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Nutcracker Chronicles - NYTimesRequest for photos and memories


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#61 checkwriter

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 04:08 AM

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.)


I do forgive you, Dirac. If you have been spared the ordeal of having to deal with serious weight and body-image issues on a first-hand basis, then consider yourself blessed. As you correctly suggest, influences come at dancers from all angles and all sources. While Macaulay's one sentence in his review is just another straw, it was not a sentence that needed to be written in the way it was written.

As for the backlash - I think that's helping. While it may have spread his comments far beyond his original audience, the fact that most of the backlash appears to be on the side of the dancers sends a far more positive signal than what his one sentence did in his review.

#62 dirac

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 10:24 AM

I do forgive you, Dirac. If you have been spared the ordeal of having to deal with serious weight and body-image issues on a first-hand basis, then consider yourself blessed. As you correctly suggest, influences come at dancers from all angles and all sources. While Macaulay's one sentence in his review is just another straw, it was not a sentence that needed to be written in the way it was written.


Alas, checkwriter, I have not been so blessed, not that I regard such arguments from authority as germane to the discussion, but since you asked. Over time I've commented regularly on this site on the special demands placed on women to look good and stay thin.

As for Macaulay, we can agree to disagree.



#63 canbelto

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 02:25 PM

Here's another thought: ballet dancers are performers, and the ability of any great performer is to create an illusion that will hide his or her shortcomings. I've seen enough ballerinas offstage to know that they look very different onstage. Same with models or actors/actresses. Perhaps the problem with Ringer and Angle isn't just that they're out of shape (I believe Ringer returned from maternity leave) but that they're not riveting enough as performers to make one forget the physical shortcomings?

Opera is very different from ballet but I once saw Robert Alagna up close. He looked middle-aged, short, and thick around the waist. Onstage, he cleverly hides his shortness by kneeling during love scenes with the soprano. But most of all, he's able to fool the audience into thinking that he's an ardent young man in love because he's a great performer.

But just talking about dancers today, many of them have physical qualities that might be considered less than ideal. Ashley Bouder is on the stocky side for a ballerina, Alina Cojocaru has unappealing feet, Herman Cornejo is very short, etc. When I watch them onstage though I quickly forget those shortcomings because they're great performers.

#64 bart

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 02:57 PM

Here's another thought: ballet dancers are performers, and the ability of any great performer is to create an illusion that will hide his or her shortcomings. I've seen enough ballerinas offstage to know that they look very different onstage. Same with models or actors/actresses. Perhaps the problem with Ringer and Angle isn't just that they're out of shape (I believe Ringer returned from maternity leave) but that they're not riveting enough as performers to make one forget the physical shortcomings?

I think you are on to something, canbelto. A thread discussing the differences between performers off and on stage, and what happens to them and us when they are performing, might be very long indeed.

P.S. LOVE the Alagna story. :thumbsup:

#65 canbelto

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 04:35 PM

To use another example, Sara Mearns is another prominent NYCB dancer that doesn't have a very conventional ballerina figure. She's a bit thick all around. But she moves with an elegance and grace that quickly make me forget her figure. As a general rule, if I'm fixated on a performer's physical shortcomings, that performer is usually not giving a very impressive performance.

#66 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 04:43 PM

I completely understand having solipsistic criteria for watching dance - I have my own. But I think you're digging a hole that it's going to be very, very hard to climb out of.

Yes, fitness and appearance matter. And it's a difficult subject to discuss without sounding like you're discussing cuts of meat. But do you really think Ringer somehow earned those comments by being a not-very-interesting performer?

#67 canbelto

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 05:01 PM

I completely understand having solipsistic criteria for watching dance - I have my own. But I think you're digging a hole that it's going to be very, very hard to climb out of.

Yes, fitness and appearance matter. And it's a difficult subject to discuss without sounding like you're discussing cuts of meat. But do you really think Ringer somehow earned those comments by being a not-very-interesting performer?


I'm not saying she earned those comments. They were very harsh. But I'm saying that there are many many ballet dancers who don't have ideal figures (long neck, long limbs, short torso, arched feet), who can make it work by the strength of their dancing. Also, being out of shape is a different matter from not having an ideal figure.

#68 vipa

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 05:54 PM


I completely understand having solipsistic criteria for watching dance - I have my own. But I think you're digging a hole that it's going to be very, very hard to climb out of.

Yes, fitness and appearance matter. And it's a difficult subject to discuss without sounding like you're discussing cuts of meat. But do you really think Ringer somehow earned those comments by being a not-very-interesting performer?


I'm not saying she earned those comments. They were very harsh. But I'm saying that there are many many ballet dancers who don't have ideal figures (long neck, long limbs, short torso, arched feet), who can make it work by the strength of their dancing. Also, being out of shape is a different matter from not having an ideal figure.


An interesting discussion. In Macaulay's response to those who responded to his comments, he mentioned that Lynn Seymour was the plumpest dancer and one of the greatest that he's seen. He noticed her plumpness but her artistry over ruled it in a sense. In other words Seymour's dancing didn't make him not notice her weight, but her other attributes were more salient to him. I remember Seymour and agree that she was very plump and very great.

On the other hand It seems to me that there are body types that Macaulay favors or disfavors no matter what. He admits to Daniel Ulbricht's gifts but often his criticism seems related to Ulbricht's size and body type. The fact that Macaulay has said that a tendu by Hallberg can be a monumental event (paraphrasing) also speaks to physical preferences (the line of the long let and large instep). A shorter leg and lesser instep would never get that comment, regardless of the energy or intent behind the tendu.

But ballet is a visual art and we all want to see what we consider beautiful and right.

The other issue is the role - If Ringer was successfully doing a great dramatic role he might have been taken by the performance and not cared about or mentioned the weight.

The more I think the more confused I get -- words to live by!

#69 iwatchthecorps

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 08:43 PM

Rebecca King, Corps member at Miami City Ballet, discusses the recent Macaulay comments on dancers eating too many Sugar Plums. Read her blog at Tendus Under a Palm Tree

#70 melange

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 08:05 AM

On the other hand It seems to me that there are body types that Macaulay favors or disfavors no matter what. He admits to Daniel Ulbricht's gifts but often his criticism seems related to Ulbricht's size and body type. The fact that Macaulay has said that a tendu by Hallberg can be a monumental event (paraphrasing) also speaks to physical preferences (the line of the long let and large instep). A shorter leg and lesser instep would never get that comment, regardless of the energy or intent behind the tendu.


I've noticed this as well. Macaulay goes on and on about Kathryn Morgan's figure, for example, and I sometimes think his dislike of Wendy Whelan is motivated by her exotic appearance - though I don't recall his actually having said so outright. What is clear, however, is that his preference is not limited to conventional body types. For example, he has a warm spot in his heart for Savannah Lowery. I know you'll all be dewy-eyed at the tenderness of the compliments he paid both her physique and her dancing in his February 17, 2010 review:

"Ms. Lowery is a big, strong, broad-framed dancer, learning elegance and refinement the slow way, and occasionally clumsy. But in the whole company there is nobody who communicates such glee in dancing full-out to music. Frequently her dancing has more color than several more conventionally proportioned women who share the same repertory, and there are roles — the soloist in the first movement of “Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet,” for example — in which her incisive force seems definitive."

(I think another role in which Lowery radiates an infectious joy is the chief peasant girl in Cortege Hongrois -- she is lovely.) Without saying that Macaulay actually does or does not do this, I will say that to dismiss a dancer out of hand simply because of his or her physical appearance deprives one of the opportunity to enjoy what may be a very satisfying performance.

#71 abatt

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 11:08 AM

Personally, the only time I have ever been distracted by a dancer who was too heavy was a corps member (not at NYCB) whose girth was noticeably larger than the other women in the corps. I am more frequently distracted by dancers who are much too thin.

#72 bart

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 04:56 AM

A letter from Melissa R. Gerson, in the PRINT edition of the NY Times (12.8). Gerson is a former SAB classmate of Jennifer Ringer, a former soloist at Miami City Ballet, and currently a professional in the field of eating disorders.

Often dancers must choose between health or continued engagement in ballet; Ms. Ringer is exceptional and admirable in her ability to have achieved both.


http://www.nytimes.c...=rssnyt&emc=rss

#73 dirac

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 10:18 AM

Nobody's questioning that, I'm sure.

But I think we've exhausted the subject, at least for the moment, and look forward to reading any more comments about the Nutcracker Chronicles, which seem to have got lost in the shuffle.....

#74 canbelto

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 04:07 PM

He sort of did a summary of his Nutcracker chronicles, and I thought this was maybe my favorite description of all:

In one exquisite — but unacknowledged — respect, most of these “Nutcrackers” are hard to tell apart. Only the Joffrey production admits that it is based on the old 1940 Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo production; the others give credit only to their own house choreographers. But much of the same Sugar Plum choreography is danced by the Colorado Ballet, Moving Island Company in Rhode Island, Boston Ballet, Washington Ballet and Houston Ballet. (That’s just to name a few; the Royal Ballet and other companies in Europe also use this choreography.) It probably all derives from the Monte Carlo version, and in the case of the adagio and ballerina solo, parts of it surely go back to the 1892 St. Petersburg original, choreographed by Lev Ivanov.

One moment in the adagio is, thrillingly, like no other in 19th-century ballet. Running to her cavalier’s arms, the Sugar Plum Fairy arrives on point with her back to us, like a closed flower: her arms raised above her head like a halo, her other leg extended high to the side. Then, keeping that leg where it is, she twists sideways and plunges her torso and an arm down (arabesque penchée croisée), as if peeling the flower open to our view. Then she returns to the vertical, but now arches back, as if stretching petals luxuriantly wide.


No matter what one might think of his snarkiness towards dancers he doesn't like, AM really does have a way with words when describing ballet.

#75 carbro

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Posted 12 December 2010 - 04:48 PM

:toot: According to Wendy Perron's Twitter feed:

I just heard: Jenifer Ringer will be on The Today Show to address Macaulay's comments, Monday, sometime between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m.

So set your recording devices!

I have my doubts about the appropriateness of this, but we'll see.


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