California

Alan M. Kriegsman 1928-2012

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This is very sad news not only for Washington, but for the dance world. His was an extremely important voice, and one thing that may be forgotten now is how he fought for dance coverage -- the Post had four part-time critics in addition to Mike Kriegsman -- and, more importantly, for dance. Before it was fashionable, he would cover all kinds of dance. He tried to cover everything -- cast changes, local companies no matter how small -- at a time when Washington had 75 dance and ballet companies. He was a force.

Here's a quote from the obituary (which is quite nice, I thought):

In an interview, Mikhail Baryshnikov, the Soviet-born dancer and former artistic director of the American Ballet Theatre, called Mr. Kriegsman “one of the best writers” on dance. He said that Mr. Kriegsman, who was known as Mike, was an accomplished pianist whose educational background in music “brought an intelligent approach to writing about music in choreography.”

His background in music was an important part of his writing. He had an extremely sensitive ear, and he loved musical dancers, and musical choreographers. Alan Kriegsman was my mentor, and started me, at the Post, as a critic. One of the things I remember about him is how careful he was, filling notebook after notebook with ideas, outline his piece -- this took hours -- and then start typing and finish the review in about 20 minutes. Once I came back to find him writing about "Swan Lake" Now, he had seen "Swan Lake" about 500 times, but he was almost hidden by books piled up from the floor to his shoulder. "How was it?????" he asked, excitedly, about a Gerald Arpino ballet to a very contemporary score. He would have seen both, were it possible.

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I remember always reading his reviews when I lived in Washington and I am sure I learned a lot from them...

More concretely, I remember the opening of his rave review for Macmillan's Requiem (Faure) for the Stuttgart--saying that sometimes a critic had to go out on a limb and going on to make the case not just for the ballet's success/beauty but for its importance. I loved the ballet too -- I have not seen it since then and don't know what I would think now, years later and w/o the original cast, but I rather expect I would still think highly of it.

My parents and I often sat right behind him (and his wife) in our subscriber seats during the mid-70's -- I believe I was mortified when my mom once said something to him about enjoying his writing, but he was, of course, quite polite and pleasant in response.

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Oh, Drew, I remember that review too! It was before I was writing for the Post and before I knew him. He had been out of town and someone else had written about it and hadn't liked it. Mike came back and saw it and wrote. It was a beautiful review. (I also remember the performances. "Song of the Earth" remains my favorite MacMillan ballet.)

Alastair Macaulay has an obituary in the Times today:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/03/arts/dance/alan-m-kriegsman-dance-critic-dies-at-84.html?_r=1

His eclectic tastes were driven by a passionate sense of inquiry and an abiding search for meaning. Though his musical background helped him to write with insight about European and American ballet, and the choreography of the modern-dance choreographers Paul Taylor and Mark Morris, he brought the same excited open-mindedness to choreography by Merce Cunningham and Trisha Brown that is independent of any music, and to the dance forms of India, Spain and Africa. The acting of Laurence Olivier in “The Dance of Death,” the emergence of break dancing and the changes in the nature of the circus were all among his subjects.

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Thanks for the notices here, and for the links. He was a wonderful writer and a great colleague -- we were lucky to have him around.

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Oh Alexandra, what a lovely tribute. How fortunate for him (and for all of us) that his career paralleled the "dance boom" years, as well as a great expansion in arts journalism.

(and that high school photo is astonishing!)

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The high school photo really blew me away. The intensity! (And thank you very much for your kind words. He was a quiet presence, didn't go around making sure everyione knew all the changes he made, but he changed dance criticism, both in the way one writes and what one covers.)

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Do you know if anyone has explored making an anthology of his dance writing? We used to get many more collections of work, but they seems to be less popular now. (I know that everyone thinks "you can find everything on the internet," but that's not really the case) Those collections offer such an insight on their time and their particular community.

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As far as I know, there's no anthology/collection plan in process. As you say, theyre important, but in the current climate, I think it would be very hard to get a collection of criticism published. I hope it happens some day, though.

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