FauxPas

Macaulay's Criticism

151 posts in this topic

And I thought the witticisms were really funny here, not twee. The Portman/Millepied/Macaulay, et alia seating arrangement that anthony pointed out, was quite hilarious, plus the
(but don’t worry, there’s no hint of sexual attraction among us men!)
verged on profound :P If he wrote like this all the time, which is definitely more understated than we almost ever get, I wouldn't complain.

I don't know, that last quip of Macaulay's sounds uncalled for, given that Millepied is heterosexual. Can anyone who saw the ballet explain the line? Is it really justified by the choreography, or just a cheap slam? Or am I misreading it?

Share this post


Link to post
And I thought the witticisms were really funny here, not twee. The Portman/Millepied/Macaulay, et alia seating arrangement that anthony pointed out, was quite hilarious, plus the
(but don’t worry, there’s no hint of sexual attraction among us men!)
verged on profound :P If he wrote like this all the time, which is definitely more understated than we almost ever get, I wouldn't complain.

I don't know, that last quip of Macaulay's sounds uncalled for, given that Millepied is heterosexual. Can anyone who saw the ballet explain the line? Is it really justified by the choreography, or just a cheap slam? Or am I misreading it?

My intuition is that you are misreading it, because I think Macaulay was just going along with the 'jovial' aspect of the thing, the 'nonchalant' charm, the fact that the guys were 'off-duty' and 'informal', and it probably came across as that they were all rather sexy in the piece. It didn't even occur to me about the sexual orientation of the actual dancers; frankly, I don't know what the others' sexual orientation is, nor even that Millepied is exclusively 'heterosexual' just because of having a famous movie-star media blitz right now, nor do I care particularly. I didn't think it was a slam at anybody, but your question 'is it justified by the choreography?' would need to be definitively answered by someone who saw it. The way Macaulay described the piece, it sounded as though it would have that 'natural sexiness' that you can have in 'Fancy Free'--you know, sailors--even if there are also women involved. I realize he goes back to talkihg about Wheeldon's' 'heterosexual couples' (he even makes it clearer by saying 'rigorously heterosexual', and because of his previous commentary on the Millepied), but then there they are if it's men and women. Why would he be slamming somebody by saying that? My impression was not that he was really implying that anybody was homosexual, but that it might have some element of the homoerotic to it (artists aren't the only ones who see things in their own works that really are there, they can be unconscious of some of it till it's pointed out that even if the intent was 'not that', one could 'read it as such). But I could be wrong, not having seen it. He was pretty detailed in the way he evokes the atmosphere, it's to me more of a 'masculinism' than a 'homosexualism' that I picked up from his (I thought) good-natured teasing.

I thought it was little different from his earlier

The choreographers of Tuesday’s show are Benjamin Millepied, Alexei Ratmansky (Ballet Theater’s artist in residence) and Christopher Wheeldon. Together at last!
, which was a nicely turned bit of jade, I thought, but also good-natured and affable.

Share this post


Link to post

miliosr, I think I just have to disagree. It sounds like you want decisions made completely on the basis of what sells rather than on any aesthetic criteria.

That's not what I was saying at all. The only point I was trying to make is that ABT can only sustain so many poorly-selling mixed bills. I think it would be great if ABT management could figure out a way to program more of these mixed bills without taking a financial bath. For instance, early in his tenure, Kevin McKenzie talked about how he wanted to program an all-Shakespeare evening with Ashton's The Dream, Limon's The Moor's Pavane and Tudor's Romeo and Juliet. I think that's one mixed bill that would sell and I would fly to NYC in a heartbeat to see it (although I think The Moor's Pavane would get lost in the Met.) Sadly, it has never come to pass, probably due to the cost of mounting the Tudor Romeo and Juliet.

As someone who has sat through ABT's Swan Lake, Giselle, Le Corsaire, Romeo and Juliet, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake(again) in Chicago, more mixed bills would come as a blessed relief from ABT's ultra-conservative repertory. BUT, the fact that Kevin McKenzie schedules so few of them at the Met (after 18 years at the helm) tells me he knows he is pushing water up a hill when it comes to the mixed bills.

And why in heaven's name hasn't ABT done something about Don Q, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty? It's their core repertoire, yet everybody knows the productions are poor. I'm convinced the muddled storytelling of Don Q could be improved just by changes to some of the pantomime, but nobody's bothered to touch it in fifteen years. It's infuriating.

Like Arlene Croce said in 1995/96: "Of all the major companies, ABT has changed the least." If you go back and read her reviews from the 70s, she was writing that the productions stunk even then. (And, today, the 70's are considered the Golden Age in ABT's history!!!) So, really, ABT has remained true to itself lo these many years later.

Share this post


Link to post
Why would he be slamming somebody by saying that?

Thanks for your take on it, Patrick, and you may be correct. To answer your question, that "don't worry" sounds mocking, as if he's presuming the existence of and then mocking hetero sexual (no pun intended) insecurity. That's why I wonder if there is something defensively hetero in the piece . . . and, er, just how he would know it.

Share this post


Link to post

I do believe that Macauley's suggestion of using new ballets as curtain raisers to established classics is a very good one. It would certainly relieve the monotony of an evening of new works and also to give the new work a chance to stand on its own. We do need to see new works performed more frequently---but, please in smaller doses.--- -it brings to mind that old song about a 'spoonful of sugar'. The audience for new works has to be brought along slowly and steadily---and not in 'one shot' programs. It was once done that way, but has fallen by the wayside.

Share this post


Link to post
And I thought the witticisms were really funny here, not twee. The Portman/Millepied/Macaulay, et alia seating arrangement that anthony pointed out, was quite hilarious, plus the
(but don’t worry, there’s no hint of sexual attraction among us men!)
verged on profound :P If he wrote like this all the time, which is definitely more understated than we almost ever get, I wouldn't complain.

I don't know, that last quip of Macaulay's sounds uncalled for, given that Millepied is heterosexual. Can anyone who saw the ballet explain the line? Is it really justified by the choreography, or just a cheap slam? Or am I misreading it?

To answer your question, that "don't worry" sounds mocking, as if he's presuming the existence of and then mocking hetero sexual (no pun intended) insecurity.

That was how I read it, as well. It sounds very much like a cheap -- slam is a forceful word, I'd go more for "shot," in this case -- I'm sorry to say, or at the least a rather pointless jibe. Apart from the name dropping (not wildly interested in whoever Macaulay was sitting next to, myself), a perfectly good review, though.

Share this post


Link to post

Like Arlene Croce said in 1995/96: "Of all the major companies, ABT has changed the least." If you go back and read her reviews from the 70s, she was writing that the productions stunk even then. (And, today, the 70's are considered the Golden Age in ABT's history!!!) So, really, ABT has remained true to itself lo these many years later.

I don't really agree with this. Back in the 70s ABT was doing the Blair Swan Lake and Giselle. The physical settings weren't the most stunning but they were effective enough.

And the Blair Swan Lake beats out almost every current version being performed. CERTAINLY the two versions being put on in NYC regularly today and just about every where else around the world except for the Royal Ballet. I talking about the version being danced, not the physical properties as the sets used in the ROH for Swan Lake are rather, ah, unusual.

Share this post


Link to post
Why would he be slamming somebody by saying that?

Thanks for your take on it, Patrick, and you may be correct. To answer your question, that "don't worry" sounds mocking, as if he's presuming the existence of and then mocking hetero sexual (no pun intended) insecurity. That's why I wonder if there is something defensively hetero in the piece . . . and, er, just how he would know it.

I didn't even know what you were talking about at all at first, frankly, and I still don't really. It might have to do with what one knows about the various parties concerned, I know little or nothing about any of them outside their professions. So that 'presuming the existence of insecurity' may refer to specific persons which never even occurred to me. My immediate reaction was that Macaulay himself thought it seemed rather sexy, but it could even be that he meant it literally, as with all-American athletes, which can be cool. In that case, there could be a kind of all-male heterosexual (or usually in my experience) athleticism that is mostly gymnastic and maybe even like Big Three athletes, actually this might seem even more exciting to some than anything overtly 'homoerotic' or implicitly homosexual. In any case, I'm no insider on any of these people, and haven't read any gossip on Macaulay or Millepied (except for that silly 'feature' from the NYTimes a few months ago that somebody linked here from the Style Section, I believe, about Millepied, I think, and reading much like an old Photoplay). There have been also the few straight choreographers like Petit in his Proust ballet, and also Nicolas le Riche in 'Caligula', who were perfectly capable of doing males dancing in specifically homosexual contexts (again, I don't even know le Riche's orientation, although I think I remember a girlfriend or wife in some publicity; one understands Petit as heterosexual from being married to Zizi Jeanmaire, although marriage has never been a firm indicator in these matters, and there are plenty of examples of this from Julius Caesar up to notorious examples in the present day).

Mainly, I came away from the review not thinking Macaulay meant anything about anybody's possible homosexuality in the piece, and that it probably was strictly straight-guy-styled, in fact; it did occur to me that Macaulay may have meant this almost as if it were a near-caricature of Strict Heterosexual Athletes, as if Reggie Jackson, Michael Jordan, etc., but that it was possibly almost self-consciously so. Which sounds just fine to me, mainly I remembered some of the reviews of the all-male (or almost) evenings of RDB in OC on here the other day, and the main thing that came across was that Macaulay thought this piece was a good one, which reviewers generally did not feel about the big 'Bournonville Variations', the Elo, etc.

This was just to clarify that I didn't even know what you were talking about with 'Millepied's heterosexuality' at first, and started talking about the dancers themselves. I guess you thought he was taking a 'cheap slam' at Millepied.

Beyond that, I wasn't as interested in this piece by a long shot as I was in the Ratmansky, which really sounded arresting. I haven't cared much for what Millepied I've seen, including something extremely boring at PNB last year, but was fascinated that Macaulay seemed to have hit on an evening of new works, all of which he thought to be of very high quality--THAT is unusual, and one only needs to think of Sarah Kaufman's reviews of Balanchine spinoffs of a year or two ago to see just how rare it is to find new work that major critics find praiseworthy, but three in an evening? Almost unprecedented. And since he actually really liked the Millepied as well, although probably not quite as much as the Ratmansky, that's why it didn't occur to me that he meant anything untoward or snippy, and maybe was himself just expressing some mild flirtation, which caused no one any harm, or I wouldn't think it did. But it's definitely not very important. I see what you were referring to now (or I think I do), but I still see the remark as light-hearted, because he LIKED the Millepied work.

Share this post


Link to post

Patrick, I don't read Macaulay as talking about the sexuality of the dancers or the choreographer. I wonder if he was taking a shot - dirac's word is better than my "slam" - at Millepied for (supposedly) taking care to show that the men in the piece were not gay. That's all. Actually, dirac's "pointless jibe" might be even closer to the truth. It might have been more a joke in passing than an actual criticism. Who knows? Not me.

Share this post


Link to post

at Millepied for (supposedly) taking care to show that the men in the piece were not gay.

Yes, that's the same thing as this

it did occur to me that Macaulay may have meant this almost as if it were a near-caricature of Strict Heterosexual Athletes, as if Reggie Jackson, Michael Jordan, etc., but that it was possibly almost self-consciously so.
which I said in the last post, and was, I thought, a credible possibility. But if that's the case, it's as all right to point it out as it was to 'take care to show that the men in the piece weren't gay'. That is absolutely legit to want to make that as part of the statement; after all, one of those dancers himself did some 'Ballet is not sissy' pr a few years ago, although I don't see that as particularly artistic, more political and, I thought, fairly insipid. A trio of guys who 'definitely are not gay' is perfectly fine, and there's nothing wrong with implying it (and perhaps even emphasizing it, if that's thought to be necessary to get it across), although it's at most a subtext. As such, if the critic 'slams' that artistic choice, it probably falls on deaf ears. I doubt it was a 'slam' or a 'cheap shot', and that Macaulay was just expressing amusement at Millepied for doing that (if he did.) If that's the choice Millepied made, it's as credible as someone's to 'make a point that the guys are gay'. Takes all kinds. I don't think making that statement about their heterosexuality (if he was doing that) necessarily points to any kind of insecurity at all. I think literally everybody suffers from 'heterosexual insecurity', including non-heterosexuals, because that's the dominant mode, therefore everyone is somewhat subject to it, even when they win 'liberations'.
It might have been more a joke in passing than an actual criticism. Who knows? Not me.

And I don't know either, but that's what I think it was, and I can't imagine any of the men involved, including Millepied, being the slightest offended by it, probably even get a bit tickled next time they 'do it' (pun intended? don't ask me... :angel_not:

Share this post


Link to post

In his review today of Tuesday night's opening performance of the Royal Danish Ballet, Macauley lists the 5 "foremeost classical [ballet] companies" today. His list includes the Danes, the Mariinsky, Bolshoi, Royal Ballet and NYCB but OMITS ABT! I found that remarkable both in its wrongheadedness and its offensiveness. Since when have the Danes exceeded ABT at being a classical company? He even noted that much of the repertoire danced by the Danes on Tuesday was either new (Jorma Elo) or reworked (Napoli). I never hear much about the RDB and don't believe they regularly perform all the classics like Swan Lake or Giselle. Given Macauley's rather obvious preference for NYCB over ABT (which is more like the Royal) it's difficult to see this as an oversight. I find it very offensive for him to basically diss one of NYC's 2 great ballet companies. I think from now on, he should pay for his own tickets to ABT performances. Who needs him!!!!

Share this post


Link to post

Royal Danish Ballet performs "Swan Lake" and "Giselle" regularly, although not every season. Next season they're doing "La Sylphide" and "The Nutcracker", as well as "A Folk Tale", "Bournonville Variations", and "Etudes". The season before (2010-11), the did "Swan Lake", "Sleeping Beauty", as well as "Etudes", "Le Conservatoire", and "Napoli".

The Bournonville rep is as important as the Petipa rep. That RDB has been making updates and changes isn't very different than what has happened to the Petipa ballets under the Mariinsky and Bolshoi.

I think Parisians have more complain about with the exclusion of POB, especially since what all of the companies that Macaulay lists have schools that traditionally imparted company style, although that's no longer the case with the Royal Ballet.

Share this post


Link to post

I was at Tuesday's RDB peformance, and I found the evening pretty disappointing except for Napoli. The dancers were good, but I did not think they were remarkable or exceptional. As the review mentioned, there were numerous glitches on opening night.

Share this post


Link to post

I think Parisians have more complain about with the exclusion of POB, especially since what all of the companies that Macaulay lists have schools that traditionally imparted company style, although that's no longer the case with the Royal Ballet.

I agree, although I have reservations about the rep at times POB should definitely feature in a top five. The Royal Ballet however most definitely should not!

Share this post


Link to post

I really appreciate this particular review. It shows Macaulay's skill in describing dance movement vividly, concisely, and with a sense of dance history. For example:

Everyone notices how the [RDB] men often keep their hands by the hips, formally. But it's worth observing too that even when arms are extended, they usually continue the downward flow of the shoulders: a virtue of baroque style. And even when the torsos are still, they're never stiff; the spine often subtly sways.

And these illustrations of Bournonville style:

Jumps travel not just forward but to the side and back too. A male dancer will alternate between jumps in which the legs stay close together (entrechats) and others where they shoot apart (sissonnes).

A woman in one solo keeps striking balances and brightly falling out of them, playing with equilibrium in a way that points the way to the style of the 20th-century George Balanchine
. In a rapid retreating diagonal a dancer keeps switching between steps that face in the direction he's going and the one he's leaving behind.
The rich Danish use of plié still adds tremendous texture to the style. Some jumps explode, some sail at leisure. Amid the liveliest dances there are sudden pauses or moments of lingering slowness.

Those of us not able to get to the performances in Washington or NYC have to rely on video to see the Danes doing Bournonville. We need assistance in "seeing" the performances and putting them in context. Macaulay does this for the Danes as he does for almost all the major companies he reviews. He's a great resource.

Are there other dance critics nowadays who write like this?

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks for that post, bart. While you were posting, I was posting about that same description and analysis. It is one of the things I love about Macaulay’s writing, one of the things that, in my opinion, make him an excellent critic.

Share this post


Link to post

kfw, talk about coincidences. We were having the same thought at the same time. So we MUST be right .... no? :wink::thumbsup:

Share this post


Link to post
Are there other dance critics nowadays who write like this?

Well, you might try DanceView and danceviewtimes.......

Share this post


Link to post

I didn't wish to diminish other critics. I'm a fond and faithful reader of many serious critics, going back to Denby and Croce.

I was referring to a rather special critical skill -- lucid descriptive writing consisting of a few brief words. The technique is lapidary in nature. The word pictures are always in the context of -- and in the service of -- a larger point.

Most of Macaulay's reviews take time to insert one or more examples of this kind of word picture. He is writing for a general (though highly educated) newspaper audience. That means he cannot assume a specialist readership which has seen the ballets and/or understands ballet terminology. He analyses but also elucidates and teaches. I like and benefit from this.

Share this post


Link to post

In his review today of Tuesday night's opening performance of the Royal Danish Ballet, Macauley lists the 5 "foremeost classical [ballet] companies" today. His list includes the Danes, the Mariinsky, Bolshoi, Royal Ballet and NYCB but OMITS ABT! I found that remarkable both in its wrongheadedness and its offensiveness. Since when have the Danes exceeded ABT at being a classical company? He even noted that much of the repertoire danced by the Danes on Tuesday was either new (Jorma Elo) or reworked (Napoli). I never hear much about the RDB and don't believe they regularly perform all the classics like Swan Lake or Giselle. Given Macauley's rather obvious preference for NYCB over ABT (which is more like the Royal) it's difficult to see this as an oversight. I find it very offensive for him to basically diss one of NYC's 2 great ballet companies. I think from now on, he should pay for his own tickets to ABT performances. Who needs him!!!!

I go to the ABT regularly but it's not really a great classical company. The lack of uniformity among the corps de ballet and principals is an automatic demerit, as is the truncated and often cheesy productions of "the classics" that they perform (their Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty are awful). They rely a lot on guest artists for their spring season, and their famous male roster is thinning rapidly.

Share this post


Link to post

I go to the ABT regularly but it's not really a great classical company. The lack of uniformity among the corps de ballet and principals is an automatic demerit, as is the truncated and often cheesy productions of "the classics" that they perform (their Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty are awful). They rely a lot on guest artists for their spring season, and their famous male roster is thinning rapidly.

On the other hand, I would argue that while NYCB may be a great company it is not a great classical company at ALL. It is a neoclassical company. In fact I thought this was general knowledge not an opinion.

Share this post


Link to post

Bart, I just wrote you a LONG reply, which somehow the software ate up completely. In brief, I praised the kind of writing you're praising here, and referred you to Edwin Denby, who wrote for the NY Herald Tribune at a Time when the Times's criticism of all the arts was grey and mediocre, and who was the greatest critic of dance yet to appear in English. Check out his collected works; Macaulay is writing in his tradition and is the best dance critic the Times has ever had.

THe kind of writing you praise is in fact the evidence a critic introduces to back up his/her claims, and Denby was its greatest practitioner. His description of the lifts in 'COncerto Barocco' is among the sublime passages of mid-20th century critical prose in English. All his admirers try to include some passages that give the picture to the reader like Denby did, if the editor will give room for it.

Here's an example of what I consider that sort of thing from MY review of the RDB in Berkeley, which came out in last week's BayArea Reporter, the gay weekly of San Francisco, which has an excellent arts section and gives us writers rather a lot of room to say what we think:

"The great glory of the RDB is the footwork – Danish dancers, men and women, have feet that are more articulate than most people’s hands. Traditionally they’ve worn white tights and special shoes, black-rimmed with a white diamond down the instep, which makes the pointing of the foot flash like a bolt of lightning. The optical illusion created when the knee straightens and the foot points completely makes the line of the leg look much longer than it is in fact, which is why a ballerina standing on pointe looks radiant, like a star. The pointe shoe allows a dancer to create that finished line that goes out to infinity, which otherwise can only be created by tearing the body away from the floor altogether –i.e., by jumping. The Danish technique contains as many kinds of jumps as Inuit has words for snow – there are tiny jumps, medium-sized jumps, grands jetes; there is a whole category in which the legs cross in mid-air like scissors, the feet flash back and forth in the twinkling of an eye – but you did see it, and they DID DO IT. It’s like a miracle. Furthermore, the style has many many very small steps against which the jumps can stand out by contrast."

Share this post


Link to post

Bart, I just wrote you a LONG reply, which somehow the software ate up completely. In brief, I praised the kind of writing you're praising here, and referred you to Edwin Denby, who wrote for the NY Herald Tribune at a Time when the Times's criticism of all the arts was grey and mediocre, and who was the greatest critic of dance yet to appear in English. Check out his collected works; Macaulay is writing in his tradition and is the best dance critic the Times has ever had.

THe kind of writing you praise is in fact the evidence a critic introduces to back up his/her claims, and Denby was its greatest practitioner. His description of the lifts in 'COncerto Barocco' is among the sublime passages of mid-20th century critical prose in English. All his admirers try to include some passages that give the picture to the reader like Denby did, if the editor will give room for it.

Here's an example of what I consider that sort of thing from MY review of the RDB in Berkeley, which came out in last week's BayArea Reporter, the gay weekly of San Francisco, which has an excellent arts section and gives us writers rather a lot of room to say what we think:

"The great glory of the RDB is the footwork – Danish dancers, men and women, have feet that are more articulate than most people’s hands. Traditionally they’ve worn white tights and special shoes, black-rimmed with a white diamond down the instep, which makes the pointing of the foot flash like a bolt of lightning. The optical illusion created when the knee straightens and the foot points completely makes the line of the leg look much longer than it is in fact, which is why a ballerina standing on pointe looks radiant, like a star. The pointe shoe allows a dancer to create that finished line that goes out to infinity, which otherwise can only be created by tearing the body away from the floor altogether –i.e., by jumping. The Danish technique contains as many kinds of jumps as Inuit has words for snow – there are tiny jumps, medium-sized jumps, grands jetes; there is a whole category in which the legs cross in mid-air like scissors, the feet flash back and forth in the twinkling of an eye – but you did see it, and they DID DO IT. It’s like a miracle. Furthermore, the style has many many very small steps against which the jumps can stand out by contrast."

Beautiful and vivid, Paul.

The problem I have with critics is their agenda. Careers or works of art that take years to create can be destroyed by a critic trusted by the reader who is unaware of the agenda or the critic's power or bias. That is also a disservice to the reader, and to the publisher. Even critics without an agenda can unfairly influence results by being lazy, uninformed, or wrong. Reliance on opinion of an unqualified or biased expert creates unnecessary harm. This is my main problem with Macaulay. While his writing can be descriptive, and beautiful when he is inspired, his tone can be obnoxious and off-putting, and his criticism unfair, when he has an agenda or bias against a dancer or choreographer.

Share this post


Link to post
The problem I have with critics is their agenda. Careers or works of art that take years to create can be destroyed by a critic trusted by the reader who is unaware of the agenda or the critic's power or bias. That is also a disservice to the reader, and to the publisher. Even critics without an agenda can unfairly influence results by being lazy, uninformed, or wrong. Reliance on opinion of an unqualified or biased expert creates unnecessary harm. This is my main problem with Macaulay. While his writing can be descriptive, and beautiful when he is inspired, his tone can be obnoxious and off-putting, and his criticism unfair, when he has an agenda or bias against a dancer or choreographer.

puppytreats, would you say that Ballet Alert posters who wish Kevin McKenzie would cast from within the company more often, and rely less on outside stars, have an acceptable opinion about what ABT needs, or have an agenda? Do Veronika Part fans who overlook her technical weaknesses have a bias, or is the bias on the side of the detractors who are unmoved by her strengths? As I’m sure you’ll agree, education breeds taste, and taste breeds likes and dislikes. What are educated likes and dislikes but biases, and what are wishes but agendas? Part of a critic’s job is to tell us what he likes and dislikes, and how he’s formed his judgment, and Macaulay’s criticisms always come with explanations. I agree that his tone is too harsh sometimes, but critics should have and express strong opinions, the better to sharpen the thoughts and perceptions of their readers.

Share this post


Link to post

The problem I have with critics is their agenda. Careers or works of art that take years to create can be destroyed by a critic trusted by the reader who is unaware of the agenda or the critic's power or bias. That is also a disservice to the reader, and to the publisher. Even critics without an agenda can unfairly influence results by being lazy, uninformed, or wrong. Reliance on opinion of an unqualified or biased expert creates unnecessary harm. This is my main problem with Macaulay. While his writing can be descriptive, and beautiful when he is inspired, his tone can be obnoxious and off-putting, and his criticism unfair, when he has an agenda or bias against a dancer or choreographer.

Only a bad critic as an agenda; a good critic has an opinion. Because what they're writing about is worth having an opinion about. I don't think a critic or newspaper can be blamed if a lazy or ignorant reader is going to let one columnist do their thinking for them.

Both Edwin Denby and Virgil Thompson have written classic (and beautifully concise) essays about the task of the critic. I don't have the volumes handy, but one or the other has a marvelous passage comparing the critic to a man on the street talking vehemently to someone else. A passing stranger might well think the guy is crazy, but at the same time it's apparent that whatever he is talking about must be very real to him, and important.

I first "experienced" dance when I was living in the cornfields of the Midwest. Writers like Denby, Kirstein, Croce made me view ballet as essential to properly furnishing one's mind--this before I'd ever seen a single performance. I had no way of knowing if they were right or wrong in their judgements, but I craved to see ballet for myself and eventually found my way to New York for that very purpose. While I don't think most critics concern themselves--nor should they--with selling a particular company or performance (that's called having an agenda!), they do by their very existence serve the general cause of selling ballet. And these days more than ever we should be grateful that the New York Times has a superb dance critic, that several times a week there is a substantial column in the paper, that even people who never read those columns can't help but see that dance is newsworthy, that is matters.

Anthony

Share this post


Link to post