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Macaulay's Criticism


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#121 Quiggin

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 12:21 PM

To me, this sometimes makes Macauley's criticism a version of 19th century dilettantism.

 

 

 

Like "connoisseurship" and "beauty" in art history which got left behind in the '70s for broader ranger of criteria (iconology, social context) than just the "critic's eye."

 

From comments here I realize AM can get annoying when he talks about dancers' bodies, as if he holds some little grudge against them – and there's something puritanical about it, as if it were a kind of moral choice on the part of the dancer. 

 

But on the other hand dancers are their bodies – like a car you get in and drive around on winding road. Their shapes, the zig zag contours of dancers arms or their legs, short waists or overly long makes a difference in the graphic impact of their dancing (Martins, Farrell, Garcia, Mazzeo, Sylve). Sometimes they're a jumble of characterisitics, like Cezanne paintings. What's exciting is to read the classical steps through those distorting mirrors.

 

 



#122 Jayne

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 12:46 PM

I think Macaulay has mentioned Mearns' physique more often after the thunderstorm that developed from his "too many sugar plums" critiques of Jenifer Ringer (and her partner for that performance, I can't think of his name). 

 

At any rate, when you see pictures, it's very clear that she is as lean as her body type will allow her to be. 



#123 abatt

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 12:53 PM

Ringer's partner was Jared Angle, and AM's comment about him was even more insulting than the comment regarding Ringer.  Hovever, the uproar the ensued related to Ringer, not Angle.  In part, that was because Ringer decided to take to the media and give interviews about it to just about anyone who wanted to book her for a segment. 



#124 Helene

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 12:58 PM

The reason Ringer had a forum at all was that she is female, which triggered a firestorm, while almost no one noted that he really handed it far worse to Angle. The press followed her after it became a story to follow. If Macaulay had just commented about Angle, the may have been one article or blog post about how disorderd eating applies to men, too.

#125 abatt

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 01:05 PM

I have the impression that AM's comment about Ringer's weight indirectly contributed to increased "celebrity" for Ringer, which in turn probably helped her to secure her book deal.  So AM's nasty remarks may have actually helped Ringer.



#126 Helene

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 01:05 PM

The only reason Ringer was pursued by the press is that Macaulay's comment about a female's weight triggered a firestorm of reproach, while his far worse critique of Angle was ignored. Had he only commented on Angle, there may have been a blog post to note that there's disordered eating among men, too.

#127 Drew

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 11:06 PM

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.)



#128 dirac

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 06:55 AM

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.



#129 kfw

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 07:22 AM

(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.


#130 pherank

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Posted 23 January 2014 - 05:06 PM

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.c...srepertory.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.c...nterseason.html

 

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



#131 Jayne

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Posted 23 January 2014 - 06:27 PM

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.  



#132 DanielBenton

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 06:49 AM

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



#133 bart

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 07:06 AM

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.



#134 kfw

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 08:14 AM

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.



#135 Jayne

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 06:59 PM

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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