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Macaulay's Criticism


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#91 Quiggin

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Posted 02 September 2011 - 01:22 PM

Macaulay also says this just before the repetitions quote:

Theatergoers detest restricted views; Degas, when painting, loved them.

This great one, recently in San Francisco and now in Australia, has a squeezed out limited view but nice variation of poses.

Dancers Climing the Stairs

Often though Degas drew the sames poses over and over, and identified with dancers at the barre, and moved them around in his paintings with the banality of checkers than leaps of chess pieces. Macaulay's balletomanes I guess are more easily bored.

Degas also is grittier and more realisitic than romantic than even Macaulay allows more like Zola and his dancers are not attractive and not in attractive poses.

#92 kfw

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Posted 07 October 2013 - 07:02 PM

As much as I appreciate and learn from Macaulay, I find the following bit in his 10/8 NYCB review pretty far-fetched:

 
I realized for the first time that “Prodigal Son” is like a précis version of Wagner’s “Parsifal.” The hero sets forth from a religious background he doesn’t appreciate, is seduced by a siren whose allure includes a maternal element, is rejected and sent wandering. The story ends with a powerful recognition scene as he returns to his earlier community.
 
Leaving Parsifal aside, a religious background the hero doesn’t appreciate? There is no hint of this in the Biblical story or, as far as I can see, in the ballet.
 
A siren whose allure includes a maternal element? Does the son confuse domination with maternal love, or does Macaulay?
 
A powerful recognition scene? In the Biblical parable, the son recognizes that he’d be better off as a hired hand on his father’s land than as the pauper he’s become. Is this really in the ballet?


#93 Ray

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 03:21 AM

 

As much as I appreciate and learn from Macaulay, I find the following bit in his 10/8 NYCB review pretty far-fetched:

 
I realized for the first time that “Prodigal Son” is like a précis version of Wagner’s “Parsifal.” The hero sets forth from a religious background he doesn’t appreciate, is seduced by a siren whose allure includes a maternal element, is rejected and sent wandering. The story ends with a powerful recognition scene as he returns to his earlier community.
 
Leaving Parsifal aside, a religious background the hero doesn’t appreciate? There is no hint of this in the Biblical story or, as far as I can see, in the ballet.
 
A siren whose allure includes a maternal element? Does the son confuse domination with maternal love, or does Macaulay?
 
A powerful recognition scene? In the Biblical parable, the son recognizes that he’d be better off as a hired hand on his father’s land than as the pauper he’s become. Is this really in the ballet?

 

I'll disagree with one point here:  I think a maternal reading of the choreography is entirely plausible (as it is in many B ballets, imho).  The siren is larger than he is, for one, replicating mother-child proportions; and in the end pose he's curled up in her lap--we see a triumphant whore as she looks out at us, arm up-stretched in victory (or like a cobra?), but he's got his face buried in her bosom.  

jr_prodigal_kondaurova_lobukhin_107_500. 



#94 kfw

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 03:56 AM

Good points, thanks. But as you say, that pose comes only at the end of their encounter – it doesn’t reflect his initial attraction – and it also seems to be more her doing than his. The disparity in size of course reflects the disparity between her sexual power and his power to resist it, or to at least resist being ruined by it.


#95 Ray

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 04:20 AM

 

Good points, thanks. But as you say, that pose comes only at the end of their encounter – it doesn’t reflect his initial attraction – and it also seems to be more her doing than his. The disparity in size of course reflects the disparity between her sexual power and his power to resist it, or to at least resist being ruined by it.
 

Well, Freud would say there's a connection there; and that mothers can "smother" their sons (don't shoot the messenger!).   B was of course not a Freudian, but it was the 1920s here.  And, after all. the end of the ballet affirms another Freudian anxiety:  that in not escaping the "mother" you won't be able to detach yourself from your father, either. 



#96 abatt

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 05:34 AM

I've never thought about the Siren as a maternal figure, but it's an interesting take.  I do understand that the Prodigal is rejecting a religious background that he doesn't appreciate.  That's the whole point of the opening scene, where his sisters and his father are praying with bended heads, but the Prodigal keeps looking away into the distance.  His family is deeply religious and traditional, which he rejects.  He does not appreciate these values until he returns, crawling with his last breath, back to the family.

 

The point that most resonated with me from the NY Times' latest review is the description of Bouder's dancing in Namouna.  I enjoy Ringer's dancing very much, but I have to say that seeing Bouder take over the  cigarette role breathed new and thrilling life into the part.  Bouder's articulation of the footwork made the choreography of that part come alive for me in a way it never had when Ringer did the part.



#97 Ray

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 06:51 AM

Guys I don't mean to harp on the Freudian reading, but it's always seemed so self-evident to me, in thinking about PS being a product of its time:  B has re-imagined the prodigal son as a Freudian neurotic, who sleeps with his mother but can't kill his father (and thus become an autonomous individual).  Like so many other figures in modernist art of the period. 

Again, this is not to say that I think this is the only reading of the ballet.  I just thought this was kind of a standard one (and the one to which Macaulay is alluding).  And one which we can of course reject. 



#98 kfw

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 08:59 AM

Guys I don't mean to harp on the Freudian reading, but it's always seemed so self-evident to me, in thinking about PS being a product of its time:  B has re-imagined the prodigal son as a Freudian neurotic, who sleeps with his mother but can't kill his father (and thus become an autonomous individual).  Like so many other figures in modernist art of the period. 

Again, this is not to say that I think this is the only reading of the ballet.  I just thought this was kind of a standard one (and the one to which Macaulay is alluding).  And one which we can of course reject. 

 

 

Very interesting. I'll have to reread some of the criticism. I don't think of Balanchine as consciously drawing on psychology but, as Freud would say, that may have been in the back of his mind.
 

abatt, I disagree that the son is rejecting a religious and traditional background. Those categories are lacking in the source material - the parable - which Balanchine, who professed Orthodox faith, is illustrating. More importantly, they’re ahistorical. Society was completely religious. Rebellion against religion and family are modern categories, not New Testament ones.

 

In the ballet, Balanchine shows the son preparing to leave before the Father appears. The Father then draws the family together to bless the son. That’s what a patriarch did. In other words, Balanchine shows the family being the family, in order to put into relief the son’s leaving the family.



#99 fondoffouettes

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Posted 05 January 2014 - 07:27 AM

I sometimes disagree with Macaulay's opinions but usually find him rather reliable in reporting what actually occurs onstage. However, I find it hard to reconcile his reportage of the Gorak/Lane performance in the recent Nutcracker round-up review:

 

"Watching Ballet Theater’s “Nutcracker” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which ended on Dec. 22, I was gratified to see how experience can transform a dancer. When Joseph Gorak joined the company four years ago, you couldn’t miss his phenomenally arched feet or his boyish sweetness or, alas, that he was no partner. Look at him now! His feet are the same, his sweetness has become adult (or, rather, he’s both boyish and manly), and, though not tall, he can partner Sarah Lane and other petite women with style and even panache.

 

Two years ago, the pas de deux of Alexei Ratmansky’s “Nutcracker” looked like a troublesome obstacle course for Mr. Gorak. Now he and Ms. Lane make them expressive, musical, exciting."

 

http://www.nytimes.c...ances.html?_r=0

 

I couldn't agree more that Gorak is one of ABT's most promising dancers and that he continues to grow each season. However, the 12/19 Nutcracker performance featured some of the most tense, sloppy partnering I've ever seen from the company, as I've already noted in the ABT forum. I wondered if perhaps Gorak was injured. He was replaced in the Chinese dance on 12/21 and in the lead role on 12/22.

 

I understand being enamored with a dancer and forgiving errors, but it almost feels as if Macaulay didn't attend the performance. (And Gorak danced the lead role only one time this season, on 12/19.) Young, attractive male dancers with "ideal," danseur noble-esque proportions seem to get a free pass from Macaulay these days. Many of these dancers (Hallberg, Tamm, Gorak, Whiteside, Finlay) are in fact excellent dancers, but when reading Macaulay's reviews of them, I sometimes feel as if he is too much of a devoted fan instead of a critic. 

 

Just one sidenote: When discussing Lane in the same article, Macaulay uses relatively vague terms to describe her dancing, but he provides a much more fair, accurate assessment. She's a beautiful, at times lyrical dancer with a warm stage presence, but she can tense up when things don't go the way she likes. She seems on the cusp of being principal material, but it has been difficult to figure out whether she can really carry a full-length ballet. (In my own opinion, she at least deserves the opportunities being given to Seo and Boylston, and she is certainly more technically proficient than the former.)



#100 volcanohunter

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Posted 05 January 2014 - 07:54 AM

I hope you sent a note to this effect to the NYT.



#101 Barbara

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Posted 05 January 2014 - 02:02 PM

And no mention of the glory that was Part/Gomes in the recap by Mr. Macaulay?



#102 vipa

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Posted 05 January 2014 - 06:14 PM

I hope you sent a note to this effect to the NYT.

 

I wondered that myself.  After I read the BT reviews of the Gorak/Lane performance from people I gave grown to trust, I was puzzled.  Macaulay has for me become an unreliable critic.  It seems to me that for men particularly, there are body types that he so favors, Halberg and Gorak being examples of that body type, that he seeks to write favorably about them no matter what.  There are other dancers that I wish he'd stop reviewing, because he writes the same negative things about them over an over again.



#103 Michael

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 08:15 AM

Halberg and Gorak being examples of that body type

 

Halberg and Gorak don't seem like the same body type at all.  Just the immense difference in height is enough to draw the line I'd think.



#104 Barbara

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 12:51 PM

Michael, I can see the similarities - same beautiful line, gorgeous feet, noble bearing; but with Gorak in a smaller package.



#105 vipa

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 04:08 PM

Michael, I can see the similarities - same beautiful line, gorgeous feet, noble bearing; but with Gorak in a smaller package.

 

That exactly what I meant.  Yes there is a height difference, but both have very highly arched and flexible feet,  both are very long muscled and have a similar look to their line, both have flexible backs that allow a high arabesque.  It is actually not my favorite look in a male dancer, but I think they are quite similar in many ways.




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