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Macaulay's Criticism


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#16 miliosr

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 04:33 AM

I don't know what other "tall blonds" he loves besides David Hallberg.

Chase Finlay (although maybe he is a dirty blond?) :)

http://www.nytimes.c...l?_r=1&ref=arts

#17 dirac

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 11:57 AM


increasingly the Times is the only game in town despite Murdoch's efforts to expand the bailiwick of The Wall Street Journal.


Ahem :) The Post doesn't come close in terms of coverage space or influence but I'm putting in a good word for our arts section. Rather than let Clive Barnes' position disappear through attrition, they added writers - and all the reviewers are people I'm proud to have as colleagues. Our word count is tight, but I think everyone there gets maximum efficiency from the space. And I believe we reach more people locally than The Times. So read us too!


Quite right, Leigh. I thought of that after I put up my post but didn't get around to clarifying. The Post certainly does deserve points for preserving their performing arts coverage when everyone else is cutting back. My use of "only game in town" was misleading - I was thinking also when I wrote that of papers aspiring to a broad national reach.

The now-defunct New York Sun was a rag but they did have excellent arts coverage.

#18 Helene

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 01:17 PM


I don't know what other "tall blonds" he loves besides David Hallberg.

Chase Finlay (although maybe he is a dirty blond?) :)

http://www.nytimes.c...l?_r=1&ref=arts

Ah, so it's not tall blonds he loves, but some tall dancers "with a long neck and handsome carriage; an attentive and capable partner; and a skilled dancer of beautifully stretched lines and gleaming precision." -- I certainly wouldn't argue about these criteria -- and from the rest of the review, certainly not to the exclusion of other types for men.

Most of what I've read all-around about Finlay has been glowing, and it's a bit like noticing Pavarotti has a nice voice.

]That's why I found media critic Pauline Kael so great: I didn't have to agree with her conclusions, but I knew what movie I was seeing, and the one time she didn't do this,

It's off topic, but Kael wasn't really a media critic.

As a film critic, she certainly was in the spectrum of rock critics to dance critics who write for newspapers and magazines, which was the topic.

#19 Dale

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 01:49 PM



increasingly the Times is the only game in town despite Murdoch's efforts to expand the bailiwick of The Wall Street Journal.

Rather than let Clive Barnes' position disappear through attrition, they added writers - and all the reviewers are people I'm proud to have as colleagues. Our word count is tight, but I think everyone there gets maximum efficiency from the space. And I believe we reach more people locally than The Times. So read us too!


Very true. The Post could have let it's arts coverage go the way of the Daily News. There might not be as much space, but there is frequency, which can be just as important in letting the public know there's always lots going on.

kfw: Do you think the New Yorker wouldn't have made the space for an Acocella piece on the Ratmansky Nutcracker? It's my feeling that she's just not that interested in what she's seeing to write a long review. If she wanted to write, I think she'd get the space.

I think some people on this board have complained about some criticisms by Macaulay's of popular dancers. Although I don't always agree with him, but what I do like about his writing is that he explains exactly what he doesn't like and he's got enough experience and knowledge to make those claims.

#20 dirac

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 01:49 PM

As a film critic, she certainly was in the spectrum of rock critics to dance critics who write for newspapers and magazines, which was the topic.



We are working from a different definition of the term “media critic.” My understanding of the contemporary definition is that a media critic is someone who comments on the place and status of various media, often news media, in contemporary culture, a definition which embraces the (relatively) new field of media studies. Film, to use a term Kael disliked, is a medium, but I think of dance, theater, music, and film critics as arts critics, not media critics. Kael restricted herself exclusively to movies, rarely venturing beyond that confine to make larger comments on media although she often generalized on the topic of culture high and low. We can agree to disagree.



#21 papeetepatrick

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 02:05 PM

I'm not sure that can be factually disagreed on, however, at least in most contemporary intellectual usage. If so, then theater and dance and music critics are also 'media critics'. A 'media critic' in this day and time is usually referred to as any of several kinds of theorists, going back even before Marshall MacLuhan, and long including those who double as philosophers like Jean Baudrillard and Slavoj Zizek and Noam Chomsky and all the left-leaning writers who talk about the manipulation of societies by TV--and there is always connection with 'media studies', which is always getting bigger and bigger as it's just 'so much fun', it seems (obviously, I've been a bit too exposed to some of this to enjoy it as much as some of its favourite hobbyists, whom I've known wisely but too well). But even if one insists on calling Pauline Kael and Stephen Holden 'media critics' (and even if one is considered to be accurate, although I don't thnk it is), the fact is definitely that Pauline Kael is known to be a 'film critic' to quite as great a degree that Alistair Macaulay is known to be a 'dance critic'. A 'media critic' is one who critiques media, in common intellectual parlance; 'which' medium one is in doesn't constitute (for most people) that they are a 'media critic', but rather whether they talk about media as such or not, not specific works within the medium (unless that's attached to the other while being subsumed to it, as in some of Zizek's observations about 'The Matrix', 'High Noon', etc.)

#22 kfw

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 02:16 PM

kfw: Do you think the New Yorker wouldn't have made the space for an Acocella piece on the Ratmansky Nutcracker? It's my feeling that she's just not that interested in what she's seeing to write a long review. If she wanted to write, I think she'd get the space.

Perhaps you're right. It seems odd that she wouldn't want to weigh in on a new work everyone was talking about, but perhaps it just didn't engage her and she knows she gets just so much space a year and wants to save it for something else.

#23 Helene

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 02:22 PM

As a film critic, she certainly was in the spectrum of rock critics to dance critics who write for newspapers and magazines, which was the topic.



We are working from a different definition of the term “media critic.” My understanding of the contemporary definition is that a media critic is someone who comments on the place and status of various media, often news media, in contemporary culture, a definition which embraces the (relatively) new field of media studies. Film, to use a term Kael disliked, is a medium, but I think of dance, theater, music, and film critics as arts critics, not media critics. Kael restricted herself exclusively to movies, rarely venturing beyond that confine to make larger comments on media although she often generalized on the topic of culture high and low. We can agree to disagree.

puppytreats was talking about critics who are published in mainstream media, like newspapers and magazines, as opposed to books of literary criticism clarified in a second post in the thread. That was the topic of conversation.

#24 dirac

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 02:30 PM

A 'media critic' is one who critiques media, in common intellectual parlance; 'which' medium one is in doesn't constitute (for most people) that they are a 'media critic',


Yes, thank you, Patrick, you said it better than I did.

Regarding the dearth of dance writing in The New Yorker, an event like Ratmansky's new Nutcracker is the kind of topic the magazine should be covering, and if Acocella doesn't want to I wish they would find someone who does. I suppose it's possible regular dance writing isn't wanted there but I find that hard to believe, although anything's possible with magazines these days.

#25 Kyeong

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 03:40 PM

Helene, I felt uncomfortable with Macaulay's "her own press notice" phrase because it seems to relate to the ethics of the professional dancer and artist, beyond the quality of the performance in question. Claiming that the dancer put his/her own personal interest over the performance is something to be told with due caution, only when he/she really did, or there are sufficient reasons to think like that. As the dancer's intention cannot be directly proved, we have to infer from what we've seen, and, to me, the Sunday performance wasn't that bad to justify his comments. Anyway, it seems that it's only me to link that specific phrase with the artist's ethic issue, and my question/curiosity is resolved.

Macaulay, generally, may well have confidence in his taste, which may be a very refined one, considering his title as the NY times chief dance critic. But, I think he also should be aware of the dark side of the taste - a part of which, however small, has nothing to do with his knowledge, however vast it is, in ballet, just coming from his whole life, ballet-related or not. It's given to him like his fingerprints, and I don't think it's the place where confidence may be allowed - it will be the opposite. And, as he himself cannot clearly know what kind of and how much of innate bias is mingled with his acquired, cultivated, educated taste, I think the degree of confidence in taste as a whole should be always carefully monitored. I don't dislike Macaulay's describing in his review what he doesn't want to see, but want to know why, and, which part of the taste it comes from. Further, I don't expect, or, want (why?) him to exactly agree with me on a performance - I don't want to have two exactly same photos at my hands when trying to reconstruct the performance in my mind through various reviews, like making a 3D movie with many photos taken from different points, but need to know where he took the photo.

#26 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 03:54 PM

Others may know with more certainty, but I believe the New Yorker is very committed to Acocella and her writing. If she did not write on something, the better possibility is that she chose not to write rather than that she did not have the space allotted.

#27 Helene

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 04:10 PM


I don't dislike Macaulay's describing in his review what he doesn't want to see, but want to know why, and, which part of the taste it comes from. Further, I don't expect, or, want (why?) him to exactly agree with me on a performance - I don't want to have two exactly same photos at my hands when trying to reconstruct the performance in my mind through various reviews, like making a 3D movie with many photos taken from different points, but need to know where he took the photo.

You'll never get that from every individual review: he doesn't have enough space. In general, from dance critics I get this from reading their work over time. With Macaulay that started when he wrote for The New Yorker, taking over the "Dancing" column after Arlene Croce. He's written enough explicitly over the years that it was easier for me to get his context than many other critics.

Others may know with more certainty, but I believe the New Yorker is very committed to Acocella and her writing. If she did not write on something, the better possibility is that she chose not to write rather than that she did not have the space allotted.

I would have thought the same, since she's an active contributor as a book reviewer for the magazine.

#28 puppytreats

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 08:18 AM

[quote name='FauxPas' date='15 February 2011 - 12:57 PM' timestamp='1297803439' post='281839']
I did not feel compelled to go into D.C. in this cold weather to catch "Giselle" (I have seen the same production in NYC 10 years ago with Zakharova, Asylmuratova and younger Vishneva). However here is Alastair Macauley's NY Times review:

http://www.nytimes.c...vishneva&st=cse

The article states, "This is now the third Mariinsky staging I have seen in which a hunt scene includes a stuffed version of a dead animal (a deer in this case) so unconvincing that it elicits laughter from the audience. Giselle’s rival, Bathilde, who arrives with the hunt, is stuffy, bossy and charmless. Originally, the ballet ended with Bathilde tenderly reclaiming her fiancé, Albrecht. You wouldn’t wish such a fate on the poor guy at the Mariinsky."

Does anyone have information on this version of Giselle, in which Bathilde returns in Act II?

#29 kfw

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 08:42 AM

Helene, I felt uncomfortable with Macaulay's "her own press notice" phrase because it seems to relate to the ethics of the professional dancer and artist, beyond the quality of the performance in question. Claiming that the dancer put his/her own personal interest over the performance is something to be told with due caution,

I took him to mean not that Vishneva was somehow being selfish, but that, for whatever reason, instead of losing herself in the role she was trying to perform it in the way she thought the public expected. Whether or not that was true of that particular performance, that's likely what happens with many dancers when they're having an off night.

Macaulay, generally, may well have confidence in his taste, which may be a very refined one, considering his title as the NY times chief dance critic. But, I think he also should be aware of the dark side of the taste - a part of which, however small, has nothing to do with his knowledge, however vast it is, in ballet, just coming from his whole life, ballet-related or not. It's given to him like his fingerprints, and I don't think it's the place where confidence may be allowed - it will be the opposite. And, as he himself cannot clearly know what kind of and how much of innate bias is mingled with his acquired, cultivated, educated taste, I think the degree of confidence in taste as a whole should be always carefully monitored.

Can anyone really judge his or her own taste in this way? I think a good critic has to have great confidence; if he can't trust his judgment, he can't judge.

#30 papeetepatrick

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 09:53 AM

Kyeong said:

Helene, I felt uncomfortable with Macaulay's "her own press notice" phrase because it seems to relate to the ethics of the professional dancer and artist, beyond the quality of the performance in question. Claiming that the dancer put his/her own personal interest over the performance is something to be told with due caution,


kfw said:

I took him to mean not that Vishneva was somehow being selfish, but that, for whatever reason, instead of losing herself in the role she was trying to perform it in the way she thought the public expected. Whether or not that was true of that particular performance, that's likely what happens with many dancers when they're having an off night.


Agree with kfw. And it's all right when a performer is once in a while 'selfish', and then all right if the critic points this out so that it hasn't gone unnoticed. Not that this necessarily means that she was 'selfish', of course, anyway--I just mentioned this, because that impression could also come from an exhilirated mood as well, in which you were 'full of yourself'. This could still be an 'off night' for the whole piece, but there can be all sorts of 'off nights', including those in which it's just not quite inspired or quite enough energy.


kyeong said:

Macaulay, generally, may well have confidence in his taste, which may be a very refined one, considering his title as the NY times chief dance critic. But, I think he also should be aware of the dark side of the taste - a part of which, however small, has nothing to do with his knowledge, however vast it is, in ballet, just coming from his whole life, ballet-related or not. It's given to him like his fingerprints, and I don't think it's the place where confidence may be allowed - it will be the opposite. And, as he himself cannot clearly know what kind of and how much of innate bias is mingled with his acquired, cultivated, educated taste, I think the degree of confidence in taste as a whole should be always carefully monitored.


kfw said:

Can anyone really judge his or her own taste in this way? I think a good critic has to have great confidence; if he can't trust his judgment, he can't judge.



Good heavens, yes, he can't be hemmed in and worry about every little thing he says, and I'm obviously not even a big fan. If he 'didn't have confidence in his taste', then he ought not have that job! even if we don't always like that taste. 'Innate bias' is something we need as well--that's just like a ballerina's 'possible selfishness' or 'over-the-topness'--personal taste is part of it.

It's given to him like his fingerprints, and I don't think it's the place where confidence may be allowed - it will be the opposite. And, as he himself cannot clearly know what kind of and how much of innate bias is mingled with his acquired, cultivated, educated taste, I think the degree of confidence in taste as a whole should be always carefully monitored.


Why cannot he himself 'clearly know what kind of...etc.'? And why would his 'acquired, cultivated, educated taste' always be better? And if his 'confidence in taste as a whole should always be carefully monitored', I can assure you it must be, or people wouldn't be talking about him all the time. This sounds almost as though he needs one of those bracelets that people who get out of jail early have to wear. If people are TOO carefully monitored, they become afraid to express anything.

I mean, what PLANET? This is not a country where 'Dear Leader' has to be pleased to such a degree beyond just not cussing or leering too much.


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