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Farewell Performances and Criticism


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#31 kfw

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 09:45 AM

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.

The reader wouldn't have been hurt by a little discretion, and as I wrote yesterday

someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember any controversy.


Borree's faults had often been noted and she was not the controversial or consequential figure that Kistler is.

In any case, I think this has been a very interesting discussion, and I've enjoyed reading different points of view.

#32 dirac

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 10:22 AM

Borree's faults had often been noted and she was not the controversial or consequential figure that Kistler is.


The question of Borree's abilities did cause controversy and much critical comment, although she is not a major ballerina.

#33 E Johnson

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 12:54 PM

The question of Borree's abilities did cause controversy and much critical comment, although she is not a major ballerina.



Absolutely. The regrettable part of it is that Borree gets the brunt of the criticism (and I have no doubt she was always trying to dance as well as she possibly could) when it should be going to Peter Martins. A lot of the criticism was motivated, I think, by that fact that her prominence and continued casting in parts she really did not seem to able to handle reflected something about the Company as a whole -- that the best dancers were not getting cast, that dancers were not getting the support or coaching they needed, maybe something else.

I wasn't at the farewell so I can't speak to the accuracy of the review, but while I was at first a little surprised by it, i don't think it was wildly inappropraite. It was a review of a performance, and to an extent of a career -- not a tribute. It should be an accurate reflection of what the critic saw and thought.

#34 kfw

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 01:19 PM

The question of Borree's abilities did cause controversy and much critical comment, although she is not a major ballerina.


Absolutely.

Can someone cite examples, either from this site or in the press, of controversy? V. Part and in recent years Kistler have been the subject of much dispute. In regards to Borree, I remember consensus on her faults. I don't remember anyone defending her against her critics, or defending Martins for casting her.

#35 E Johnson

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 01:41 PM

There were certain roles she did very well and consistently -- duo concertant, steadfast tin soldier, for example. Someone mentioned Swanilda above. She was not a uniformly bad dancer, or a lazy one -- in some things she was really good.Even Stravinsky violin concerto - i saw her give lovely performances, and i saw really awfully shaky ones, and i saw her turn a really shaky one into a good one. so i guess the controversy was -- why was she, it seemed, so often dancing over her head, and why wasn't anyone helping her?

#36 kfw

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 01:56 PM

so i guess the controversy was -- why was she, it seemed, so often dancing over her head, and why wasn't anyone helping her?

OK, but that's a question, not a controversy. And LaRocca did not address it.

#37 dirac

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 03:07 PM

I meant the same thing by “controversy” as EJohnson did. Borree became a kind of symbol of what might or might not be wrong with the company, which places her right in the middle of one of the major ballet controversies of our time. No, this is not a debate of the “Borree is great!” “No, Borree is awful!” type since apparently the best most people could say was that she worked hard and was good in Duo Concertant. New Yorkers would have more to say about that than I. Nevertheless she did excite considerable discussion.

I think a critic’s overall view of a dancer is relevant in a farewell performance review in any case, but that was my point in regard to "controversy."

#38 carbro

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 03:47 PM

so i guess the controversy was -- why was she, it seemed, so often dancing over her head, and why wasn't anyone helping her?

OK, but that's a question, not a controversy. And LaRocca did not address it.

We don't know what the editor did to the text LaRocco submitted nor what she would have said if given more space.

#39 papeetepatrick

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 03:58 PM

Borree became a kind of symbol of what might or might not be wrong with the company, which places her right in the middle of one of the major ballet controversies of our time.


Exactly. And none too overstated either.

#40 kfw

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 04:43 PM

Borree became a kind of symbol of what might or might not be wrong with the company

I didn't see her functioning as that symbol, but thanks for explaining your thinking.

We don't know what the editor did to the text LaRocco submitted nor what she would have said if given more space.

Good point. In which case I blame the editor. :)

#41 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 06:48 PM

I doubt Darci is worried about La Rocco, and maybe not even Toni Bentley[ ]. I'm sure Darci doesn't need to be braced for anything after she read that and somehow refrained from suing.


:)

#42 Drew

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 12:20 AM

I can't really argue with people about the appropriateness of Larocca reviewing the performance and Borree's career as she saw fit--and like many others I was often flummoxed by the prominence of Borree in the company's casting especially in Balanchine where she frequently did not seem up to the standard that an NYCB principal should have. (My point of comparison is not Farrell or Mcbride--not the "all time greats"--but, say, a principal dancer like Margaret Tracy.)

That said, my reaction to the review was very like kfw's, and I was a bit taken aback by it. I thought ending the article on a slam (editor or Larocca's decision I don't know) made it seem particularly unkind. The article could have made its negative points, but stuck them in the middle and then returned to the quality of Duo Concertante or made some more generic tribute to conclude. (Also, I have seen reviews of farewell performances that addressed weaknesses of the performance but also made a point of commenting on how emotion of the moment was catching up with the dancer. None of that for Larocca...)

That said, I assume reviewers also want attention for their writing--and indeed need some attention for their careers--and I guess Larocca pulled that off...Nor did what she say seem unjust to me in a general way, though obviously I can't evaluate it in terms of the particular performance since I was not there.

Other thoughts:

Borree beyond Duo Concertante? Early in Borree's career I saw her dance Pierrette (I think--she was all in white) to Stiefel's Harlequin in Harlequinade--and I quite liked that performance. She really "looked" perfect for the role and infused it with the charm of a porcelain figurine. Also early in her career I saw her dance an uneven but exciting and altogether charming Swanilda: she had something like three bad slips, but was a replacement for another principal and dancing in the "go for broke-Balanchine-dancer" tradition so I was ready to give her a pass: I remember thinking after that performance that she had a ton of promise in the role. Of course, I hugely admired her in Duo Concertante and while I can't say the same of her performance in Concerto Barocco, the one time I saw her in the latter ballet was nicely done -- and I happened to be with someone who had never seen any ballet whatsoever, and he fully FELT the beauty of Concerto Barocco, speaking about it movingly, so something came across and Borree was the lead.

#43 Helene

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 12:35 AM

Back in the day, the majority of dancers, even principals, got an announcement of when their last performance would be, and, principals got a career history and wrap-up article in the NYT before the final performance. They were presented with flowers, and there could be hugs from company members, staff, former dancers, etc. Reviews were regular performance reviews with a mention of the retirement and perhaps a line or two in tribute. While there might have been private company events and celebrations to mark the milestone, the public recognition was in the context of a regular season performance, or in the case of Stephanie Saland, who retired with the 1993 Balanchine Celebration, a special solo bow in front of the curtain, a privilege also given to retiring corps members and soloists after regular season performances. Fans of the dancers would show up for those performances.

The tribute performances were for historically important dancers like Farrell and McBride, where programs would be tailored to them, although not all historically important dancers got them.

If that tradition had held, we wouldn't need to have this conversation.

#44 perky

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 05:20 AM

Back in the day, the majority of dancers, even principals, got an announcement of when their last performance would be, and, principals got a career history and wrap-up article in the NYT before the final performance. They were presented with flowers, and there could be hugs from company members, staff, former dancers, etc. Reviews were regular performance reviews with a mention of the retirement and perhaps a line or two in tribute. While there might have been private company events and celebrations to mark the milestone, the public recognition was in the context of a regular season performance, or in the case of Stephanie Saland, who retired with the 1993 Balanchine Celebration, a special solo bow in front of the curtain, a privilege also given to retiring corps members and soloists after regular season performances. Fans of the dancers would show up for those performances.

The tribute performances were for historically important dancers like Farrell and McBride, where programs would be tailored to them, although not all historically important dancers got them.

If that tradition had held, we wouldn't need to have this conversation.





Helene makes an excellent observation. :)
Martin's does love to give his dancers high profile, rah rah send-offs. Whether it comes from a genuine respect and admiration for his dancers or from a desire to sell more tickets is unknown. I personally believe it's a little of both.
I do think it's nice to give these retiring dancers their gala, but it does diminish the overall impact of them if to use Arlene Croce's term "utility dancers" get the same treatment as icons such as Farrell and McBride.

#45 Jayne

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 09:01 AM

I think it is great that companies do this. Whether you like it or not, Ms Borree was a principal and all principals are feted in this manner. The corps dancers do not have an easier job, they put in just as much time at the studio and suffer injuries, they earn lesser pay, and often take second jobs.

I believe it is a sign of respect to any dancer who dedicates his/her youth and early adult years to this demanding profession. The other dancers are showing their respect, no matter the official "job title" bestowed by the artistic director.

While the reviewer has the right to critique Ms. Borree's performance, a little kindness would go a long way. Finally, I believe it is always difficult for a second generation to continue in a profession where the parent was hyper successful, Michael Jordan has two talented sons but they will never achieve their father's success. There are statistically very few superstars in the NBA, perhaps a handful every decade, and the same is true for ballet principals.


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