Ray

Poor pic of MCB in NY Times

30 posts in this topic

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This is not the dancer's fault at all--WHO decided that this was a picture worthy of inclusion in the NY Times?

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Agreed. Oscar Hidalgo, credited as the photographer, has done other work for the NY Times in Miami, including a couple of similarly awkward dance photographs. He is not a dance photographer per se.

This is just a portion of the photograph. To see the full photograph, here's a link to the Times article.

http://www.nytimes.c...d.html?_r=1

Those wanting to discuss the story of Edward Villella's forced retirement (as opposed to the photography), here's the thread for that topic.

http://balletalert.i...611#entry294611

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They could have cropped her out and the photo would have been fine...

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Agreed, I was almost as taken aback by this picture as from the news of Villella being forced out. How unflattering for the poor dancer! The LA Times often posts pictures like this of dancers and I just have to wonder who approved them.

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I noticed too. But I wasn't surprised because there was a similarly awkward photo in the NYT just last week, of Marcelo Gomes and Maria Riccetto in the ABT City Center season. Gomes flies in the air, looking stupendous, while Riccetto is caught in mid-movement awkwardness. Couldn't they find something better?

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I'll post the dissenting opinion and say that on the contrary the photograph by Oscar Hildago is a good one, and somewhat in the same character as that of Villella by Bill Eppridge on the second page. It shows a good contrast between the soloist and the corps.

Most contemporary dance photography tends to be overly romantic, and as photography, less adventurous than the choreography being photographed. It doesn't report.

As a something of an antidote, check out the "shockingly banal" photographs that Walker Evans did for Fortune magazine ("The Boom in Ballet") and which were also published in Lincoln Kirstein's dance journal - was it called Dance Index? Also Alexi Brodovitch's photos in his book Ballet have some bite to them. Here are Evans' outakes:

http://www.metmuseum...190029001?img=1

Also a bit unvarnished:

H Cartier-Bresson at Magnum:

http://www.magnumpho...&PN=2&CT=Search

http://www.magnumpho...SH=1&SF=1&PPM=0

http://www.magnumpho...PN=19&CT=Search

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I'll post the dissenting opinion and say that on the contrary the photograph by Oscar Hildago is a good one, and somewhat in the same character as that of Villella by Bill Eppridge on the second page. It shows a good contrast between the soloist and the corps.

Most contemporary dance photography tends to be overly romantic, and as photography, less adventurous than the choreography being photographed. It doesn't report.

As a something of an antidote, check out the "shockingly banal" photographs that Walker Evans did for Fortune magazine ("The Boom in Ballet") and which were also published in Lincoln Kirstein's dance journal - was it called Dance Index? Also Alexi Brodovitch's photos in his book Ballet have some bite to them. Here are Evans' outakes:

http://www.metmuseum...190029001?img=1

Also a bit unvarnished:

H Cartier-Bresson at Magnum:

http://www.magnumpho...&PN=2&CT=Search

http://www.magnumpho...SH=1&SF=1&PPM=0

http://www.magnumpho...PN=19&CT=Search

Quiggin,

What a great resource.

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A real treasure---but---the photos on the metmuseum are are mislabeled---the ballet is Danses Concertantes (with the Berman costumes) as performed by the Ballet Russe. The 1945 date is correct---that's the way it was! Lindgren, Boris, Tallchief and Franklin are easily spotted.

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And Danilova. (I wondered about the company.)

Thanks for that treat, Quiggin. "The gods at play" always comes to my mind when I see dance rehearsal, even in still images. (The bemused Franklin in frame #DP50268 is one of my favorites here!)

It may be a personal quirk, but I don't usually like performance photos because they're usually timed to show achieved poses without the movement. I'll grant that the MCB Divertimento No. 15 shot here doesn't flatter the ballerina (Jennifer Kronenberg?), but it has the virtue for me of showing her on the edge of her pose - just leaving it or just reaching it - not static but implying movement.

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This photo disturbed me when I saw it and most of the photos of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet did, too, as they were in the same vein. It used to be that many local reviews were written by those with no or little knowledge of ballet; now, the photos are suffering from the same treatment by editors who have no eye for beauty in movement.

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I'm with Jack.

Here are my reasons, for I actively LIKE this photo

The dancer looks so active and alive and delightful.

It's not the most flattering angle, but it IS an interesting one, the sort Degas might have used. From hte FRONT she would have looked thoroughly turned out, but in fact she is wisely using less than full turn-out to allow for such depth of fondu. It's clearly an image taken on the run, that shows a dancer ready to make the next move while showing a position in its deepest amplitude. The relationship between the momentary pause and the about-to-be recovery is delicious: it shows that kind of delight in making the "in-betweens" interesting that Balanchine considered the heart of dancing.

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... so active and alive and delightful...

... delight in making the "in-betweens" interesting that Balanchine considered the heart of dancing.

Exactly what MCB's fans - or some of us, anyway - relish in the company's dancing, which makes me aware of the photo's additional value, beyond being valuable to us in itself, its value in a news story, supposedly an accurate representation part of the world, in contrast, say, to in an album or in a gallery exhibit: In one shot, MCB.

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Thanks, Paul, to that insight into the physics of Kronenberg's movement.

On the whole, however, I think it is possible to rationalize too much the artistry that may or may not underlie this photo.

Degas' ballet paintings are meticulously designed. They carry out very personal and well-thought-out intentions of the artist.

Mr. Hidalgo, whose work I've checked online, is a fine photographer, but his work for the Times -- including other MCB photos -- strikes me as the kind of thing one does briefly and spontaneously. He's not a dance photographer.

I don't think that you NEED a dance photographer for such assignments. But, considering the nature of the story, it's hard not to read the beautiful Jennifer Kronenberg's (apparently) awkward pose, combined with the (apparent) disorder of the corps standing behind her, as suggesting a company not quite at the top of its game.

I wonder what the dancers themselves would think about this photo, especially considering its prominence in a news story about stressful changes affecting their company.

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With respect, I don't think the picture looks awkward. It does NOT look "posed" --

Actin shots of New york City Ballet from the 70 and 80s often revealed moments like this -- Martha Swope -- IF MEMORY SERVES, it was Swope -- took lots of pictures of ballerinas in the midst of high-speed combinations, like in the fondu before the next fouette, where the dancer is actively spotting and the face has the look of athletic presence, the will and decision are honestly present and not hidden behind some screen of "delicacy...." And that was one of the reasons many people thought Balanchine's women were sovereign. It's become fashionable to criticize Balanchine for subjugating women, but back in the day, what we often noticed was that they were indpendent, they didn't need their cavaliers for support....

I think this picture shows something like that -- she looks delighted to me, her back is straight and beautiful, her head beautifully supported, her face alive and fresh with a genuine smile.

Kyra Nichols once told me in an interview that "our lines suck. Balanchine wasn't interested in perfect spacing -- he was interested in energy!

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Paul, I agree about the positives in the ballerina's portion of the photo. (I also love Kronenberg's smile in this.) I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about the complete photo including the corps -- the image published in the Times (linked in post #2).

Thank you for your points about Swopes' photos. Over the past month or so, I've been looking at NYCB photos, mostly Swopes but also others, from the the 50s-70s mostly. Quite a lot of them are collected in ballet books. Swopes was not alone in releasing prints that caught dancer in mid-movement -- not the perfect shot, but images vivid with the sense that these are real people moving through space in real time. Many of these images are are of the kind that would probably be deleted, digitally, from photo galleries today. They do have the qualities you refer to.

I especially like your descrdiption of shots ... :

where the dancer is actively spotting and the face has the look of athletic presence, the will and decision are honestly present and not hidden behind some screen of "delicacy.

Repertory in Review is full of such images. Apropos the Hidalgo photograph of Kronenberg, check out the photo of Balanchine rehearsings students doing an identical movement in Choral Variations on Bach's Vom Himmel Hoch. (p. 304)

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Also looking forward to any further thoughts from Paul, because in the meantime I can only manage something comparatively crude - when I looked at Balanchine's dancers then or when I look at MCB or TSFB today, I saw dancers dancing, but when I look, for example, at NYCB today, I see dancers performing dancing - that presence is so much less or missing, it's remote (when it's not actually corrupt) or screened.

The "amateur" photos of both companies today catch this, maybe not just "by accident", but because it's so prevalent those photographers can't miss. Unless they try, in search of something else.

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Degas' takes on dancers were fairly shocking and unattractive in their time - Huysmans characterized some of his ballet drawings as "cruel and subtle," but: "What truth! What life!"

Unfortunately, dance companies are not photographed by photojournalists but instead by company or company-approved photographers, so we never get an outsider's view. It's as if newspapers printed press releases instead of reviews.

Regarding Balanchine, lots of the interesting awkwardnesses in his works seemed to have become ironed out over the years, "not spoken of." The late 1970's video of "Divertimento No 15" is full of odd, angular, Degas-awkward positions that have vanished (I think I'm following Jack Reed on this). Degas was attracted to working class pretentionlessness - and this working class, no-nonsense directness of interpretation - but full of character - that used to figure in Balanchine performances, seems no longer to be there... So maybe the photos are true to life.

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Quiggin, I just got around to looking at hte links you posted - -wonderful photos, they're so telling. of course, you are right about the issue, too.

Jack, I think I prefer the image cropped, though I think the whole thing is a fine record of hte occasion and gives valuable info aboutthe configuration of all the dancers at that moment. The image was not meant to be seen from that angle -- though it is probably the way Balanchine saw it, from his usual place in (though this is taken from stage left, and I THINK he usually stood in the front wing stage right).

WHy do you ask? I think the corps girls look fine -- eager and energized.

I;ve never seen D 15 in those costumes -- SFB dances it in borrowed costumes that look very 50s -- charming, fresh, very construced things with little rosebuds in their embroidery,, that look like they're made of linen, not silk.

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Failing completely at seeing the issue with the pic over here, to be honest...dunno.gif What's the part needed to be cropped...?

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Frankly, Christian, I don't see much of an issue either. I think hte picture composes better cropped; it's just more interesting in hte version posted here. But the Times version is perhaps a better document.

Re QUiggin and Jack, i think in the absence of major choreographic imagination like Balanchine's, his fascinating dynamics, his power to make something significant take place over time, today's choreographers make dances that showcase dancers' virtuosity --so what we get is one glamour-filled moment after another rather than points in an argument.

SO everytihing is trying now to look more like hte exquisite European contemporary dance, where the dancers are so sexy and hte presence is so bruised and the posing is so studied......

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It's the FOOT - the right foot - on the dancer in the forefront! Were that my daughter (who is a dancer), she would hate the capture. I can't look at it without the same dislike (as a former dancer). This is not a ballet foot, it's an ordinary foot, caught in an awkward millisecond between correct placements.

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i can deal with an exquisite pose on someone in a forefront with maybe not so perfect positions in back, but when the main "focus" in the picture is so badly caught in the picture - well i think it was a misstep to think it wouldn't matter or maybe not to ask someone who would know the difference if they didn't.

can you see the poor girl saying wow my picture was in the new york times, but no, i can't show it to you -- mad.gif

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AAh...the quest for perfection...

I don't know...for me, this is actually an interesting take. I'm really sick of seeing the same boring shots of arabesques and deep penchees...

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But I think that you would be in the minority with that opinion. The photo isn't balletic, even if positions like that occur all the time in a transient way in dancing, they aren't the point of the movement, and they're usually not picked up by the observer's eye. It isn't pleasing, it's awkward. It doesn't shout this is ballet - it shouts I'm about to fall down, or I did the wrong thing, or something else. I just think it's woefully bad and a bad judgment call on the part of whoever does the choosing of the pictures. Poor kid.

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Interesting debate. I've seen books - I think Costas put one together and we discussed it here, but I looked through a copy somewhere and was bored too by page after page of the same pose - aloft, often, in the case of the men - which gave you the idea that ballets - these were by Balanchine, too - are all the same except for the costumes. So I'm with Cristian, and Paul too (if he's still with me).

But I can imagine, or even remember, pictures which might satisfy both our camps, where the pose is about to be - or just was - beautifully achieved, but where there are also clues in the shot which tell of the onward flow of movement, too.

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