FauxPas

Macaulay's Criticism

151 posts in this topic

I thought it was fabulous that Ringer was able to turn that whole episode with Macaulay into a "win." Problems with weight have been an issue at different times in her career and, as best I remember, she had been criticized in print when she had been at a heavier weight earlier in her career and in more informal contexts: I adored her from the very beginning of her career, but I myself made a comment once on this website when I noticed she had gained weight more than I thought was ideal. I didn't make it in Macaulay's jokey fashion, but I did say something. I also have a memory of reading an early interview with her in which she discussed dealing with weight issues--years before the Times hullabaloo. So, as I see it, when at this much later and more established stage of her career, she got the criticism in the NYTimes she was taking the opportunity to address something that had been an issue at other more vulnerable times in her career.

I think with ballet and, especially women ballet dancers, people also relate the emphasis on weight to unhealthy eating and, worse, eating disorders that have at times plagued the ballet world. That's another reason why I was pretty delighted Ringer talked to the press etc.

But I wouldn't be inclined to say Macaulay's remarks "helped" Ringer anymore than I would be inclined to say that a boss that fired me had helped me to get my next job. Given a lemon she made sugarplums out of it.

In principle, I don't mind Macaulay commenting on dancer body types and even their weight when it communicates something serious about what he sees and values in the dancing. (In particular instances I might disagree of course or think his taste was too narrow ...)

I was mildly startled to read such pointed praise for Gorak's partnering in Nutcracker when it had been just as pointedly panned by viewers who post on this website and who have shown themselves admirers of Gorak's dancing. I don't think the lead critic for the NY Times cares what we write or I would almost suspect him of purposely choosing his words as a riposte...But we also all see performances very differently. (Nor would I entirely hold it against such a powerful reviewer if he occasionally decided to cut a dancer some slack--though that may be the fan in me talking.)

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Drew writes:

So, as I see it, when at this much later and more established stage of her career, she got the criticism in the NYTimes she was taking the opportunity to address something that had been an issue at other more vulnerable times in her career.

I agree.

Also, Macaulay's criticisms of Ringer drew more attention because, as discussed when this controversy first arose, issues of weight are more fraught for women in ballet as well as in the culture at large. In addition, as Drew observes, it wasn't the first time Ringer's tendency to put on weight had attracted public notice. Certainly men also suffer from eating disorders, but the cultural expectations are different for the sexes. Men in ballet have to be in superb shape, but unlike female dancers they aren't required to be more or less underweight for the norm. It's not surprising that Macaulay's comments on Angle didn't receive the same amount of attention, although Macaulay himself pointed to them by way of self-defense.

Certainly critics should be allowed to comment on a dancer's appearance, including weight, when appropriate. Performers present themselves onstage to be looked at and weight matters.

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(Nor would I entirely hold it against such a powerful reviewer if he occasionally decided to cut a dancer some slack--though that may be the fan in me talking.)

Now would I, and one wishes he would have cut Ringer some in this case instead of zinging her, since as he told Pointe magazine a couple of years ago, she was “only a fraction overweight.”

Here’s what happened. The grand pas de deux ended that night and a voice near me in the orchestra said, “God, they're fat!” Afterwards my companion and I discussed whether this was fair. She felt yes. I felt that Ringer was only a fraction overweight: hence “looked as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many.” Only one. How big is a sugar plum? Jared Angle had put on a lot of weight between hip and thigh, which is why my remark about him was more emphatic: “seems to have been sampling half the Sweet realm.”
If Angle’s weight gain was more significant, that’s another story although, again, tone is an issue. A hundred years from now, people will probably laugh at his words. Not so much now, while the dancers are alive to feel their sting.

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I almost get the sense that Macaulay has been making amends with his recent posts - they seem unusually well balanced in their criticisms and praises:

"Ms. Fairchild, always a strong technician, danced the lead of “Rubies” with a twinkling confidence and percussive musicality that seemed to be personal breakthroughs. She still lacks eloquent line, upper-body plasticity and stage-filling amplitude, yet the way she took risks in covering space set high standards for Balanchinean impetus, and her lower-body sparkle was terrific. As her consort, Mr. De Luz exemplified the same virtues, with more than a touch of braggadocio."

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/24/arts/dance/jewelsreturnstonewyorkcityballetsrepertory.html

"The opening night of New York City Ballet’s six-week winter season, at the David H. Koch Theater, was such a sensory overload that I feel I’m only scraping the surface. Every millisecond felt a matter of consequence. In my nearly seven years in this job, I don’t remember this company starting a season with such commanding freshness.

There’s fault to be found with individual dancers, while several have room to grow, but the general level of musical precision and sweeping physical freedom was scintillating, exhilarating, galvanizing."

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/arts/dance/balanchineeveningignitescityballetwinterseason.html

Methinks Macaulay is actually enjoying himself at the ballet. ;)

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one thing the tights don't show is the difference between muscle and fat. A dancer may have a body type that fights very hard to add extra muscle, due to the unrelenting strain of 6-10 hour days of hard dancer work. But once encased in dancer's tights, that muscle just looks like a wide leg, or a wide hip, etc.

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I agree with Pherank; Macaulay has changed his tone. More importantly, he is introducing aesthetic and artistic concepts for his readers to think about.

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I agree with phrank and Daniel Benton as to the change of tone recently. I wouldn't be surprised if this is a response to consumer criticisms such as those expressed on this Board.

As to "aesthetic and artistic concepts" -- Macaulay has always been focused on these. I've always seen him as a pedagogue at heart who uses the performance he is reviewing as his raw material for drawing and illustrating larger conclusions about the art. This goes back to his work with the Times Literary Supplement before coming to New York. (I'm not familiar with his Financial Times reviews.)

His strong points as a dance writer are, as far as I'm concerned,

(a) his ability to see movement clearly and in detail, and find precise, understandable words to describe what he has seen, and

(b) discussing individual dancers (not always the stars) in specific performances as a way to illustrate his larger concepts.. Sometimes, as in the recent review of the opening night Concerto Barocco, he focuses on a group like "the corps" instead of individuals.

We're fortunate that the NY Times allows him, and its other dance writers, so much space and latitude, not to mention what appears to be a rather generous travel budget. I wish other general print media were willing/able to do the same.

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His strong points as a dance writer are, as far as I'm concerned,

(a) his ability to see movement clearly and in detail, and find precise, understandable words to describe what he has seen, and

(b) discussing individual dancers (not always the stars) in specific performances as a way to illustrate his larger concepts.. Sometimes, as in the recent review of the opening night Concerto Barocco, he focuses on a group like "the corps" instead of individuals.

Yes, and yes, thank you, and from my point of view also that he so evidently loves the art form. His enthusiasm gives vicarious pleasure.

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I don't always agree with him, but I agree that he loves the art form. I still wish there was a larger diversity of critics in NYC.

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I have dredged up this topic because I was so irritated by Macauley's reviews of the Mariinsky. It seems he has very preconceived feelings about companies that prejudice him. How is the NYT audience supposed to balance his castigating the first 2 performances of SL (which included Lopatkina) while Gia Kourlas lauds the 2 youngest (and in my opinion worst) leads in SL: Skorik and Parish. Macauley is really a dance historian, not a critic and I really wish the NYT would beg Roslyn Sulcas to come back as lead critic. Then we'd have some less jaded, ill humored reviews to read.

Finally, although he does this less often now, I've been sick of Macauley comparing today's NYCB to the "glory years" of the '70's. How many performances from those years did he see? 20? 30? He was living in London then and could only have seen a limited amount. For those of us who lived here then and went all the time, there is nostalgia. But also a recognition that Balanchine is dead and we are lucky NYCB has survived. And of course Macauley can never write a review without criticizing someone doing something wrong. I've just had it with his reviews. I wish he'd go back to London.

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Amour, thanks for venting. We all feel your irritation!

Sorry, Daniel, but you don't speak for me or "all" of us. Macaulay very often lays it out on the line and voices many bitter truths about the big Russian ballet troupes that many long-time admirers have a tough time acknowledging with their rose-tinted glasses.

There ARE problems (and still many delights) at the Mariinsky. But it's far from the quality that I saw in the early 1980s live, beginning in Paris 1982. Bravo to Macauley and others for pointing out some truths. Maybe the company we love will read them and begin to make changes.

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Natalia, I rarely disagree with Macaulay's facts as presented (I did not see the Mariinsky at BAM so I don't know about this particular topic). I was referring to his (now infrequent) angry outbursts which illuminated his state of mind more than the topic he was discussing.

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Again, you may speak for many here and many out there, but not all of us would characterize what he writes as you do. I don't think anyone can do that job and make everyone happy all the time. I don't like everything he writes or have to agree, but I'm always interested in what he says and where he's coming from.

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Helene, you are correct. I should not have used the word "all". "Many" might have been a better word.

Macaulay has had a lot of things to say over the years, on a lot of subjects.

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How is the NYT audience supposed to balance his castigating the first 2 performances of SL (which included Lopatkina) while Gia Kourlas lauds the 2 youngest (and in my opinion worst) leads in SL: Skorik and Parish.

Although Macauley's review was published in the January 17 print edition of the New York Times, the online version is dated January 16, 2015, which is when he would have had to submit his copy in order for it to be in print on January 17. I therefore don't think Lopatkina's performance informed his review. (ETA: She performed on January 16.) He surely would have mentioned her if he saw her perform and would likely have compared her performance with Tereshkina's.

I only saw one performance (Tereshkina's & Shklyarov's second), but there are a number of things in his review of opening night that ring true to me.

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It's not that I don't understand the frustration: I felt the same way about Anna Kisselgoff laugh.png . (There just wasn't an internet around for me on which to voice my frustration.)

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There are times when I wish Macaulay had a somewhat more journalistic approach to his writing. Reviews are a sort of record of those performances, and I can't help thinking that 100 years from now readers could be left with a lopsided impression of what they were like. I really feel for those dancers whose work Macaulay seems to dislike. But he's also an incisive writer and very acute observer. Several years ago he traveled to London and Paris to review the local Nutcrackers. It so happened that both the casts he saw were filmed for broadcast, and when I saw those films the following Christmas, his review came flooding back to me, because I could see for myself exactly what he'd meant; he'd described it so vividly and precisely. And yes, most of it rang true to me, too.

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Regarding what Kathleen O'Connell noted above--Macaulay wrote a full review of Tereshkina only, but in a later review (I think of Cinderella) made a passing mention of his reservations about what he seemed to see as the lifelessness of the first two Mariinsky Swan Lakes--not just Tereshkina's. He is on record elsewhere as not thinking much of Lopatkina in "exposing" classical roles. (He made that remark in one of his articles on the last appearance of the Mariinsky in New York--at the same time equating her with Wendy Whelan and expressing reservations about both of them in a single sentence.)

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How is the NYT audience supposed to balance his castigating the first 2 performances of SL (which included Lopatkina) while Gia Kourlas lauds the 2 youngest (and in my opinion worst) leads in SL: Skorik and Parish.

Although Macauley's review was published in the January 17 print edition of the New York Times, the online version is dated January 16, 2015, which is when he would have had to submit his copy in order for it to be in print on January 17. I therefore don't think Lopatkina's performance informed his review. (ETA: She performed on January 16.) He surely would have mentioned her if he saw her perform and would likely have compared her performance with Tereshkina's.

I only saw one performance (Tereshkina's & Shklyarov's second), but there are a number of things in his review of opening night that ring true to me.

Macauley did see Lopatkina's performance because I saw him there. He sat one row in front of me.

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Macauley did see Lopatkina's performance because I saw him there. He sat one row in front of me.

I would have expected him to be there. I don't think her performance featured in his 1/16/15 review, that's all.

Here's the quote re SL from the "Cinderella" review: "After the stuffy self-conscious rigor of the company’s opening two performances of 'Swan Lake' at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last week, you feel what a breath of naturalness Mr. Ratmansky is to this company."

Can't say I disagree. If given a choice between seeing the Mariinsky in Ratmansky's "The Little Hump-Backed Horse" or in its current rendition of Sergeyev's "Swan Lake," I'd definitely opt for the former, even though the sets look so cheap it breaks my heart.

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Can't say I disagree. If given a choice between seeing the Mariinsky in Ratmansky's "The Little Hump-Backed Horse" or in its current rendition of Sergeyev's "Swan Lake," I'd definitely opt for the former, even though the sets look so cheap it breaks my heart.

I like LHH myself, both the Radunsky and Ratmansky versions, but the Russians probably don't think it's suitable for North American audiences.

RE: Macaulay's writing - the essential issue for me is not the manner of Macaulay's criticism, but the fact that he is one of the few dance writers being 'published'. If ballet seasons and tours (of the big companies) were covered in the same manner that professional football is covered in the U.S., there would be so many voices and opinions at work, it simply wouldn't matter what one writer from the NY Times was going on about. There would be competing views, at all times. But sadly, it's not that kind of situation. Not even close.

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The Mariinsky brought Little Humpbacked Horse to the Met with a triple bill in 2011. Tereshkina and Obraztsova danced the Tsar Maiden with Vladimir Shklyarov (Ivan the Fool) at the beginning of the run, with the triple bill following, and then Alina Somova danced Tsar Maiden on the weekend. I had to got back to Seattle, or I would have seen that performance, too. I don't remember who her partner was.

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If ballet seasons and tours (of the big companies) were covered in the same manner that professional football is covered in the U.S., there would be so many voices and opinions at work, it simply wouldn't matter what one writer from the NY Times was going on about. There would be competing views, at all times. But sadly, it's not that kind of situation. Not even close.

Your lips to the gods' ears, though I don't think they're listening.

I don't really want to insert myself into this discussion -- I don't think it's an appropriate place for me. I will just say this -- no matter who was the chief critic of the NYT, there would be a significant cohort of people objecting to their work.

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The Mariinsky brought Little Humpbacked Horse to the Met with a triple bill in 2011. Tereshkina and Obraztsova danced the Tsar Maiden with Vladimir Shklyarov (Ivan the Fool) at the beginning of the run, with the triple bill following, and then Alina Somova danced Tsar Maiden on the weekend. I had to got back to Seattle, or I would have seen that performance, too. I don't remember who her partner was.

Sergeyev danced with Somova. (I was able to get up for that tour.)

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