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New York Critics, 2012-13 Season


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#1 Rock

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 04:14 PM

It's interesting to read all these rave reviews of the Swan Lake performance and then to see Gia Kourlas' sad, mean little review in the NYT. Contrary to all the posts here, she writes the same old stuff she always writes - it was boring, nobody but Gomes was good enough for her, Simkin can't partner, Hallberg was dull, the ballet didn't really start until Gomes came out. Not surprising from a modern dance person. But then she confuses Odette/Odile getting the parts mixed up. What does that say about the standard of dance writing at the NYT? If she can't tell Odette from Odile why would you listen to her about anyone's performance, or the tempi, etc. If they insist on retaining her why not assign her to performances that are more to her taste? That is to say, modern dance.



#2 MRR

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 04:22 PM

It's interesting to read all these rave reviews of the Swan Lake performance and then to see Gia Kourlas' sad, mean little review in the NYT. Contrary to all the posts here, she writes the same old stuff she always writes - it was boring, nobody but Gomes was good enough for her, Simkin can't partner, Hallberg was dull, the ballet didn't really start until Gomes came out. Not surprising from a modern dance person. But then she confuses Odette/Odile getting the parts mixed up. What does that say about the standard of dance writing at the NYT? If she can't tell Odette from Odile why would you listen to her about anyone's performance, or the tempi, etc. If they insist on retaining her why not assign her to performances that are more to her taste? That is to say, modern dance.

 

And with such an obvious mistake where is her editor?! 



#3 mimsyb

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 05:43 PM

 

It's interesting to read all these rave reviews of the Swan Lake performance and then to see Gia Kourlas' sad, mean little review in the NYT. Contrary to all the posts here, she writes the same old stuff she always writes - it was boring, nobody but Gomes was good enough for her, Simkin can't partner, Hallberg was dull, the ballet didn't really start until Gomes came out. Not surprising from a modern dance person. But then she confuses Odette/Odile getting the parts mixed up. What does that say about the standard of dance writing at the NYT? If she can't tell Odette from Odile why would you listen to her about anyone's performance, or the tempi, etc. If they insist on retaining her why not assign her to performances that are more to her taste? That is to say, modern dance.

 

And with such an obvious mistake where is her editor?! 

 

 

A glaring mistake, for sure.  But on some level I have to agree with certain elements of Kourlas' review.  While I felt the standard of technique from both Semionova and Hallberg was out standing, breath taking at times even, I couldn't help feel that there was no air in either of their performances.  I can't quite put my finger on it or why, but there didn't seem to be a rapture between them.  Her Act II Odette was fluid, strong, secure (if a bit slow).  But I never felt her despair at her situation, and this was also especially true in the final Act.  Her pantomime that tells her "story" to Seigfried was cloudy and "soft".  Not clear.  And in her Black Swan I never saw the evil glitter in her eye.  The conspiracy, the contact with Rothbart and the ultimate victory over Seigfried.  I never saw her evil triumph.  For me, the choreography whether it is a beautiful arabesque penche' or many dazzling fouettes has to tell the story.  It can't just be "choreography."  On the other side  Hallberg never seemed to connect with her.  His face at times looked like a mask.  I didn't see a deep joy in seeing who he thinks is his one love in Act III, and though his face did register the betrayal, it all came a bit late.  I didn't sense much melancholy in his Act I solo either.  Yet his dancing was superb and so here again there was much to look at.  And I have to agree with everyone that Gomes nearly stole the show.  Here was the ultimate display of allowing the choreography tell the story.  Never rushed, always adding something more to his power over the Princesses (and even the Queen Mother!).  We always understood the nastiness beneath his smooth demeanor. Here is a magician intent on destroying the love of our two lead characters.  I only wish the balance had been better somehow.  As for the rest of the performance, it was as good as it can get.  The corps was excellent, as were all the secondary leads, etc. And I agree with the poster who noted Simone Messmer as one of the "big swans".  Her attack, musicality, technique and stature all were in deep supply last night.  More than any dancer in recent memory, she reminds me of Cynthia Gregory.  Maybe  we'll see a Swan Queen from her someday soon?



#4 Rock

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 05:54 PM

Your comments, mimsyb, make perfect sense and are written with a clarity that commands respect, whether one agrees with you or not. That is not the case with Ms. Kourlas. Her review substantiates nothing. It's just mean and snarky. I'm convinced she hates ballet and the people who do it. And I firmly believe she should not be writing about ballet. She gets things wrong constantly, because she's never taken the time to learn about an art form she clearly dislikes. I still remember a review of the NYCB where she said it was clear the technical level of the company had dropped since Balanchine's death because so many people fall down. As if in the really good rehearsals they teach you not to slip. Unbelievable.



#5 vipa

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 06:04 PM

Your comments, mimsyb, make perfect sense and are written with a clarity that commands respect, whether one agrees with you or not. That is not the case with Ms. Kourlas. Her review substantiates nothing. It's just mean and snarky. I'm convinced she hates ballet and the people who do it. And I firmly believe she should not be writing about ballet. She gets things wrong constantly, because she's never taken the time to learn about an art form she clearly dislikes. I still remember a review of the NYCB where she said it was clear the technical level of the company had dropped since Balanchine's death because so many people fall down. As if in the really good rehearsals they teach you not to slip. Unbelievable.

 

I agree with all of the above comments.  What is her background and interest in ballet?  I often disagree with Macaulay in the NY times, but at least I know he is a long time dance viewer and dance lover.



#6 Rock

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 07:06 PM

I don't know anything about Gia Kourlas or her background or interests, vipa, and I'm disinclined to spend time trying to find out. Reading her reviews says it all. Agree with him or not, Alastair Macaulay obviously knows something about ballet and enjoys the art form. He also can write. He's capable of giving you a reasonable picture of what he saw and how it made him feel. Writing about dance is like writing about music - basically impossible. Our responses to them go beyond words. But at least Macaulay tries. And in an honorable way. Kourlas has no conscience. She'll say anything. And unfortunately she usually doesn't know what she's talking about. I don't see her Odette/Odile goof as any big jump from her normal writing. Wrong girl. Wrong job.



#7 Jayne

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 07:23 PM

If you're passionate about the disparity between the quality on the stage and the review - then the only way the NYT managers will know, is to write to them.  



#8 ord7916

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 07:57 PM

Didn't she write a rave review of this very same performance last year?   



#9 Helene

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 10:44 PM

Just because someone is a paid critic does not mean that it is okay to disparage their conscience or speculate about their motivation here.  Ms. Kourlas may be right or wrong, and you may agree or disagree strongly with her, but even if her review was mean or snarky, this does not indicate a lack of conscience; a professional critic does not "say anything" and continue to be published.  Also, the last time I looked, she was a woman, not a girl.



#10 nanushka

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 05:06 AM

Your comments, mimsyb, make perfect sense and are written with a clarity that commands respect, whether one agrees with you or not. That is not the case with Ms. Kourlas.

 

 

This is exactly the problem.  She writes: "In the Act III pas de deux, as Odette [sic], Ms. Semionova possessed more glittering allure, whipping off multiple double pirouettes in her fouetté turns. But it required effort to sense her body breathing inside of the music."

 

What does that last sentence mean?  What did you see?



#11 LiLing

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 07:33 AM

I have felt the reverse many times with numerous  critics who reviewed modern dance with a clear ballet bias.  Years ago a critic in London ended a review of Martha Graham's masterpiece Diversion of Angels with  "when I die and go to heaven I hope the Angels are on pointe."


#12 Helene

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 08:04 AM

 
This is exactly the problem.  She writes: "In the Act III pas de deux, as Odette [sic], Ms. Semionova possessed more glittering allure, whipping off multiple double pirouettes in her fouetté turns. But it required effort to sense her body breathing inside of the music."
 
What does that last sentence mean?  What did you see?

I thought Kourlas saw a technically excellent dancer with some dazzle to her technique, but no innate sense of musicality (aside from strict rhythm). I didn't see the performance, so I can't agree or diasagree, but I thought her point was clear and have seen more performances fitting this description than I care to remember.


I have felt the reverse many times with numerous  critics who reviewed modern dance with a clear ballet bias.  Years ago a critic in London ended a review of Martha Graham's masterpiece Diversion of Angels with  "when I die and go to heaven I hope the Angels are on pointe."

This. There are few critics who have equal expertise in both areas and can take each on its own terms.

In general, outside a few cities where there are dedicated dance critics, there are one or two writers/critics assigned to all of the arts, and rarely is their background in dance. Where there are dedicated dance critics, most are expected to go out of the dance genre of their expertise, which I would find terrifying. There's only so far that an understanding of technique and structure can take a person without the experience of watching a lot of undocumented performances, and, in dance, you can't just pull out a bunch of CD's or DVD's and do a crash course in Martynov's music or French New Wave cinema.

#13 ivanov

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 10:30 AM

I am a big fan of Gia Kourlas's writing, especially her interviews.  To my mind, the question is, how has she persuaded so many top ballet dancers to open up to her so unreservedly?  When she started writing reviews for the Times I felt like she was holding back a little, so I am glad she is beginning to say what she really thinks.  About confusing Odette and Odile, surely it does not fall to the lot of every critic to goof on such a colossal scale!



#14 abatt

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 11:08 AM

I've been disturbed by Kourlas'  interviews.  I think some of the people she interviewed spoke too freely to their detriment. Given that she is a seasoned journalist, I sometimes feel that the people she is interviewing are relatively naive and inexperienced in dealing with publicity and the press, and that Kourlas is capitalizing on their naivete.



#15 kfw

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 12:47 PM

I think critics are too often presumed to be unkind, and in this review I count six compliments and only one criticism of Semionova. Hallberg is complimented as well. Whether Kourlas has good taste or not, as a critic she's paid to be critical as well as to praise. In any case, the Times has fixed the Odette/Odile mix-up now, and posted the following correction:

 

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: June 19, 2013


An earlier version of this review reversed the identities of two characters. It was as Odette, not Odile, that Polina Semionova was difficult to connect with and it was as Odile in the Act III pas de deux, not as Odette, that she possessed more glittering allure.



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