word "choreography" is used correctly on the mailer in reference to Giselle.

#18 sandik

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 12:11 AM

Pardon the :wink: digression, but I received a mailer today for a Moscow Festival Ballet performance of Coppelia.

This company of leading Russian dancers presents a brilliant new choreography . . .

"A choreography"? I suppose a student wrote that, but it still amazes me. The word "choreography" is used correctly on the mailer in reference to Giselle.


Actually, the use of "choreography" interchangeably with "work," "piece," "dancework," "ballet," or other nouns that describe a singular work seems to be standard in some Eastern European contexts. I know many ethnic/world dance artists who use the term in that way.

It still feels awkward to me, but then so does the verb usage of "gift."

#19 kfw

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 03:16 AM

Actually, the use of "choreography" interchangeably with "work," "piece," "dancework," "ballet," or other nouns that describe a singular work seems to be standard in some Eastern European contexts. I know many ethnic/world dance artists who use the term in that way.

Thanks for the perspective, Sandik. Perhaps the writer was Eastern European.

#20 theatrekat

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 06:01 AM

Thanks for the perspective, Sandik. Perhaps the writer was Eastern European.


Then maybe the company needs to get someone understands english to write their press releases, because when they came through Toledo in January with their Swan Lake all the press pieces in the paper and in the mailings from the presenting theatre said the Swan Lake was the story of the ugly duckling.

#21 bart

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 09:38 AM

... [W]hen they came through Toledo in January with their Swan Lake all the press pieces in the paper and in the mailings from the presenting theatre said the Swan Lake was the story of the ugly duckling.

:wink: That's a classic!!! Did no one at the newspaper or the theater read the material before reprinting it?

#22 sandik

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 11:19 AM

Then maybe the company needs to get someone understands english to write their press releases, because when they came through Toledo in January with their Swan Lake all the press pieces in the paper and in the mailings from the presenting theatre said the Swan Lake was the story of the ugly duckling.


It sounds like they don't need someone who writes standard English better, but someone who actually understands what they're writing about. I get all kinds of cringe-worthy press releases, but that one is pretty special!

#23 kfw

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 06:06 PM

Also, depending on where the writer is writing, you may be reading the writer - you may be reading the editor(s).

Or LACK of editors, which is increasingly the case.

Granted, but you would think someone would read a piece before it's published, and you would think that particular someone would have some knowledge of grammar, and could at least catch obvious mistakes the writer missed in haste. Ballet Review is a treasure, and I'll be grateful to whoever carries on in Francis Mason's stead. But I've just read a wonderfully informative piece by Joseph Houseal in the Winter 2010 issue of Ballet Review that cries out for a copy editor.

#24 sandik

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 10:07 AM

Granted, but you would think someone would read a piece before it's published, and you would think that particular someone would have some knowledge of grammar, and could at least catch obvious mistakes the writer missed in haste...


I'm very grateful to the editors I've had, even (on a good day!) the ones that I've had big fights with about coverage and point of view, because almost all of them have found some really dreadful gaff that I was about to commit in print, and either made me change it, or claim it as my own work.

Having said that, though, I think the current trend towards self-publication and unmediated writing has affected how we read everything, closely edited work all the way to tweets and instant messages. We are trading some of the more considered phrase-making for the zest of immediacy.

#25 bart

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 12:17 PM

We are trading some of the more considered phrase-making for the zest of immediacy.

A great point, sandik.

Personally, I'm all for zest in writing. I am also for thoughfulness, clarity of expression, accuracy. So MUCH published written material spews forth each day (in print or online; published or self-published; edited and "unmeadiated"). Standards seem to be changing quickly. The average reader's expectations seem to be shifting rapidly, too.

Wouldn't it be fascinating to be able to look into the future and observe what people will considerl "good writing," "good criticism," and "good journalism" a generation or two from now? :wub:

#26 kfw

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 01:21 PM

I'm very grateful to the editors I've had, even (on a good day!) the ones that I've had big fights with about coverage and point of view, because almost all of them have found some really dreadful gaff that I was about to commit in print, and either made me change it, or claim it as my own work.

I've certainly made my own mistakes. But it's one thing to make them in haste under deadline pressure writing for a daily or even a weekly, and another for neither writer nor editor to take time to print out and proofread when the publication is a quarterly.

#27 leonid17

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 05:35 PM

Wouldn't it be fascinating to be able to look into the future and observe what people will considered "good writing," "good criticism," and "good journalism" a generation or two from now?


I find it a difficult project myself into that future with much optimism, when the general level of ballet criticism today, is often somewhat disappointing.

Where would the stimulus for your, "good writing", "good criticism" and "good journalism", come from?

Living in London, I have in the last twenty years, witnessed a hiatus in the continuity of literary ballet criticism that had existed in the previous sixty years. This is in spite of the considerable growth in the number of critics being published.

Today I feel I am often reading a publicist’s blurb desperately trying to disguise itself as criticism supported by middle aged writers trying to be what was once called “hip.” In this I reiterate both sandik’s, “We are trading some of the more considered phrase-making for the zest of immediacy.” and bart’s, “Personally, I'm all for zest in writing. I am also for thoughtfulness, clarity of expression, accuracy.”

Alistair Macaulay may be the despair of some of our friends across the sea, but I find in many of his reviews, the tone of a distinguished critic which is sorely missed in London.

#28 Cygnet

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 07:57 AM

Good discussion. I can say that in Los Angeles there's no literary "voice" for ballet; and there's no resident company. The dance going public makes do with the annual tours of the major companies. I long for the days when Martin Bernheimer was the sage of dance at the L.A. Times. Lewis Segal is Bernheimer Lite. I agree with Leonid on his point about the dearth of exemplary dance criticism in London. Now, the only critic I look forward to reading is Clement Crisp. In the Bay Area the
SF Chronicle is the pom-pom squad for the SFB: They can do no wrong, and visiting troops are unfavorably measured by
the SFB standard. In St. Petersburg Igor Stupnikov is an eloquent and vividly expressive wordsmith. The Anti-Stupnikov
is Kevin Ng who contributes to the St. Petersburg Times. He usually publishes and posts his reviews days or weeks after the fact. When I've visited the Mariinsky I've often wondered whether Ng was really sitting in the audience, or outside in the Square.


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