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Farewell Performances and Criticism


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#91 papeetepatrick

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 10:25 AM

Okay, I'll bow out, as they say. Nothing further to add.

#92 aurora

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 10:49 AM

Hair color, volume, or length are less integral -- though they may be relevant to the particular role and may, at certain extremes, be a distraction.

Re Macauley: possibly he tries to compress too much into his pieces. I do have the sense that he sees and feels performances with such vividness that he doesn't know when to stop. Helene's brillliant analysis of the Kistler farewell piece, breaking it down into its multiple points of view, is an example of just how complex a story he often attempts to tell. This can overwhelm the average reader and (something I care about less) frequently enrages the fan.


I personally think haircolor as a criticism in a review is a bit silly, but if a reviewer thinks its very important that Basilio has dark hair, I can see that for that reviewer it could be a legitimate critique.

That said, the 'looks like a member of the nazi youth' comment regarding Ethan was nasty. I don't know why its even being debated. Maybe some found it so witty (clearly the intention in his wording it thus) that they were willing to overlook it, but it was vile and offensive on several levels, though obviously not meant to be taken terribly seriously. And I don't say this because I'm a particular fan of Stiefel's.

I am not a fan of Kistler. I think she should have retired years ago. And I don't think that one should get a pass in reviews of final performances. Still I found portions of this one gratuitously nasty. All the reviews I read of the performance got across the salient issues. His was the only one that shocked me. And it was not because I was an enraged fan. I thought it needlessly cruel, especially the "wretched" line.

#93 Amour

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 04:55 AM

There is a more gracious or polite way to critique what one may perceive a dancer's flaws to be and then there is Macauley's way. In the case of Ethan, for example, Macauley simply could have simply said he felt the role called for a dark haired dancer, and Ethan's hair was too blond for the role. Saying what he did that implies some association between Ethan's choice of his hair color and Ethan's political beliefs ( which I am certain to not include fascist thinking) To bring the word "Nazi" ( a VERY loaded word) into the review changes the whole tone of the commentary and makes it nasty and personal. And has been notes, Macauley often remarks on matters that do not concern either technique or dramatic proficiency but are simply physical features (hair color or length, the attractiveness of a dancer, etc.) that are his personal preferences. That has been my criticism of Macauley since he arrived. He certainly has a right to his opinions (and is paid to express them) but they should be limited and it is the very unpleasant and IMO unpofessional way that he expresses them that often degrades his reviews into personal attacks.

#94 leonid17

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 06:14 AM

There is a more gracious or polite way to critique what one may perceive a dancer's flaws to be and then there is Macauley's way. In the case of Ethan, for example, Macauley simply could have simply said he felt the role called for a dark haired dancer, and Ethan's hair was too blond for the role. Saying what he did that implies some association between Ethan's choice of his hair color and Ethan's political beliefs ( which I am certain to not include fascist thinking) To bring the word "Nazi" ( a VERY loaded word) into the review changes the whole tone of the commentary and makes it nasty and personal. And has been notes, Macauley often remarks on matters that do not concern either technique or dramatic proficiency but are simply physical features (hair color or length, the attractiveness of a dancer, etc.) that are his personal preferences. That has been my criticism of Macauley since he arrived. He certainly has a right to his opinions (and is paid to express them) but they should be limited and it is the very unpleasant and IMO unpofessional way that he expresses them that often degrades his reviews into personal attacks.


I would suggest that where Macaulay used the word "Nazi" in conjuction with blondness, he was merely referencing a descriptive archetype widely understood in most countries.

#95 kfw

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 06:40 AM

I would suggest that where Macaulay used the word "Nazi" in conjuction with blondness, he was merely referencing a descriptive archetype widely understood in most countries.

Of course. Is there a reason in the world anyone would think Stiefel is a fascist? Would anyone believe Macaulay if he said he was? Of course not.

#96 dirac

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 08:28 PM

There is a more gracious or polite way to critique what one may perceive a dancer's flaws to be and then there is Macauley's way. In the case of Ethan, for example, Macauley simply could have simply said he felt the role called for a dark haired dancer, and Ethan's hair was too blond for the role. Saying what he did that implies some association between Ethan's choice of his hair color and Ethan's political beliefs ( which I am certain to not include fascist thinking) To bring the word "Nazi" ( a VERY loaded word) into the review changes the whole tone of the commentary and makes it nasty and personal.


Thanks for posting, amour. You are right to say that Nazi is a loaded word, but in this instance I don't think Macaulay intended anything more than, "Boy, he sure looks blond," in a light, as it were, way, and no political connotation was intended. It's not out of line to note that a performer may have allowed his or her hairdresser a few too many liberties with the highlighter.

#97 papeetepatrick

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 08:39 PM

You are right to say that Nazi is a loaded word, but in this instance I don't think Macaulay intended anything more than, "Boy, he sure looks blond," in a light, as it were, way, and no political connotation was intended. It's not out of line to note that a performer may have allowed his or her hairdresser a few too many liberties with the highlighter.


I agree he meant that, and nothing about Stiefel's political beliefs, but it's crude. Because 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.

#98 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 08:46 PM

When Stiefel came out at the gala A Whiter Shade of Pale, my "Ballet Wife" leaned over and whispered, "It's Siegfried and Roy! Where are the white tigers?"

It was all I could do not to burst out laughing, and not steal it for my article.

#99 dirac

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 09:54 PM

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

"It's Siegfried and Roy! Where are the white tigers?"


:D

#100 papeetepatrick

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 11:23 PM

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.

#101 leonid17

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Posted 02 July 2010 - 02:45 AM


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.

#102 aurora

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Posted 02 July 2010 - 06:41 AM

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.

#103 E Johnson

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Posted 02 July 2010 - 06:56 AM

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.

#104 kfw

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Posted 02 July 2010 - 07:21 AM

[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.

#105 Quiggin

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Posted 02 July 2010 - 08:35 AM

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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