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Ballet critics


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#1 Ballet fan

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 04:27 PM

For all of the arts (theater, literature, painting, movies, dance) there's academic criticism. These critics are supposed to tell people who the true artists are and which works can be considered true art. Many people go by a critic's opinion and never experience the work that's supposed to be bad and actually have an informed opinion. The opposite is true. Many critics hail something as being the finest thing in the entire world, unmatched, etc. and create a huge hype. People go see it, lured by the critic's comments, and if it doesn't meet their expectations they are disappointed.

The moral of the story is that one should never rely solely on critics or hearsay to determine whether one will like a work of art or not. It's not any different in ballet.

I'll tell you a more personal story to illustrate with an example.I'll admit that I love reading critics in all arts but whether something is to my taste or no, I decide only when I have seen the work.

This also bring us to the delicate issue of the ethics of art criticism. Critics are surely aware of the power they hold to convince people to attend a performance or exhibit or ditch it. That being so, the critic should be aware of the responsibility they have to be to be as objective as possible without entirely sacrificing personal opinions. I saw a wonderful quote that someone at this forum used as a signature: "Critical awareness is the ability to distinguish artistic merit form personal taste". Something pretty close to that (if anyone can correct me do so please). I think it's a creed every critic should heed.

My personal story is that reading Clement Crisp's reviews of Tamara Rojo, I expected something out of this world when I bought her DVD's, something on a par with the greats. I had watched the old Czinner Film of the Royal Ballet with Fonteyn and she had just started to do her Shadow Dance in Ondine and I was mesmerized and beguiled. When I read Crisp's review of Rojo's Ondine in which he says that Tamara's interpretation is even better than Fonteyn's, I thought it had to be unbelievable but I trusted him because, well, here's a man who saw both of them perform the role live. I continued reading and saw reviews of Romeo and Juliet and Manon. I bought the DVDs right away and although I wasn't entirely disappointed with them, they left something to be desired. Then, by chance, I read an old interview of Crisp in which he claims that criticism is all about bias and that bias was a good thing, and also how he liked to terrorize his students. Moreover, the more I watched clips of Rojo in YouTube performing various roles the more I was convinced that,at least for me, her expression seemed lacking.

And that's when it dawned on me that although criticism is an invaluable tool it should never be definitive or dictate what we watch or not.

I would love for anyone of our intelligent members to give their opinion on ballet criticism and how it should or should not affect our artistic inclinations and preferences.

#2 papeetepatrick

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 04:38 PM

"Critical awareness is the ability to distinguish artistic merit form personal taste".


"Critical awareness involves the ability to distinguish between personal taste and artistic merit." -- James Calvert

You were close. Helene's signature. I always find it mesmerizing too, as every time you see one of her posts, you get stuck with thinking about it again (and don't always want to have to.)


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