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Macaulay on All-American Ballerinas


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#31 dirac

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 12:00 PM

Edwin Denby is a problematic gold standard of a critic. He was first of all a poet, a writer and then a critic. You would have to look to Frank O'Hara, James Schuyler, or John Ashbery, who were poets and wrote art criticism, as an equivalent.

 

 

Denby was indeed a poet as well, but he also functioned as a journalist writing under daily deadlines, as Martin did and Macaulay does. In fact during his lifetime I believe he was known primarily as a dance critic and not for his poetry, much of which went unpublished for a long time. Certainly his work as a poet influenced his criticism, which was indeed different in approach from that of critics like Martin. Quite a bit of the material in his collections is drawn from the reviews he wrote for the Herald Tribune while Walter Terry was at war. There was one intensely embarrassing occasion when Denby mistook Nora Kaye for Markova (or perhaps it was the other way about) and wrote a (very nice) review of the wrong dancer. (Boy, would some people rake him over the coals for that…….)



#32 puppytreats

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 12:51 PM

So can one speculate or infer that Wendy is Ballerina in Robbins but not in Wheeldon, but Muse in Wheeldon, according to AC?

 

Another twist:  NYCB does not have stars, such as at ABT, but has Muses, so does NYCB have Ballerinas, which many define here as Stars?

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#33 pherank

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 01:18 PM

 

Macaulay's meaning is clear from his full sentence:

 

 

Ashley Bouder, Maria Kowroski, Janie Taylor and Wendy Whelan are mature dancers but part-time ballerinas — extraordinary artists in only parts of their repertory.

 

 

Agreed, and that shifts the controversy to his defining a ballerina as an "extraordinary artist" - and nothing less. It becomes a special term - not to be applied to the average female ballet dancer. And some would agree with that, but I think that the term "prima ballerina" works just fine when denoting a superior ballet dancer. We need a more generic term, like ballerina, for the ballet troops.  ;)

 

So can one speculate or infer that Wendy is Ballerina in Robbins but not in Wheeldon, but Muse in Wheeldon, according to AC?

 

Another twist:  NYCB does not have stars, such as at ABT, but has Muses, so does NYCB have Ballerinas, which many define here as Stars?

.

 

"Muses" is lovely, and Apollonian - presumably, Balanchine would have approved. "Stars" is not a good term because it is already applied (and misapplied) everyday in the Hollywood and TV industries. Please no ballet "starlets" either.



#34 kfw

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 01:34 PM

"Muses" is lovely, and Apollonian - presumably, Balanchine would have approved

 

It already has its own specific meaning and history though, and I'd be sorry to see that meaning muddled.Someone else can probably give examples, but balletomanes have often used "ballerina" as Macaulay uses it, as indicating the highest level of artistic achievement.



#35 pherank

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 01:45 PM

 

"Muses" is lovely, and Apollonian - presumably, Balanchine would have approved

 

It already has its own specific meaning and history though, and I'd be sorry to see that meaning muddled.Someone else can probably give examples, but balletomanes have often used "ballerina" as Macaulay uses it, as indicating the highest level of artistic achievement.

 

 

 I don't disagree that "muse" has its particular Grecian-myth meanings and conotations. I just like it.

 

We already have the ranks of "prima ballerina" and "prima ballerina assoluta" to designate higehst levels of quality. For Macaulay to just use "ballerina" muddies the waters, imo.



#36 kfw

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 01:54 PM

 

We already have the ranks of "prima ballerina" and "prima ballerina assoluta" to designate higehst levels of quality. For Macaulay to just use "ballerina" muddies the waters, imo.

 

 

By comparison, to my mind, the simpler, less formal "ballerina" kinda has an "all-American" ring to it! laugh.png



#37 pherank

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 02:05 PM

 

By comparison, to my mind, the simpler, less formal "ballerina" kinda has an "all-American" ring to it! laugh.png

 

 

I see where you're coming from. I suppose "assoluta" is not very American, except in "Little Italy" perhaps.  ;)



#38 Jayne

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 06:24 PM

Does a dancer have to be on stage 3x week in order to be a star?  How large must the range extend?  Must someone be both transcendent in the adagio roles (Odette / Odile) as well as the soubrette roles (Coppelia, Kitri, etc)?  I don't think Mr Macauley provides much of a definition, and yet he categorizes the dancers according to his unwritten categories.

 

Meryl Streep is a wonderful actress, hands down, but she could not have succeeded playing Rita Moreno's Anita in West Side Story.  The debate is stimulating, but there is no definitive answer.  These are just Mr Macauley's un-fleshed-out ramblings and we should treat them as such. 

 

I go to the ballet for the entertainment and elevation of human capacity in movement, music and visual art.  I want the AD to cast the best suited dancer for the role on stage, I don't particularly care about the dancer's range, number of performances, etc.  I pay good money to see a wonderful performance on that particular night scheduled.  God bless the dancers who practice 6-8 hours / day, six days a week, all year long to deliver that kind of performance to me in the audience. 



#39 kfw

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 06:52 PM

Does a dancer have to be on stage 3x week in order to be a star?  How large must the range extend?  Must someone be both transcendent in the adagio roles (Odette / Odile) as well as the soubrette roles (Coppelia, Kitri, etc)?  I don't think Mr Macauley provides much of a definition, and yet he categorizes the dancers according to his unwritten categories.

 

I think Macaulay is clear when he writes of certain dancers that they are "extraordinary artists in only parts of their repertory" (emphasis mine). The operative word in this regard is "their." He's not saying that to be a ballerina a dancer must excel across the ballet repertory. He's saying that they must excel in their own repertory. Leaving aside the question of the accuracy of his judgments of the dancers he mentions, I think his standard is fair and sensible: an excellent dancer is excellent in every ballet he or she dances. 

 

 

God bless the dancers who practice 6-8 hours / day, six days a week, all year long to deliver that kind of performance to me in the audience. 

 

Amen to that!



#40 LiLing

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 07:39 AM

 

"Muses" is lovely, and Apollonian - presumably, Balanchine would have approved

 

It already has its own specific meaning and history though, and I'd be sorry to see that meaning muddled.Someone else can probably give examples, but balletomanes have often used "ballerina" as Macaulay uses it, as indicating the highest level of artistic achievement.

 

 

To me ballerina denotes the rank of principle.  One's subjective opinion as to whether or not Miss ---- deserves to be there is beside the point.   It is a hard earned position, and my teeth hurt when it is used to refer to any girl who does ballet, even a student. 
 As for company members in corps and soloist positions, what is wrong with dancer?  It is an honorable title in my opinion.  I used to love the way the corps in England was listed as Artists of the Royal Ballet, but now days as pop culture calls anyone who makes the tabloids an artist, not so much.


#41 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 03:11 AM

Karsavina is very clear as to what the treatment of the title was back in Imperial Russia.  In "A portrait of Giselle" she can be seen trying to remember her rank in the company when she danced the role.  When asked by Dolin if she had achieved the rank, she answers..."No yet...", just to reply shortly right away ."Oh, yes, I was a ballerina"



#42 puppytreats

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 09:03 AM


 

"I think Macaulay is clear when he writes of certain dancers that they are "extraordinary artists in only parts of their repertory" (emphasis mine). The operative word in this regard is "their." He's not saying that to be a ballerina a dancer must excel across the ballet repertory. He's saying that they must excel in their own repertory. Leaving aside the question of the accuracy of his judgments of the dancers he mentions, I think his standard is fair and sensible: an excellent dancer is excellent in every ballet he or she dances. "

 

 

 

1. A star baseball  play only gets a hit 3/10 times, in general.  Must every dance be a grand slam?

 

2.  In what parts of their rep do Wendy, Ashley and the other NYCB part-timer's not excel, then?

 

 

 


 



#43 DanielBenton

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 09:13 AM

Some interesting points have come out of this thread, in spite of the unintended consequence of elevating Macaulay's opinions to a level they do not deserve.



#44 kfw

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 10:10 AM

1. A star baseball  play only gets a hit 3/10 times, in general.  Must every dance be a grand slam?

 

We don’t judge baseball players by the standards of ballet dancers, or ballet dancers by the standards of baseball players. Three out of ten hits is a great average (I guess). But some dancers deliver great performances most of the time, and are capable of great performances in everything they dance. Those are the ones we refer to as ballerinas and judge the others by. 

 

 
2.  In what parts of their rep do Wendy, Ashley and the other NYCB part-timer's not excel, then?

 

What they do or don’t excel in doesn’t bear on what the standard is, which is why I wrote “Leaving aside the question of the accuracy of his judgments of the dancers he mentions”


#45 puppytreats

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 01:07 PM

 

1. A star baseball  play only gets a hit 3/10 times, in general.  Must every dance be a grand slam?

 

We don’t judge baseball players by the standards of ballet dancers, or ballet dancers by the standards of baseball players. Three out of ten hits is a great average (I guess). But some dancers deliver great performances most of the time, and are capable of great performances in everything they dance. Those are the ones we refer to as ballerinas and judge the others by. 

 

 
2.  In what parts of their rep do Wendy, Ashley and the other NYCB part-timer's not excel, then?

 

What they do or don’t excel in doesn’t bear on what the standard is, which is why I wrote “Leaving aside the question of the accuracy of his judgments of the dancers he mentions”
 
 
Yes, I was just trying to get an idea of why he thought they did not excel or when....

 




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