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Farewell Performances and Criticism


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#46 Jayne

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 09:02 AM

Also I believe this was a regular season performance, so it wasn't an "extra" performance designed as a Borree Love Fest, nor was it the 18 month "farewell tour". Obviously so many past dancers flew in because they thought Ms. Borree was pretty special. :)

#47 E Johnson

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 09:46 AM

Also I believe this was a regular season performance, so it wasn't an "extra" performance designed as a Borree Love Fest, nor was it the 18 month "farewell tour". Obviously so many past dancers flew in because they thought Ms. Borree was pretty special. :)


This was exactly the same type of farewell gala NYCB has done and will do for many retiring principals, including Kistler and Nichols. Its not exactly a regular perfrormance because the retirign dancer generally chooses the roles s/he will perform.

#48 Helene

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 10:00 AM

It's also advertised as a "Farewell" performance, not a regular season performance. For example, Adam Luders and Gen Horiuchi retired in the same performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in Act II Divertissement and as Oberon, respectively, a regularly scheduled performance of the ballet.

#49 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 10:05 AM

A factor here also is assignments. I don't know how The Times doles out who writes what, but they are the paper of record and tacit silence isn't an option. I always felt for Jennifer Dunning (even when she was reviewing me) because it didn't look like she had a choice in attending or writing, even if she had nothing good or new to say. That's what falls to third-stringers.

#50 ksk04

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 05:01 PM

Helene makes an excellent observation. :wink:
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.


It would seem like pressure would come from ABT, no? Kevin McKenzie does great farewell performances for his principals but their rep and star system are more tailor made for this type of thing, when a ballerina can pick Giselle or Romeo & Juliet as their big farewell, but have it still flow seamlessly with the rest of the season. Maybe it's because I am not a NYCB watcher (I don't live in NYC) but it seems like a bit of a bigger mess to create a farewell performance from a triple bill that has to fit within the predetermined programs (up until earlier this week wasn't Phillip Neal supposed to retire with Call me Ben on his farewell program, which pretty much everyone seems to hate??).

#51 California

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 06:13 PM

. . . (up until earlier this week wasn't Phillip Neal supposed to retire with Call me Ben on his farewell program, which pretty much everyone seems to hate??).


I'm looking at an older print-out of the schedule and comparing that with the current schedule on the NYCB web site. "New Barak Ballet" has, indeed, been replaced with Chacone for the Neal Farewell June 13. Ben is still on the schedule, as originally announced, for June 24. Does anybody know the story on this? I wonder if Neal requested the change or if Martins decided to start cutting his losses on Ben.

Also, I've been following the discussion on Ben with great interest and wonder if Barak might try major surgery before it's performed again February 10, 12, and 19. (That would take more rehearsal time than they likely want to invest, of course.) I've been trying to think of examples of new ballets that were substantially reworked after a disappointing reception and fared better with major revisions.

#52 Quiggin

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 07:41 PM

I think the review was a hybrid that wavered between a review and a journal entry, at least in the last paragraphs, like Apollianaire Scherr's commentaries on her Financial Times reviews at Foot in Mouth. A strong editor might have asked which was it to be.

I do think Claudia La Rocco wanted to set the record straight in a time of easily inflated, over-leveraged reputations and I don't disagree with her observations (I don't remember any of YB's performances -- they just whooshed by me).

Helene:

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.


Ib Andersen, whom Helene, I believe, and I liked a lot, had a nice and modest farewell doing Apollo (Maria Calegari was Terpsichore). The Times review I just looked at talked about Andersen's ups and downs with the company but that he had been doing great work at the end -- and noted the lyre that someone held out to him from off stage, a sort of in-joke. But I think it was a different time -- awkward years but with rewards -- and the company had more awareness of the past and what was slipping away from them.

#53 Farrell Fan

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 07:45 PM

The farewell performances by Patty McBride and Suzanne Farrell were unlke any others before or since -- genuine outpourings of love from the audience. They were regularly scheduled perormances -- Sunday evenings, if I recall correctly -- and they were among the most moving occasions in NYCB history. Suzanne's farewell was so moving that the Daily News ran an editorial about it the next day. I don't know if there was a dry eye in the house, but if so, they did not include Suzanne's or Lincoln Kirstein's. I still get shivers remembering.

#54 GeorgeB fan

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Posted 12 June 2010 - 10:04 PM

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...)


Drew,

I think you hit on something that I had a problem with the review. I can't in all truth argue the things Ms. LaRocca mentioned in regard to Yvonne's overall career at NYCB. She was never one of my personal favorites, although I have to admit, there was a few times I was actually surprise at just how good she was. I remembered a performance of Harlequinde back in the late 90's with Damian Woetzel in which techincally speaking she was very strong and confidence. The same can be said about a performance of Sleeping Beauty in which she danced with Peter Boal. I was scared to death when she started the "Rose Adagio" because I just knew she wasn't going to be successful but to my amazement she sail through it with flying colors as she did with the rest of the performance. Sure there was roles that Peter Martins should have NEVER cast in her. Concero Barocco, Terpsichore (she probably been better used in the role Calliope), and my God what was Martins thinking when he cast her in Rubies???? These mistakes in casting wasn't just unfair to Yvonne but also to the audience, but more importantly, to the ballets themselves.

Back to what Drew was talking about, I think there is some truth to this argument that perhaps it would have been better if the criticism was somewhere in the middle of the article instead of towards the end because I did in fact expected the criticism. I actually braced myself waiting for it as I started reading the review. But to my relative delight the review was respectful, nice and I guess in a way appropriate. I mean she was never one of the major stars during her years but she did give 22 years service and for that in itself it should be acknowledged, thanked, and move on. But then BAM...all the negative criticism about her lack of skills and personality as a ballerina was threw at us. As I said I can't deny the things LaRocca said but perhaps she should not have tagged it towards the end. By doing so it left a sour note to the review. Suddenly all the praise she gave Yvonne in the beginning of the review lost some of it's power and weight. You got the sense you was being fatten up like a Thanksgiving turkey only to have the ax come slamming down on your neck. Now if I could feel that, imagine what Yvonne Borree must've felt like if she read it? Now I know LaRocca can't worry about what an artist thinks when she's giving her opinion about the artist's work, and Yvonne must be professional enough to deal with it, but can't help but think these are the very last words that will be ever spoken about in terms of her active career and it's basically a slam...even if there's some truth to that slam.

Sure on some levels LaRocca had to say those words if she was going to be honest professional journalist. No don't sugarcoat it but why throw more acid on it? Sure the sting would still be there if written in the middle, but I think we all know the last words spoken to you - or in this regard the last words spoken about you - are the words you will remember the most. Those are the ones that will remain printed in your head. Those final words completely changed the review. Why couldn't she put a nice bow at the end going back to the performance at hand and the audience happy send-off to her farewell? Perhaps if she did maybe...just maybe...we wouldn't be engaged in this discussion.

#55 miliosr

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Posted 13 June 2010 - 04:23 AM

Now if I could feel that, imagine what Yvonne Borree must've felt like if she read it?


Arlene Croce put it best: A review is a conversation between the reviewer and the audience -- not a conversation between the reviewer and the artist/performer. The latter is free to intrude on the conversation by reading the review but he or she does so at their own peril.

#56 kfw

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Posted 13 June 2010 - 05:12 AM

Now if I could feel that, imagine what Yvonne Borree must've felt like if she read it?


Arlene Croce put it best: A review is a conversation between the reviewer and the audience -- not a conversation between the reviewer and the artist/performer. The latter is free to intrude on the conversation by reading the review but he or she does so at their own peril.

The journalists-have-a-responsibility-to-be-blunt argument obviously holds water in regards to regular performances, but I don't think it does here. Farewell performances are where audience and performer say goodbye, and goodbyes aren't the occasion to air old grievances. Critics can, or at least should be allowed to, write in the same, fitting spirit. Should the audience have sat on their hands if Borree had danced poorly? Then why should critics need to grumble? Even if one accepts the argument, which I don't, that Borree was viewed as a symbol of Peter Martin's failures, then, not to be sarcastic, but does anyone really imagine dance lovers 50 years from now poring over old reviews and getting the wrong impression of Borree and the Martins years because the Times, the very last time it mentioned her, didn't repeat past criticism?

#57 bart

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Posted 13 June 2010 - 06:34 AM

This has been a fascinating thread, including as it does matters of writers' sensitivity to others as well as writers' expertise. Thanks to all. I especially appreciate the contributions from those who know Bourree's work but find themselves made uncomforatble by the direction that LoRocca takes in her farewell review.

I've learned a lot from this thread, but am still in agreement with posters like GeorgeB fan, who writes:

{I} can't help but think these are the very last words that will be ever spoken about in terms of her active career and it's basically a slam...even if there's some truth to that slam.

Thinking of LaRocca as a writer facing deadlines and working in a highly competitive marketplace, I have the feeling that she gave in to the desire to conclude with a bang: bit of rhetoric that would impress and be remembered. In old-fashioned speech-making, it's called a peroration, I believe, and can sometimes go on for paragraphs. LoRocca here prefers the single sentence. I imagine that every writer, at one time or other, has been tempted to use this device.

#58 miliosr

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Posted 13 June 2010 - 06:58 AM

Now if I could feel that, imagine what Yvonne Borree must've felt like if she read it?


Arlene Croce put it best: A review is a conversation between the reviewer and the audience -- not a conversation between the reviewer and the artist/performer. The latter is free to intrude on the conversation by reading the review but he or she does so at their own peril.

The journalists-have-a-responsibility-to-be-blunt argument obviously holds water in regards to regular performances, but I don't think it does here. Farewell performances are where audience and performer say goodbye, and goodbyes aren't the occasion to air old grievances. Critics can, or at least should be allowed to, write in the same, fitting spirit. Should the audience have sat on their hands if Borree had danced poorly? Then why should critics need to grumble? Even if one accepts the argument, which I don't, that Borree was viewed as a symbol of Peter Martin's failures, then, not to be sarcastic, but does anyone really imagine dance lovers 50 years from now poring over old reviews and getting the wrong impression of Borree and the Martins years because the Times, the very last time it mentioned her, didn't repeat past criticism?


I made no comment about the rightness or wrongness of what was written about Borree. I was merely responding to GeorgeB fan's original post. Again, artists/performers who read reviews do so at their own peril.

#59 rg

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Posted 13 June 2010 - 07:29 AM

the comment attributed above to Croce concerning "conversation," with the audience, was first stated by Edwin Denby in his essay on dance criticism now reprinted in collection(s) of his work, but written, originally, for Chujoy's Dance Encyclopedia in 1949.

#60 papeetepatrick

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Posted 13 June 2010 - 08:03 AM

I made no comment about the rightness or wrongness of what was written about Borree. I was merely responding to GeorgeB fan's original post. Again, artists/performers who read reviews do so at their own peril.


Yes, and lots of artists don't read their reviews. These are probably the strongest of all. Also, viewers who read reviews ought to know how not to take them so seriously. I don't pay that much attention to most critics in determining the value of someone or something, unless it shores up my own opinion, and even then I don't think it necessarily means something profound; I tend to pay more attention to them when they write something which really does begin to open up a work in the review itself, as a recent movie review I linked here (and that's indeed rare, I don't find many movie reviews worth a hill of beans.)


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