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Macaulay on All-American Ballerinas

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#61 Drew


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Posted 25 September 2013 - 10:11 PM

Ballet companies are expanding their rep to include more and more modern pieces.  This is fine, except that critics and fans nitpick them for falling short of the original dancers' style in the modern genre.  Is this really fair?  If the Merce Cunningham company decided to put on a traditional, romantic Giselle - wouldn't that seem strange?   They wouldn't look like the Romantic visions because their bodies have trained in a different genre for so long.

I agree with much in your post--though sometimes it can help one to understand what one admires about one ballerina to compare her to someone one admires less--but the above seems to me an entirely different issue.
I don't think critics and fans are "nitpicking" when they see things danced in a way that often evacuates them of their meaning/impact and feel they need to say something.  If a ballet company chooses to dance Cunningham, then I think it is fair for viewers to reflect on what those dancers are doing with it for good or ill. Someone might even say they like it danced by ballet dancers even if it is 'wrong'--but a knowledgeable viewer will know the difference and a less knowledgeable one who wants to know more may well be curious about what the difference is. And someone who has only seen ballet dancers dance modern dance classics (Graham, Taylor, Cunningham, even Tharp in some incarnations) may be forgiven if they sometimes wonder what the fuss is about.
Cunningham precisely did NOT have his dancers dance Giselle--modern dancers don't tend to pretend their technical prowess can take on anything and in any case most major modern dance companies were founded in part to do new work if not work in an entirely new idiom. Ballet dancers, who do have extraordinary prowess, are often capable of crossing over...up to a point (call it pun intended)...but not without costs that I don't think it would be nitpicking to mention.

#62 Helene



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Posted 26 September 2013 - 01:01 AM

I always thought that Cunningham's women could dance anything they wanted to.

#63 Helene



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Posted 26 September 2013 - 02:20 PM

[Admin beanie on]
A reminder to discuss the topic, not each other.

We also assume that if someone makes a value judgement or statement about an aesthetic issue or performance, it is their opinion, unless they attribute it to someone else. We'd use 10% more bandwidth if everyone preceded their statements with "In my opinion" and "I think."

[Admin beanie off]

This just appeared on another thread, but this BEST OF SEASON 2012 - 2013 list pretty much ignores any contribution from the Americas. Apparently Julie Kent was the only exceptional US dancer this past year - and Sonia Rodriguez in Canada.
Sonia Rodriguez, National Ballet of Canada

It's from a European publication.  Just as many US critics don't get to Europe too often to see the great dancers there, the same is true of European critics, who may get to NYC once in a while, but have a much wider range of companies they can see using extensive and efficient train systems.
Pamela Rosenberg was a symposium speaker during Seattle's third Ring Cycle this summer.  She started by saying that in post-war Germany alone, there were 150 opera houses alone.  People could see several productions of the same opera within an hour of where they lived.

#64 bart


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Posted 26 September 2013 - 03:42 PM

.... European critics, who may get to NYC once in a while, but have a much wider range of companies they can see using extensive and efficient train systems.


... but a lot fewer ballet companies (as opposed to other forms of dance) than there were a generation ago.


The article linked by phrank consists of nominations by "international dance critics."   It's a lot easier to be an "International dance critic" in Europe, with the shorter distances between countries, than in North America.  The large number of names (and companies) suggests that the critics were trying hard to get maximum coverage for as many companies as possible. 


The few "American" dancers  (by birth and training, or by career) seems pretty restricted to those from US companies which have actually performed in Europe in recent years.  Kent from ABT; Kochetkova and Tang (and Taras Domitro) from San Francisco, Joseph Gatti, who danced with Corella's company in Spain.. 


One thing that DID intrigue me about this list was the absence of women from Russian companies.  (There's only one man, from the Mariinski.)  Isn't Russia considered a part of Europe anymore?

#65 kfw


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Posted 27 September 2013 - 03:27 AM



Well, Macualay as usual has his opinions. These are some of his dimmest in recent memory.



He can't stand Wendy Whelan. He almost always gave her negative reviews. 


"Can't stand" is a little strong. Reviewing her Jacob's Pillow program this summer he wrote that



she’s uncompromising, generous, bold, enthusiastic, adult, at the same time decisive and investigative. Few dancers in any genre show better that a work should be a process of self-discovery.  




It’s hard to think of another woman who could dance these pieces, by four different choreographers, half so strikingly. Everything about her is riveting, interesting, unusual, intelligent. 

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