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Farewell Performances and Criticism

106 posts in this topic

I doubt if Macaulay even thought it would be "controversial," the usage is that common.

It is, really? 'Nazi youth look' or thereabouts, people say that a lot? I didn't know that, but that would explain it if it is. Very 'Tomorrow Belongs to Me', I guess. Pretty good for Kander and Ebb, although I find the authentic actual Nazi anthems more hair-raising, much like the old Soviet military-parade marches.

You wrote, "I agree he meant that, and nothing about Stiefel's political beliefs, but it's crude. Although 'blond-and-blue-eyed' means German types, it also means Aryan and Northern European in general. Germans aren't probably as often blonde as Swedes or other Scandinavians, so he was probably trying to be witty in an obviously controversial way. You could certainly say the same thing about the young Peter Martins."

As a particular descriptive used by Mr. Macaulay, there is no confusion to be found. As you say, there are fewer blondes to be found in Germany than in Nordic countries.

The difference to be found is in Hitler’s choice of blondes as depicted in films and martial displays, was that he sought to exemplify the blonde typology as the preferred Aryan type for perpetual Germany established through brutal murders to achieve his concept of world domination.

This has not only survived in people memories, it has been passed down through generations and the combination of Hitler youth and blondness is merely an echo not a derogatory term, unless of course it is used in terms of people’s behavior.

As a teenager, I returned home one day from the barbers with a very short haircut. Added to this was the bleaching of my pale ginger hair to blonde in a hot summer. My mother’s reaction was, “Don’t ever do that again, you look like a Nazi.” Did she mean it, yes, but only in a descriptive manner not in respect of my personality or actions.

Elsewhere, Mr. Macaulay it has been stated that he has “favorites”. I would say from reading his columns for a good many years that he is not a “fan” who would have favorites, but has admiration for particular dancers arising from his judgment fashioned from a wide knowledge and experience which is his own.

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Elsewhere, Mr. Macaulay it has been stated that he has “favorites”. I would say from reading his columns for a good many years that he is not a “fan” who would have favorites, but has admiration for particular dancers arising from his judgment fashioned from a wide knowledge and experience which is his own.

Leaving aside the rest of your argument, the implication here is that somehow his having favorites implies that it isn't based on his knowledge and judgment or, conversely, that us "fans" of dancers just 'like' them, without any knowledge or experience.

Saying Macaulay has favorites, which he himself makes clear over and over (and he has also point blank said in reviews that there are dancers he does not like) does not in any way imply that his admiration is not based on his judgment, or that in many cases that judgment is not good. Perhaps this is an issue of terminology.

What I take issue with is when it leads to reading essentially the same review over and over again. Even dancers he claims to think well of, such as Gomes, can get barely a word of mention, if there is Hallberg, Stearns or Cornejo to review. And in the case of Stearns--well read the comments on ballettalk...Macaulay may be seeing something wonderful, but he is clearly in the minority on that.

There is something of the implication in your statement that Macaulay is above us mere mortals who have preferences. I think that is insulting both to us and to the dancers he has made it clear he dislikes, some of whom are considered great dancers. His judgment reigns supreme? I don't think saying he has favorites implies they were capriciously chosen, obviously they are based on his experience and knowledge, which are vast (as he regularly makes clear). But it doesn't mean his taste is unfailing, or his the only correct opinion.

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There is something of the implication in your statement that Macaulay is above us mere mortals who have preferences. I think that is insulting both to us and to the dancers he has made it clear he dislikes, some of whom are considered great dancers. His judgment reigns supreme? I don't think saying he has favorites implies they were capriciously chosen, obviously they are based on his experience and knowledge, which are vast (as he regularly makes clear). But it doesn't mean his taste is unfailing, or his the only correct opinion.

I like Macaulay's writing very much. Part of it may be that my "preferences" are similar to his. But I've seen him write, particularly about Wendy Whelan, that he understands why certain people like a dancer that is not to his taste. He's pretty up front that he's giving you his opinion, informed by the specific history he has with the art. I suppose if you are the president of the Nilas Martins fan club you will feel always terrible reading his reviews, but for many dancers he is capable of being evenhanded, or noting good qualities, even if his ultimate opinion of the performer is negative. And there is no question that he loves ballet, is knowledgeable and cares about it, which sadly is a significant step up from his predecessor.

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[What I take issue with is when it leads to reading essentially the same review over and over again. Even dancers he claims to think well of, such as Gomes, can get barely a word of mention, if there is Hallberg, Stearns or Cornejo to review.

In general I feel the same way E Johnson does in his post today. But I must admit you have a point there.

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Leonid makes a good point about how references to the Nazi Youth look are different and are much more specific in England than in the US -- but I was also thinking maybe Macaulay had in mind the early 90s NYT feature article about Stiefel’s hyper-normality and boy scoutishness and his great love of Harley Davidsons.

I don't find the terms “wretched” offensive than ineffective -- like its opposite “lusciousness incarnate." And maybe he doesn't describe some dancers fully because the descriptions don't naturally materialize for him.

But today’s review piece, despite the bending-backwards to balance Ashton against Balanchine, does make its good point about lack of coaching at City Ballet by original principals. I think he does try to remain as positive as possible, though you have the feeling he is witnessing the inevitable watering down -- or at best revalencing or reaccenting -- of much of the stuff he saw done fairly brilliantly thirty or so years ago.

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There is something of the implication in your statement that Macaulay is above us mere mortals who have preferences. I think that is insulting both to us and to the dancers he has made it clear he dislikes, some of whom are considered great dancers. His judgment reigns supreme? I don't think saying he has favorites implies they were capriciously chosen, obviously they are based on his experience and knowledge, which are vast (as he regularly makes clear). But it doesn't mean his taste is unfailing, or his the only correct opinion.

I like Macaulay's writing very much. Part of it may be that my "preferences" are similar to his. But I've seen him write, particularly about Wendy Whelan, that he understands why certain people like a dancer that is not to his taste. He's pretty up front that he's giving you his opinion, informed by the specific history he has with the art. I suppose if you are the president of the Nilas Martins fan club you will feel always terrible reading his reviews, but for many dancers he is capable of being evenhanded, or noting good qualities, even if his ultimate opinion of the performer is negative. And there is no question that he loves ballet, is knowledgeable and cares about it, which sadly is a significant step up from his predecessor.

There's something to criticize in any critic but it seems to me the Times could, and has, done a good deal worse. But the chief critic of the Times is never going to be a popular fellow in all quarters.

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