Jump to content


Macaulay's Criticism


  • Please log in to reply
134 replies to this topic

#46 Drew

Drew

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,234 posts

Posted 27 May 2011 - 11:22 PM

In terms of a mixed bill selling I think that there is PR and there is also choice of ballets. ...

...just trying to make the point that a program could be put together what would sell with the right hook and a little PR push.



I also wonder if more could not be done to make these programs sell better and I was surprised not see more "fuss" whether in advertising or special features about an evening featuring premiers by the two choreographers usually considered the best classical ballet choreographers working today. Of course, it would have been good for ABT had the NYTimes, say, had a big Sunday feature on their "Premier" night. (I should add that it's entirely possible a Times writer or critic lobbied to do such a feature and was turned down by the editors.)

But I also think casting can work wonders, which Vipa also suggested. What about a classics to premiers evening that included "Other Dances" with Osipova-Halberg alternating with Vishneva-Gomez? That would be artistically substantial and a crowd-pleaser. Macaulay's own suggestion about pairing a short work with one of the shorter, two act "full length" works is also shrewd.

ABT's "audience" may be happy with the current Met seasons--but that does not mean they would not also be happy if the company developed its strengths in repertory programs (or, for that matter, improved the quality of their full length productions). By featuring just one repertory program for four performances in the middle of the week, it's as if the company is actively discouraging audience interest by showing its own lack of faith in that kind of program. The Met season is the company's "big" New York season so what they do there matters and there are a number of short works that, historically, have played there very well including ABT classics such as Rodeo and Fancy Free.

I don't think the ABT Met season need or even should radically change--far from it--and I hugely admire much of what Mckenzie has done. As the director of a ballet company only in fantasy, my job is a lot easier than his! Still, I can't help but think that at least a full week or week and a half could be managed of two different programs or varied mix and match repertory with shrewd audience-pleasing casting. I also suspect that having more repertory programing would generate more interest in that programming, as it would show audiences that these programs are an integral part of the season, and that the company itself has faith in what they are doing.

To say something a little more directly on topic: in one or two articles I have thought Macaulay sounded as if he simply wished ABT were a different company and for me as a reader those are not his most interesting moments, but in his review of the recent premier evening I did not think that was the case and he does seem to put his finger on something at least some ABT fans care about...which is part of the reason it has generated this discussion...

#47 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 28 May 2011 - 08:45 AM


In terms of a mixed bill selling I think that there is PR and there is also choice of ballets. ...

...just trying to make the point that a program could be put together what would sell with the right hook and a little PR push.



I also wonder if more could not be done to make these programs sell better and I was surprised not see more "fuss" whether in advertising or special features about an evening featuring premiers by the two choreographers usually considered the best classical ballet choreographers working today. Of course, it would have been good for ABT had the NYTimes, say, had a big Sunday feature on their "Premier" night. (I should add that it's entirely possible a Times writer or critic lobbied to do such a feature and was turned down by the editors.)

But I also think casting can work wonders, which Vipa also suggested. What about a classics to premiers evening that included "Other Dances" with Osipova-Halberg alternating with Vishneva-Gomez? That would be artistically substantial and a crowd-pleaser. Macaulay's own suggestion about pairing a short work with one of the shorter, two act "full length" works is also shrewd.

ABT's "audience" may be happy with the current Met seasons--but that does not mean they would not also be happy if the company developed its strengths in repertory programs (or, for that matter, improved the quality of their full length productions). By featuring just one repertory program for four performances in the middle of the week, it's as if the company is actively discouraging audience interest by showing its own lack of faith in that kind of program. The Met season is the company's "big" New York season so what they do there matters and there are a number of short works that, historically, have played there very well including ABT classics such as Rodeo and Fancy Free.

I don't think the ABT Met season need or even should radically change--far from it--and I hugely admire much of what Mckenzie has done. As the director of a ballet company only in fantasy, my job is a lot easier than his! Still, I can't help but think that at least a full week or week and a half could be managed of two different programs or varied mix and match repertory with shrewd audience-pleasing casting. I also suspect that having more repertory programing would generate more interest in that programming, as it would show audiences that these programs are an integral part of the season, and that the company itself has faith in what they are doing.

To say something a little more directly on topic: in one or two articles I have thought Macaulay sounded as if he simply wished ABT were a different company and for me as a reader those are not his most interesting moments, but in his review of the recent premier evening I did not think that was the case and he does seem to put his finger on something at least some ABT fans care about...which is part of the reason it has generated this discussion...


Drew, you've written here that rarest of things--a long post with which I agree 100%! Brimming with fine ideas, and if this is feasible

at least a full week or week and a half could be managed of two different programs or varied mix and match repertory with shrewd audience-pleasing casting.

it's a superb idea.

When I wrote last night, I hadn't even read the Macaulay article, but today I see this, and just wanted to point it out, given my panic at the idea they'd not use the Met:

Of the evening’s new ballets, however, it’s the most reluctant to meet the expectations of a Met audience. It’s geared to the chamber dimensions of its score, Stravinsky’s “Dumbarton Oaks,” a concerto for 15 orchestral players. The 10 dancers — quietly, attractively and not-quite-uniformly dressed by Richard Hudson, with the women in dresses cut just above the knee and wearing point shoes, and the men in shirts (suggesting they’ve just removed their jackets), trousers and laced shoes — seemed recessed on the large stage.


But even though he says 'seemed recessed on the stage', he doesn't seem to consider that especially a problem, and in mentioning the 'expectations of a Met audience', he does point to the element I kept emphasizing about the ABT's need for the big Met stage and sound.

I'm glad you pointed back to the review, as I would have to also say that I consider this easily to be the best-written one I've yet read by Mr. Macaulay, and he makes you want to see the 3 new works by really describing them well. Part of it could be that the works really did all turn out to be satisfying in a number of different ways, but his descriptions are very useful, and sound for the first time like the kind of dance criticism I like to read, i.e., not so much hyperbole, which often puts me off with him, and just talking about the works and even doing some thoughtful musing, whether or not one agrees with all of it. 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.

#48 Anthony_NYC

Anthony_NYC

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 290 posts

Posted 28 May 2011 - 10:15 AM

Agreed, papeetepatrick, that Macauley can write so well--intelligently, enthusiastically, eloquently--that he makes me want to go to the ballet more often. I also love the ballet season as we currently know it, May and June with those casual-chic ballet audiences and the beautiful weather and the gelato vendors, it's just a joy. But I miss ballet during the many months when neither company is performing. And I can't help but think each of them could draw a larger audience if they didn't divide them.

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. I understand the need to make money, but how low would my opinion of the Metropolitan Opera fall, for instance, if they eliminated Wozzeck in order to replace it with yet four more La Bohèmes. And anyway, does that awful full-length Corsaire really have to be more of a draw than a properly advertised mixed bill showing off some of the company's biggest stars?

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.

#49 puppytreats

puppytreats

    Gold Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 751 posts

Posted 28 May 2011 - 02:43 PM

" and there is more awareness of the Broadway half-price ticket booth perhaps than of discounts on ballet tickets..."

Discounts on ballet tickets?

#50 vipa

vipa

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,055 posts

Posted 28 May 2011 - 03:12 PM

" and there is more awareness of the Broadway half-price ticket booth perhaps than of discounts on ballet tickets..."

Discounts on ballet tickets?


The David Rubenstein Atrium, across from Lincoln Center has "same day" tickets to performances at Lincoln Center. I haven't checked there for ABT tickets, so I don't know if they've had any. I have gotten 50% off NYCB tickets.

http://new.lincolnce...ndex.php/atrium

Sorry - this is off topic.

#51 kfw

kfw

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,267 posts

Posted 28 May 2011 - 03:29 PM

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?

#52 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 28 May 2011 - 03:45 PM

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.

#53 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,561 posts

Posted 28 May 2011 - 04:14 PM

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.

#54 kfw

kfw

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,267 posts

Posted 28 May 2011 - 04:33 PM

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.

#55 atm711

atm711

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,423 posts

Posted 28 May 2011 - 07:08 PM

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.

#56 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,040 posts

Posted 28 May 2011 - 08:14 PM

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.

#57 richard53dog

richard53dog

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,401 posts

Posted 29 May 2011 - 04:36 AM

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.

#58 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 29 May 2011 - 09:59 AM

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.

#59 kfw

kfw

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,267 posts

Posted 29 May 2011 - 03:00 PM

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.

#60 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 29 May 2011 - 04:06 PM

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:


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):