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Farewell Performances and Criticism


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#1 abatt

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 05:28 AM

[Admin Edit]:

Two dancers made their farewell performances at NYCB in the last few weeks, and there were long discussions about the criticism each dancer's performance received by NYT critics. Since these are separate discussions from performance reviews and observations, I've aggregated them here.

Discussion of the reviews of Yvonne Borree's farewell performance begin with this post. Discussion of the reviews of Darci Kistler's performance begins here.

All general comments about the topic of "Farewell Performances and Criticism" are welcome.

Helene

[/Admin Edit]




There's a review of Boree's farewell in today's NY Times. It was complementary of her Duo Concertant, but then went on to criticize Boree's BSQ in particular, and her dancing in general. Was that really necessary? It's her final review in the paper. Why use as a final opportunity to take a swipe at her? Totally lacking in class.

#2 flo

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 05:37 AM

There's a review of Boree's farewell in today's NY Times. It was complementary of her Duo Concertant, but then went on to criticize Boree's BSQ in particular, and her dancing in general. Was that really necessary? It's her final review in the paper. Why use as a final opportunity to take a swipe at her? Totally lacking in class.

I agree!

#3 kfw

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 05:48 AM

Totally lacking in class.

It sure is. I was really sorry, for her sake, to read that. It's not as if her faults hadn't been noted. A dancer's retirement is a time to praise her for the beauty she did bring to the stage, and to thank her for it, not to repeat old criticisms.

#4 DeborahB

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 06:09 AM

There's a review of Boree's farewell in today's NY Times. It was complementary of her Duo Concertant, but then went on to criticize Boree's BSQ in particular, and her dancing in general. Was that really necessary? It's her final review in the paper. Why use as a final opportunity to take a swipe at her? Totally lacking in class.



Thank you for writing this Abatt. I totally agree.

#5 mj2

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 06:56 AM

I totally agree with Abatt. Totally lacking in class!

#6 papeetepatrick

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 03:17 PM

I don't agree. I thought it was an excellent and thoughtful review. It was a performance just like any other and has always to be reviewed like any other. It is not a 'Features' or 'Publicity Sentimentality' section. And Claudia La Rocco was extremely generous in some of her praise anyway. I've seen Ms. Borree a few times in 2004, she was adequate, just as I thought Jared Angle recently only adequate. What would one want for Nilas Martins's farewell performance? nothing but fulsome praise? I think not, and about 2 years ago Macaulay did point out how it seemed to him rather incredible that both Nilas and Hubbe (I believe this was even before Hubbe announced his departure, but anyway he was still dancing) were doing some of the same roles. The criticisms in recent years by Macaulay and others of NYCB do not seem to me to be ill-advised. I started, like other New Yorkers and especially musicians, with NYCB and Balanchine, which was then an unusual way to get familiar with ballet (now it's not, with many regional companies all populated and run by Balanchine dancers), most people have seen 'Giselle' and the Petipa 'Swan Lake' long before 'Liebeslieder Walzer' and 'Mozartiana'. I'm not sorry I did it the 'less normal' way, because I would not have seen NYCB when it was truly electric--I mean as an institution, I don't mean it doesn't still have great moments and some great dancers. But everything that's been going on at ABT is by now far more alluring to me--you really don't have to do more than read the threads here at BT about Don Q, about Osipova, about Part, about Hallberg, about Corella, about Gomes to see the difference--and I never thought I'd say that. I thought ABT was the 'hokey company' and I don't see that anymore (with exceptions of that 'Swan Lake' and the sets of the SB, whether or not still 'Burger King' in appearance here and there.) I do not any longer think of NYCB as 'my company' the way I used to, but part of what they were always all about is non-sentimental attitudes and less about 'diva allure', etc., not to mention almost anybody that wants to see really great male dancers would go to ABT (I am this weekend), not even bringing into discussion the other 5 or 6 top companies of the world. But Balanchine's stark and modernist attitude still has to apply, and it just doesn't have the charisma it once had. He gave it that, along with his greatest dancers, and that lingered into the mid 80s; it's just not there anymore the way it was. I don't see why the various aspects of this obvious decline should not all be discussed as freely as are those along the lines of infinite complaints about Peter Martins. Not that I think it will help all that much, but if there is still going to be this 'serious NYCB', which it is supposed to be, then it has to prove itself capable of a lot of reversals, and I think moderate criticism on a minor dancer's farewell is hardly inappropriate.

#7 dirac

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 03:33 PM

I agree, Patrick.

Borree excited some controversy and for La Rocco to suggest why, and admit that she shares some reservations about Borree, is appropriate. It is reasonable when reviewing a dancer’s retirement performance to look at her legacy or lack thereof. It wouldn’t be fair to the reader not to do so. It’s a goodbye but it’s still a review and an assessment.

Besides, if you think that was bad, wait till Gottlieb waves his hanky in tender farewell to the lady. Not.

#8 kfw

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 04:36 PM

Borree excited some controversy and for La Rocco to suggest why, and admit that she shares some reservations about Borree, is appropriate.

I don't live in New York, of course, but I wonder if "excited" is too strong a word. She wasn't a Veronika Part -- everyone acknowledged and bemoaned her weaknesses, and I don't remember anyone raving about her since the Duo Concertants with Barishnikov. In other words, someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember any controversy. She may have been a principal, but hers was not really a major career if one looks at the roles she originated, or the interest her career elicited since its early years. To me that's all the more reason to let kindness trump the reader's supposed right to the blunt truth. And there are soft ways to criticize. Comparing her to other principals in her final performance seems unnecessarily if unintentionally cruel.

That said, La Rocco had kind things to say as well.

#9 bart

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 05:08 PM

She may have been a principal, but hers was not really a major career if one looks at the roles she originated, or the interest her career elicited since its early years. To me that's all the more reason to let kindness trump the reader's supposed right to the blunt truth. And there are soft ways to criticize. Comparing her to other principals in her final performance seems unnecessarily if unintentionally cruel.


While I can understand both sides of this discussion, I have to side with kfw. Kindness is currently out of fashion in journallism. But kindness and honesty are not entirely incompatible, in the right hands. And, as kfw says, "there are soft ways to criticize."

LoRocca's parting shot -- "How strange, upon seeing her perform for perhaps the final time, to feel as if you’d hardly yet seen her at all" -- is glib and unnecessary. It says more about LoRocca than about Bouree.

#10 papeetepatrick

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 05:24 PM

LoRocca's parting shot -- "How strange, upon seeing her perform for perhaps the final time, to feel as if you’d hardly yet seen her at all" -- is glib and unnecessary. It says more about LoRocca than about Bouree.


Could also mean she wasn't really a Principal except nominally, though. That's the impression Nilas Martins gives me. Vaguely parallel to A-list and B-list film stars. Some are thought to be 'A-list' and are basically pretty 'B-list' (or there's a whiff of it) if you look hard enough at them. I don't know when that nomenclature got started, but take a couple of old stars like Lana Turner and Tyrone Power. They were both definitely considered to be 'A-List', but there's a big touch of 'B-list' about their very frequent respective banalities when you compare them to Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper. Which doesn't mean the 'Soloists' are not often great, or the B-listers are not sometimes stupendous. Maybe it just means that the 'A-listers' and 'Principals' who aren't great almost all the time are a particular category--which is different from an off-night, which anyone can have--Farrell had them, Nureyev had them... Then there are just B-Listers who are never A-listers but they can be great too: I wouldn't take anything for every single performance I've seen Barbara Nichols do :clapping:

#11 vipa

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 05:32 PM

She may have been a principal, but hers was not really a major career if one looks at the roles she originated, or the interest her career elicited since its early years. To me that's all the more reason to let kindness trump the reader's supposed right to the blunt truth. And there are soft ways to criticize. Comparing her to other principals in her final performance seems unnecessarily if unintentionally cruel.


While I can understand both sides of this discussion, I have to side with kfw. Kindness is currently out of fashion in journallism. But kindness and honesty are not entirely incompatible, in the right hands. And, as kfw says, "there are soft ways to criticize."

LoRocca's parting shot -- "How strange, upon seeing her perform for perhaps the final time, to feel as if you’d hardly yet seen her at all" -- is glib and unnecessary. It says more about LoRocca than about Bouree.


Well said.

#12 abatt

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 07:00 PM

Comparing Nilas Martins to Borree really isn't an apt comparison. Nilas was very clearly the beneficiary of nepotism. There was always a sense that he never really earned the right to principal status. His performances looked like they were being phoned in on most nights. Borree certainly had difficulties and limitations in recent years, but I never got the feeling that she didn't give a ---- about what she was doing.

#13 DeborahB

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 07:34 PM

LoRocca's parting shot -- "How strange, upon seeing her perform for perhaps the final time, to feel as if you’d hardly yet seen her at all" -- is glib and unnecessary. It says more about LoRocca than about Bouree.


Could also mean she wasn't really a Principal except nominally, though. That's the impression Nilas Martins gives me. Vaguely parallel to A-list and B-list film stars. Some are thought to be 'A-list' and are basically pretty 'B-list' (or there's a whiff of it) if you look hard enough at them. I don't know when that nomenclature got started, but take a couple of old stars like Lana Turner and Tyrone Power. They were both definitely considered to be 'A-List', but there's a big touch of 'B-list' about their very frequent respective banalities when you compare them to Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper. Which doesn't mean the 'Soloists' are not often great, or the B-listers are not sometimes stupendous. Maybe it just means that the 'A-listers' and 'Principals' who aren't great almost all the time are a particular category--which is different from an off-night, which anyone can have--Farrell had them, Nureyev had them... Then there are just B-Listers who are never A-listers but they can be great too: I wouldn't take anything for every single performance I've seen Barbara Nichols do :clapping:



Yvonne Borree wasn't a nominal principal. She was a principal, period. She danced a lot for a quite a while (although not in recent years).
Ms. Borree's career was certainly major -- to her, and probably to many others (I adored her in several roles over the years). The audience showed her a lot of love at her farewell. And as a teacher at SAB (public knowledge), she might have taught some of the current corps members or apprentices at NYCB. I'd say Ms. Borree has made an impact.

As for A-listers and B-listers -- I'm not a big fan of such labels. And the labels are often totally off the mark anyway.
Finally, as others have said here -- a little kindness, especially at a farewell performance, goes a long way.

#14 papeetepatrick

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 07:52 PM

As for A-listers and B-listers -- I'm not a big fan of such labels. And the labels are often totally off the mark anyway.


Yes, much like 'Principal' (the label--which some bring more substance to than others.) All the Principals are called 'Principals', but some are definitely more Principal than others. No matter what the 'non-star system' that Balanchine always espoused, Suzanne Farrell was unquestionably the exception--even there. (aside from whether one thinks she's the greatest, etc.)

A 'farewell performance' is not the end of someone's life or career even. It was a performance. Nobody reviewed Alicia Alonso's performance at her 90th birthday celebration (although it could well be some sort of 'farewell'), because it was an appearance--it was all about her admirers, worshippers, etc.. Borree can go on to many things. Once you are a Principal at NYCB, all the doors are open to you, whether you got there by talent alone, 'nepotism', or whatever combination or neither. That is quite sufficient for some of us. Borree obviously has a fanbase herself. A 'farewell performance', by the way, is not necesssarily a sad thing anyway, and what does it matter what some critic says (apart from whether or not you agree with what the critic said) if you have confidence in yourself. She danced at NYCB for 22 years (I think I read), that's plenty reward. Not that I think that she should be trashed (or anyone else) just for the doing of it, just that I think if she didn't dance that well in the farewell performance that it ought to be reviewed just like when she danced on any other occasion. Furthermore, it's obvious plenty of Borree's fans were there to support her. So, she wasn't a darling of the critics like Bouder and Mearns and Kowroski, but in Farrell's day, the other ballerinas weren't to quite that degree either. That's life.

As for comparing Nilas and Borree, that was just because they are both NYCB Principals who have gotten a lot of criticism and are not usually considered the brightest lights of the company. Such things as this remind me of old conversations of Charles and Diana, they used to use the term 'royal kremlinologists', when you'd hear every tiny piece of trivia taken very seriously by those who knew them, often only very tangentially.

I would imagine Ms. Borree has quite a bright future. A review like that is sort of like not winning an Oscar or something: It was already a huge honour to be nominated.

#15 DeborahB

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 08:12 PM

As for A-listers and B-listers -- I'm not a big fan of such labels. And the labels are often totally off the mark anyway.


Yes, much like 'Principal' (the label--which some bring more substance to than others.) All the Principals are called 'Principals', but some are definitely more Principal than others. No matter what the 'non-star system' that Balanchine always espoused, Suzanne Farrell was unquestionably the exception--even there. (aside from whether one thinks she's the greatest, etc.)

A 'farewell performance' is not the end of someone's life or career even. It was a performance. Nobody reviewed Alicia Alonso's performance at her 90th birthday celebration (although it could well be some sort of 'farewell'), because it was an appearance--it was all about her admirers, worshippers, etc.. Borree can go on to many things. Once you are a Principal at NYCB, all the doors are open to you, whether you got there by talent alone, 'nepotism', or whatever combination or neither. That is quite sufficient for some of us. Borree obviously has a fanbase herself. A 'farewell performance', by the way, is not necesssarily a sad thing anyway, and what does it matter what some critic says (apart from whether or not you agree with what the critic said) if you have confidence in yourself. She danced at NYCB for 22 years (I think I read), that's plenty reward. Not that I think that she should be trashed (or anyone else) just for the doing of it, just that I think if she didn't dance that well in the farewell performance that it ought to be reviewed just like when she danced on any other occasion. Furthermore, it's obvious plenty of Borree's fans were there to support her. So, she wasn't a darling of the critics like Bouder and Mearns and Kowroski, but in Farrell's day, the other ballerinas weren't to quite that degree either. That's life.

As for comparing Nilas and Borree, that was just because they are both NYCB Principals who have gotten a lot of criticism and are not usually considered the brightest lights of the company. Such things as this remind me of old conversations of Charles and Diana, they used to use the term 'royal kremlinologists', when you'd hear every tiny piece of trivia taken very seriously by those who knew them, often only very tangentially.

I would imagine Ms. Borree has quite a bright future. A review like that is sort of like not winning an Oscar or something: It was already a huge honour to be nominated.



Principal is actually a ranking (and pay scale), and not a label.
A or B lister is a label.

As for some principals are more principal than others. Not so much these days (with very few exceptions). And I say, "hooray!" (and yes, I did attend NYCB when Ms. Farrell was still dancing).

I'll bow out of this particular discussion now. I don't want to keep making the same points.
I will look forward to reading other opinions though!


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