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Farewell Performances and Criticism


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#16 Helene

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 09:51 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.

I think that sentence summarized the paragraph before it and the sentence before that and could have stood alone, without the rest.

#17 dirac

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 10:25 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.


I didn't really see it as a "parting shot" and I doubt it was intended that way by La Rocco. It's not so much blunt truth - no critic can ever really claim to know or have that - but an honest account of a writer's reflections on the performance.

#18 jsmu

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 06:47 AM

I could not agree more with papeetepatrick about 'A and B list principals'--something transparently obvious in NYCB's casting for many, many years, including during Balanchine's time. With rare exceptions, fine dancers like Jillana, Mounsey, Hlinka, Fugate, Lopez, Saland, etc., never had the cachet nor the roles of LeClercq, Farrell, Verdy, McBride, Ashley, Nichols; in Balanchine's period, certain roles were never given to anyone but ballerinas in the highest favor (Square Dance, La Source, Raymonda Variations, Barocco, Bizet adagio--the list is endless).
I'm afraid Borree received far more than her share of undeserved kindnesses for many years at NYCB; her inadequate performances in Square Dance, Divertimento no. 15, Raymonda Variations, et. al., were a source of utter misery to many of us who love and admire brilliant Balanchine ballerinas. La Rocco spoke considerably less than the full truth; it's too bad that many posters here seem to have applied the adage 'never speak ill of the dead' to any criticism of Borree's farewell.

#19 DeborahB

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 08:53 AM

I could not agree more with papeetepatrick about 'A and B list principals'--something transparently obvious in NYCB's casting for many, many years, including during Balanchine's time. With rare exceptions, fine dancers like Jillana, Mounsey, Hlinka, Fugate, Lopez, Saland, etc., never had the cachet nor the roles of LeClercq, Farrell, Verdy, McBride, Ashley, Nichols; in Balanchine's period, certain roles were never given to anyone but ballerinas in the highest favor (Square Dance, La Source, Raymonda Variations, Barocco, Bizet adagio--the list is endless).
I'm afraid Borree received far more than her share of undeserved kindnesses for many years at NYCB; her inadequate performances in Square Dance, Divertimento no. 15, Raymonda Variations, et. al., were a source of utter misery to many of us who love and admire brilliant Balanchine ballerinas. La Rocco spoke considerably less than the full truth; it's too bad that many posters here seem to have applied the adage 'never speak ill of the dead' to any criticism of Borree's farewell.


I'm forced to chime in here again because of this post.
What an unpleasant, and needlessly so, thing to say: "never speak ill of the dead."

Many of us actually liked Ms. Borree's farewell performance. We have that right, afterall.
Just as her fans have the right to have enjoyed her performances over the years in many of the ballets you mentioned above.
To each his/her own.

And I do think you are very wrong about A and B list Principal performers at NYCB. Perhaps in the past, but certainly not now. Casting is not handled the same way as in years (decades) past.

One final thing. As we all know -- Balanchine's last ballerina is retiring in two weeks. While we can all admire (I did too) Balanchine's ballerinas, love it or hate it, these are Martins' (and his ballet masters etc.) ballerinas -- and have been for nearly 27 years. I'm good with that.

#20 carbro

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 11:48 PM

I wasn't there, but I'm reading this thread with interest.

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.

No, an event is an event, and it is the critic's job to give her honest assessment of what happened. Doing otherwise is just bad journalism.

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.

I didn't read it as a slap. It pretty well sums up my feelings. Borree was one of those dancers who didn't project a distinct personality beyond a sort of generic sweetness. She didn't have easily identifiable mannerisms. There was an almost anonymous quality to her. Not every principal dancer has "star quality," but at that level, you expect that after 22 years of watching someone perform at least 6-8 times a year (most years), you'd have some sense of familiarity. With Yvonne, I never did.

#21 atm711

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 03:30 AM

LaRocca should have ended her review before she got to the negatives---I can't imagine going to a retirement celebration and after giving the guest his gold watch and praise---then to remember his faults....I can only hope Darci Kistler is bracing herself.... :flowers:

#22 Colleen Boresta

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 05:01 AM

I didn't go to Yvonne Borree's Farewell, but I've seen her dance many many times. Sometimes she was wonderful, but sometimes she was tentative to say the least. But she's not the only NYCB dancer like that. Charles Askegard (imo anyway) is another case in point. Sometimes he's great, sometimes he's really off. You never know what you're going to get with him. It's hard for an audience member to know where such inconsistencies come off. There were times (as have been mentioned on Ballet Talk many times, when Borree was noticeably trembling during a performance. But I saw her dance Coppelia several times, and every time she was great. And Swanilda is such a killer role!!!!!

I don't know if I'd use the term A and B listers for principal dancers, but there are definitely principal dancers who are better than others. And not just in NYCB, also at ABT. Maxim B. (I can never remember how to spell his name) is a good partner, but you just can't compare him to Hallberg or Gomes. I could go on and on about this subject, but I won't. And I agree with the Ballet Talkers who said the NY Times reviewer had the right to be negative about Yvonne Borree's dancing. It is a review, after all, not a testimonial. As long as what is criticized is the dancing (never the appearance) and it's done in a professional way I think it's fine. I have never liked when a reviewer whitewashed a favorite's performance.

#23 DeborahB

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 05:46 AM

I didn't go to Yvonne Borree's Farewell, but I've seen her dance many many times. Sometimes she was wonderful, but sometimes she was tentative to say the least. But she's not the only NYCB dancer like that. Charles Askegard (imo anyway) is another case in point. Sometimes he's great, sometimes he's really off. You never know what you're going to get with him. It's hard for an audience member to know where such inconsistencies come off. There were times (as have been mentioned on Ballet Talk many times, when Borree was noticeably trembling during a performance. But I saw her dance Coppelia several times, and every time she was great. And Swanilda is such a killer role!!!!!

I don't know if I'd use the term A and B listers for principal dancers, but there are definitely principal dancers who are better than others. And not just in NYCB, also at ABT. Maxim B. (I can never remember how to spell his name) is a good partner, but you just can't compare him to Hallberg or Gomes. I could go on and on about this subject, but I won't. And I agree with the Ballet Talkers who said the NY Times reviewer had the right to be negative about Yvonne Borree's dancing. It is a review, after all, not a testimonial. As long as what is criticized is the dancing (never the appearance) and it's done in a professional way I think it's fine. I have never liked when a reviewer whitewashed a favorite's performance.



Again, I find myself defending the farewell performance. For those of you who didn't go to the performance, it's hard to weigh in on what happen. I
was there. Yvonne was overcome with emotion in the Brahams-Schoenberg. I thought is was amazing that she even made it through.

And again --there are kinder ways to phrase a less than stellar performance (although I thought she did a very nice job). This is even more true during at farewell performance.

I do think it's amusing that so many BTers are defending the NYT's reviewer. In the past, there has been a ton of criticism about NYT
reviewers.

And not to pander -- but please see our own (BT) Leigh Witchel for a way to comment/even criticism a performance and dancer without
crossing the line into (almost) being unnecessarily unkind/mean/nasty.

#24 abatt

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 07:19 AM

Various Ballet Talkers may recall that LaRocca is the same critic who, in a June 25, 2008 review of Veronika Part's performance of La Bayadere (which she reviewed favorably), LaRocca felt the need to remind everyone that Part had fallen off pointe during the Rose Adagio a year earlier at an ABT gala. Was it really necessary for her to remind everyone of Part's most embarrassing moment on stage, when Part has given so many wonderful performances? La Rocca wrote:

In truth, she is a bit of both, now flubbing point work in astonishing fashion (her turn as Aurora in “The Sleeping Beauty” premiere last season was especially nerve-racking to behold, and she was not given the role this year), now projecting a plush, old-fashioned grandeur.

LaRocca seems to feel it is her job to wield her pen (or keyboard) as a sledge hammer.

#25 Colleen Boresta

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 07:29 AM

I wasn't agreeing with the NY Times reviewers in general. I was just saying that a reviewer has a right to be honest in light of what he/she feels they saw at a performance. The main NY Times reviewer I've criticized is Alistair MacAuley. He doesn't seem to look at the dancer at that particular performance. He has his favorites and if you're not his favorite (which most dancers are) he's going to be very critical. He also goes on way too long about his history in seeing a certain ballet.

And in a review of a final performance, isn't a reviewer going to sum up a performer's career? Is that somehow not allowed because this is a final performance. Can you only say good things about a person because their career is over? Yvonne Borree was an inconsistent dancer as I said before. Sometimes she was wonderful, sometimes she was really off. If I were writing a final review of a ballerina or danseur I'd certainly sum their career in a few lines. In my opinion there are dancers whose performance will be remembered by audience members for years after they saw them. And then there will be the other dancers. I think Yvonne Borree belongs in the second category.

I am sure Yvonne danced very well on June 6th. I saw her on May 30th in Stravinsky Violin Concerto and I was surprised how wonderful she was in that ballet (having seen her dance the part rather tentatively before.) I also wish her the best for her future, whatever it happens to hold.

#26 Colleen Boresta

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 07:31 AM

Sorry I meant that most dancers are not Alistair MacAuley's favorites. I just wanted to make that clear.

#27 papeetepatrick

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 07:54 AM

LaRocca should have ended her review before she got to the negatives---I can't imagine going to a retirement celebration and after giving the guest his gold watch and praise---then to remember his faults....I can only hope Darci Kistler is bracing herself.... :flowers:


I doubt Darci is worried about La Rocco, and maybe not even Toni Bentley. After all, she's already done the Gold Watch Angle, albeit a Movado Commercial Fantasy in which she was 'peering like a blonde widow out of a black web'. What's to worry after somebody's written that about you? That she'll get a Gold Retirement Watch story, replete with overdoing the 'not retiring soon enough' from La Rocco? or maybe ' peering like a black widow out of a blonde wig' from somebody? To give Toni her due, at least she did have that marvelous line 'I remember when the pterodactyls were flying'. That was a great choice of creature for the NYCB Golden Age, especially since Darci was one of the last of those. But NYReview of Books should be ashamed for that paragraph which could be called 'Poor Darci Having Sunk to a Movado Commercial', except that I'm sure Darci doesn't need to be braced for anything after she read that and somehow refrained from suing.

#28 kfw

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 09:06 AM

I agree with the Ballet Talkers who said the NY Times reviewer had the right to be negative about Yvonne Borree's dancing. It is a review, after all, not a testimonial. As long as what is criticized is the dancing (never the appearance) and it's done in a professional way I think it's fine. I have never liked when a reviewer whitewashed a favorite's performance.

I haven't heard anyone question LaRocca's right to be critical, only the appropriateness of doing so in regards to a farewell. I also understand carbro's argument that not to have done so would have been bad journalism, and I would agree if the stakes were higher. But Borree wasn't a star, wasn't influential as a dancer as far as I know (as opposed to in her teaching capacity at SAB), and won't be appearing on future cast lists for ticket buyers to consider seeing or avoiding. With the stakes that low, I wish LaRocco had praised what there was to praise and let readers read between the lines and notice what was missing.

He also goes on way too long about his history in seeing a certain ballet.

To each his own. :) I enjoy reading the history and I think it gives us perspective on his judgments.

#29 dirac

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 09:27 AM

And in a review of a final performance, isn't a reviewer going to sum up a performer's career? Is that somehow not allowed because this is a final performance. Can you only say good things about a person because their career is over? Yvonne Borree was an inconsistent dancer as I said before. Sometimes she was wonderful, sometimes she was really off. If I were writing a final review of a ballerina or danseur I'd certainly sum their career in a few lines.


Certainly the review of a farewell gala is also an appropriate place to discuss the performer's career and impact, for good and ill, as well as the performance itself. If there was controversy or intense disagreement about a dancer, or if there was debate regarding whether the dancer postponed retirement longer than was desirable or healthy - not only is it legitimate comment but it's only fair to the reader to mention such matters and give an honest accounting of them.

#30 papeetepatrick

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 09:34 AM

or if there was debate regarding whether the dancer postponed retirement longer than was desirable or healthy - not only is it legitimate comment but it's only fair to the reader to mention such matters and give an honest accounting of them.


Absolutely, and although this isn't the right place to say much more about Darci's controversial lateretirement, if somebody knows why she did hang on so long, I'd like to know. I wondered whether she had really wanted to keep dancing long after she would have known she was declining in technique (I noticed it in 2004, but then thought she was wonderful in 2006, so I don't know), or whether there was pressure to keep her because of having been the last of a few of Balanchine dancers back in 2005-2006, and after Nichols, Soto and Boal were gone, she was the only one (as well as the most famous, perhaps, of the four, in having been a kind of muse.)


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