Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

Nutcracker Chronicles - NYTimesRequest for photos and memories


  • Please log in to reply
110 replies to this topic

#46 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,466 posts

Posted 04 December 2010 - 05:16 PM

Does slim mean underdeveloped? Can a female dancer have a more womanly figure without being criticized?


Even the definition of "womanly" changes over time, though. Allegra Kent, who had her own intermittent weight problems, notes in her Dancer's Body Book that the current ideal weight for female dancers is somewhat lower than what's considered normal for women, while for men the desired dancer's weight is much closer to the norm, making it that much more difficult for dancing girls to stay in line. Dancers seem to be becoming more thin over time, men and women both but especially women, and that accords with changing styles in the wider culture. 19th century womanly is not 21st century womanly.

But Farrell was always an exception, and even though she had a 'big look' in 'Mozartiana', that seemed appropriate to me.


And in that tutu she looks fine. In other styles of tutu, less so, perhaps. I remember when I was a kid watching her on TV in 'Chaconne' for the first time I thought, "Gee, she's kind of fat." My niece, looking through my copy of Keith Money's book on Pavlova, said "She's a little chunky, isn't she?" And of course in her day Pavlova was considered very slender.

And again Macaulay's comment was one line in an article that was valuable in describing in fair detail the plan of Balanchine Nutcracker - before that one line got sent to Huffington Post readers for thumbs up or thumbs down.


I agree, Quiggin.

#47 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 04 December 2010 - 05:41 PM

Even the definition of "womanly" changes over time, though.


The best written development of that change I know of is in Thorstein Veblen's 'Theory of the Leisure Class', where it's one of many things having to do with fashion and given value as such. So that obviously, even the idea of thinness is not always considered to have the highest status. In ballet, though there has always obviously had to be some reasonable extreme muscularity, so that even if there was some plumpness and fleshiness in the 19th century, no ballerinas could really be fat and do the fouettes, or really any of the steps effectively.

#48 Colleen Boresta

Colleen Boresta

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 351 posts

Posted 05 December 2010 - 03:54 AM

I, too, saw Susan Jaffe many times, and in her earlier years acting was not her strong suite. But then she studied with I think her name is Irina Kopylova - she was a great ballerina with the Kirov and now is a ballet mistress at ABT. So later in her career Jaffe really improved as an actress. I saw her in a performance of Onegin (with Carlos Lopez) a year or so before she retired and she was sensational. Unfortunately at the very end of her career her technique was really fading - especially with regards to roles like Odile in Swan Lake.

#49 Mel Johnson

Mel Johnson

    Diamonds Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,311 posts

Posted 05 December 2010 - 04:38 AM

But then she studied with I think her name is Irina Kopylova - she was a great ballerina with the Kirov and now is a ballet mistress at ABT.


That would be Irina Kolpakova.

#50 Colleen Boresta

Colleen Boresta

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 351 posts

Posted 05 December 2010 - 05:14 AM

Thank you, Mel. That was the name I meant. Sorry I got it wrong.

#51 lmspear

lmspear

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 171 posts

Posted 05 December 2010 - 05:59 AM


One person's "smart" and "snappy" can be another person's "snide" and "self-important".



And that is really part of the problem. It's a fine, thin line where "wittiness" ends and "nastiness" begins. It's SO easy to cross that line in certain contexts. And being in text/print flattens out some nuances of communication where in a coversation a particular comment might sort of "hover" on the acceptable side of that all important line. But in print, without any verbal shadings, the comment is blunt and mean.


Of course it's possible to be witty and nasty. This has example has probably popped into my head because it's food related. David Mamet's comments about Jeremy Piven wanting to leave acting and take up a career as a thermometer when he withdrew from the recent revival of "Speed-the-Plow" was laugh out loud funny the first time read it. My reaction to AM was just to wince.

#52 melange

melange

    Member

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 32 posts

Posted 05 December 2010 - 10:26 AM

Quiggin's post, No. 19 in this thread, brings back a memory. One thing that has intrigued me about this whole imbroglio is how quickly and definitively our Internetty, Diggy, Facebookey, Twittery age has enabled it to take on a life of its own. Within hours of Alastair Macaulay's article hitting the whateversphere, we were hit with a firestorm of invective. I don't remember anything like this in the wake of Joan Acocella's 1996? review of one of Wendy Whelan's performances, in which she commented that Whelan "looked like a famine victim," and asked "where is her mother?" (I searched in vain for the article; if someone has a link to it, I'd ask that you please post it). It seems to me that Acocella's comment about Whelan's physical appearance was every bit as snarky and provocative as Macaulay's comment about Jenifer Ringer's. However, it appeared at the tail end of the ballpoint-to-foolscap age, when the capability to give instant angry responses and the fora to view them were limited, so we did not see anything like what we have seen in the past 72 hours.

I'm afraid I have to give Macaulay a bit of a pass on this, at least in principle. Although I have loved Wendy Whelan since she was in the corps, I am also forced to admit that her scrawniness occasionally has been sufficiently outlandish to distract from the enjoyment of her always superb dancing. Given the visual aspect of ballet, I do not think discussion of a dancer's physical appearance is necessarily off limits, nor do I think that a good turn of phrase to describe it, even if somewhat mordant, is out of order either. It would have been far more brutal if Macaulay had taken the literal approach and said of Ringer simply "she's tubby." Judging by the discussion of past critics in this thread, Macaulay certainly did not invent harsh criticism, nor do I think his comments set a new dismal standard for gratuitous nastiness. What made me purse my lips, though, was that I know Ringer's medical history, and that Macaulay did not do what a critic ought, which is talk about how she danced that performance.

#53 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 05 December 2010 - 11:36 AM

Quiggin's post, No. 19 in this thread, brings back a memory. One thing that has intrigued me about this whole imbroglio is how quickly and definitively our Internetty, Diggy, Facebookey, Twittery age has enabled it to take on a life of its own. Within hours of Alastair Macaulay's article hitting the whateversphere, we were hit with a firestorm of invective. I don't remember anything like this in the wake of Joan Acocella's 1996? review of one of Wendy Whelan's performances, in which she commented that Whelan "looked like a famine victim," and asked "where is her mother?"

Thank you so much, melange, for putting this story in the context of the communications revolution we are currently living through. Very interesting and (I think) to the point.

#54 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,466 posts

Posted 05 December 2010 - 12:10 PM

What made me purse my lips, though, was that I know Ringer's medical history, and that Macaulay did not do what a critic ought, which is talk about how she danced that performance.


Good post, melange thanks. However, if a critic were expected to take every case of disorded eating, bulimia, or anorexia in ballet into account when composing his reviews and appraising dancers' appearances - that is not workable, to me, and I'm entirely with Macaulay on that one.

Another example I can think of is when Arlene Croce noted that Gelsey Kirkland "had put on a lot of weight all over." She got rapped on the knuckles by Suzanne Gordon for that one. A bald statement like that can be quite as harsh to the recipient as if it is made (or cushioned) with humor. Kirkland, too, had her eating problems. I'm not sure that a frank statement of "she's tubby" would have helped out Macaulay - in fact he might have got worse.

Within hours of Alastair Macaulay's article hitting the whateversphere, we were hit with a firestorm of invective.


Good point, as bart said.

#55 kfw

kfw

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,319 posts

Posted 05 December 2010 - 12:40 PM

What made me purse my lips, though, was that I know Ringer's medical history, and that Macaulay did not do what a critic ought, which is talk about how she danced that performance.


[ . . . ]

Another example I can think of is when Arlene Croce noted that Gelsey Kirkland "had put on a lot of weight all over." She got rapped on the knuckles by Suzanne Gordon for that one. A bald statement like that can be quite as harsh to the recipient as if it is made (or cushioned) with humor. Kirkland, too, had her eating problems. I'm not sure that a frank statement of "she's tubby" would have helped out Macaulay - in fact he might have got worse.

Macaulay did say that Ringer and Angle danced "without adult depth or complexity," but even if he hadn't mentioned their dancing at all, I wouldn't have faulted him. Presumably if they'd been especially good or especially bad he'd have said so, but he noted what he thought was most notable, and that's enough for me. Still, he didn't have to criticize them in the witty manner in which he did, or use slang like "tubby" that likewise can sound like ridicule. Simple descriptions like "overweight" or "too heavy" would have told us as much, and far fewer people would have thought he was being mean.

#56 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,466 posts

Posted 05 December 2010 - 04:43 PM

It would have been far more brutal if Macaulay had taken the literal approach and said of Ringer simply "she's tubby." Judging by the discussion of past critics in this thread, Macaulay certainly did not invent harsh criticism, nor do I think his comments set a new dismal standard for gratuitous nastiness.


melange, I just realized I misread your post and took "she's tubby" out of context when I responded previously. I actually agree with that entirely.

Simple descriptions like "overweight" or "too heavy" would have told us as much, and far fewer people would have thought he was being mean.


I would be inclined to doubt that, given some of the responses he's received. Many seem to think he went over the line in mentioning the subject at all.

#57 checkwriter

checkwriter

    Member

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 84 posts

Posted 05 December 2010 - 04:44 PM

As a reviewer for a major newspaper in the country's cultural capital, writing about the season's most heavily-attended ballet, Macaulay must have known that his NYCB Nutcracker opening night review would have a much wider audience than most of his reviews do. Given the many young dancers who encounter issues with their weight in the course of pursuing their goal of becoming "just like" a Jenifer Ringer or a Jared Angle, it would have been better had he expressed his thoughts in a more professional and responsible manner. What are young dancers who have body image issues to begin with supposed to think when two NYCB principals are subjected to such a withering attack?

Borrowing Leigh Witchel's gentler phrasing for Angle - that he "looked a little out of shape" - would have done the job without any snark whatsoever, and without sending the not-so-subtle message that skinny = better.

#58 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,321 posts

Posted 05 December 2010 - 07:08 PM

I thought Macaulay's description was a groaner, but sometimes there's a miss in writing as much as he does. What I think we're dancing around here is an elephant in the room: weight. We can go around in circles as much as we want, and propose different ways to phrase the same thing delicately, but generally we don't ask the same delicacy for other aspects of dance, like whether they danced like adults.

I wrote "an elephant", because there's a herd of pachyderms when it comes to ballet (and figure skating): weight, injuries, forcing a body that is not ideal for ballet to do ballet, the number of casualties along the way to get those few hundred who dance professionally, race, economics specific to dancers, how being in a company can crush confidence, the way people in ballet are treated as children, that they are called "boys" and "girls". Yes, dancers talk about loving the art and feeling fulfilled, but the art we love has very big costs, and they are paid by more than the people we see on stage and who are employed professionally by companies.

There's a Facebooky think going around in which we chose cartoon characters as our profile photos. If I seem pessimistic, it's because I'm channeling Huey Freeman, who is not exactly Mr. Sunshine.

#59 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,466 posts

Posted 05 December 2010 - 11:34 PM

As a reviewer for a major newspaper in the country's cultural capital, writing about the season's most heavily-attended ballet, Macaulay must have known that his NYCB Nutcracker opening night review would have a much wider audience than most of his reviews do.. Given the many young dancers who encounter issues with their weight in the course of pursuing their goal of becoming "just like" a Jenifer Ringer or a Jared Angle, it would have been better had he expressed his thoughts in a more professional and responsible manner. What are young dancers who have body image issues to begin with supposed to think when two NYCB principals are subjected to such a withering attack?


Forgive me, checkwriter, but I wonder if one sentence in a review by Alastair Macaulay is going to have much influence over young dancers with body image issues, since they clearly acquired those issues from other, more immediate, sources. (In addition, a lot of the younger people of my acquaintance seem ignorant of where the news they read comes from, surely those more responsible for the fuss are those using the Internet to attack the guy, thus spreading his unhealthy message that slim is better to some who probably would never otherwise seek out Macaulay's reviews.)

#60 GWTW

GWTW

    Silver Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 533 posts

Posted 06 December 2010 - 12:11 AM

David Mamet's comments about Jeremy Piven wanting to leave acting and take up a career as a thermometer when he withdrew from the recent revival of "Speed-the-Plow" was laugh out loud funny the first time read it. My reaction to AM was just to wince.


Well, David Mamet has made quite a career out of being a nasty yet witty writer. By this point in time he's perfected the genre...

What makes Mamet's statement unpleasant IMO, compared to Macauley's, is the fact that he had an axe to grind with Piven, since Piven very contoversially withdrew from Mamet's play. By the same token, I thought that it was disingenuous of Ashley Bouder to comment on Alastair Macauley's critique of NYCB's 'Nut' without mentioning that she had received a not-so-glowing mention (by Bouder standards, at least) in that same review.


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):