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Macaulay on Forsythe (Boston Ballet Tour)

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Really loved Macauley's review of Program 1----ah yes, "The Emperor Has No Clothes"....Bravo--you said it all.....fortunately I am seeing Program #2.

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Macauley's review was nothing but a display of his personal vendetta against Forsythe. In fact, one of the dancers told me that Mr. Forsythe messaged the company and told them as much. And in talking with Mr. Ekman on opening night, he knew Macauley would hate it. After all, the piece is directed at and poking fun at dance critics and would-be dance critics.

What would you want them to bring? Sleeping Beauty? Cinderella? A full Balanchine evening? Don't New Yorkers get tired of that? Isn't it refreshing to see something different? Not many U.S. companies dance Forsythe and Kylian as well as Boston does. And for the Elo haters, Plan to B was actually nominated for a National Dance Award in London last summer. I spoke to several nycb dancers who said, "thank you, Boston, for bringing something different and exciting."

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Don't patronize us for not agreeing with you---I would sooner take Liam Scarlett and Justin Peck over Forsythe....I recently saw his "In the Middle": recently and it is

NOTHING without Sylvie Guillem......

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Not patronizing at all. I was just stating that the review was clearly not a review, but an attack on Mr. Forsythe, or at least I and ithers frlt that way. Just difference of opinions. Not everyone is going to like the same thing. But why would they bring a full-length during abt's met season? And bringing a full Balanchine program - well that's what is performed here all the time. They don't dance Justin Peck's choreo. I would imagine at some point they might do Scarlett. These are the choreographers they dance. I would think it would be a good thing to see something different. I see different companies when they come to Boston and Philadelphia. I don't expect them to bring what those ballet companies dance. I recently saw In the Middle, too. I was sorely disappointed. It was clearly under-rehearsed and not done on the correct stage. When it's done well, it's, in my opinion, amazing.

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Macauley's review was nothing but a display of his personal vendetta against Forsythe. In fact, one of the dancers told me that Mr. Forsythe messaged the company and told them as much. And in talking with Mr. Ekman on opening night, he knew Macauley would hate it. After all, the piece is directed at and poking fun at dance critics and would-be dance critics.

What would you want them to bring? Sleeping Beauty? Cinderella? A full Balanchine evening? Don't New Yorkers get tired of that? Isn't it refreshing to see something different? Not many U.S. companies dance Forsythe and Kylian as well as Boston does. And for the Elo haters, Plan to B was actually nominated for a National Dance Award in London last summer. I spoke to several nycb dancers who said, "thank you, Boston, for bringing something different and exciting."

Yes, the Macaulay article is essentially a diatribe against 'the likes' of William Forsythe. I don't recall Macaulay ever mentioning particular dancers/performances - it's all about his dislike for these types of ballets/choreographies.

But anyway, your questions are valid and of interest - what sort of repertoire should BB bring to NYC to show the company at its best? That's the essential problem for any creative director, but sometimes directors just decide they want to do _____ and not worry about what the audience has to say about it. There are many cases of directors going against the more obvious tastes of a particular regional audience. NYC is always a tough tour audience, but so is London, Moscow, etc. BB probably would have done better with Program 1 in St. Louis, MO, or at least wouldn't have to hear that their program was loathsome. ;)

I question their decision to go to NY for their "tour" - why not the rest of the country where BB is rarely seen?

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Yes, the Macaulay article is essentially a diatribe against 'the likes' of William Forsythe. I don't recall Macaulay ever mentioning particular dancers/performances - it's all about his dislike for these types of ballets/choreographies.

pherank, I'm curious, why do you think it was a diatribe against him and not just his work? I applaud Macaulay for having the courage to call the work loathsome if that's what he thinks it is.

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Yes, the Macaulay article is essentially a diatribe against 'the likes' of William Forsythe. I don't recall Macaulay ever mentioning particular dancers/performances - it's all about his dislike for these types of ballets/choreographies.

pherank, I'm curious, why do you think it was a diatribe against him and not just his work? I applaud Macaulay for having the courage to call the work loathsome if that's what he thinks it is.

Sorry if I made it sound that way, KFW, but I don't think the 'review' was just about Forsythe the person, but definitely against his work, and those who would choreograph in a similar manner. (Whether Macaulay and Forsythe have a history of bad blood I can't personally say - "Macauley's review was nothing but a display of his personal vendetta against Forsythe. In fact, one of the dancers told me that Mr. Forsythe messaged the company and told them as much").

Macaulay always says what he thinks, that's been my impression. I'm not sure if that's being courageous exactly. But if NYC audiences tend to dislike Forsythe then he's just echoing the common sentiment. "It is a shock to be reminded by this Boston program that there are places where the Forsythe climate still prevails" - Seriously? But this thread isn't a good place to discuss Forsythe's place in ballet history.

I would like to hear what the NY audience thinks would be the best repetoire for BB to present in NY - what would be truly effective given the all the competion this summer.

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As I was typing Pherank posted, but to answer Pherank's earlier question above: A NY tour gives a company cachet in a way a tour to other U.S. cities does not. Of course, there's more cachet if they can quote a positive NYTimes review (cough).

I think this was always going to be a tough sell especially at end of NYCB's season and at same time as ABT with Bolshoi looming. It makes perfect sense to me that they would try to bring ballets that were different from those commonly seen/admired in NY--and those of the "big" visiting companies like the Bolshoi--and thus not in direct competition, but there was no way to do it without risk of it just bombing in NY whether w. fans or critics. (The Maillot Romeo and Juliet with PNB didn't exactly garner raves, and PNB's director Peter Boal has a deserved and deep well of good will in NY.) I do think they might have opened with the more "critic friendly" program that had Nijinsky and Balanchine on it, but hindsight is 20/20 and who is to say they would not then have gotten a coals-to-Newcastle review?

(It actually puzzles me that any ballet audience -- even one dubious about Forsythe -- would not be curious to see more of his work, given his worldwode accolades and influence. Of course if you find it "loathsome," I wouldn't expect you to buy a ticket. But Forsythe...pretty major.)

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Whatever one thinks about why Macaulay thinks what he does about Forsythe, critic Marina Harss tweeted yesterday,

Is 90's Forsythe beginning to look stale? Second Detail, performed tonight by Boston Ballet, would suggest so.

I'm waiting to read her full review when it comes out, but "stale" is the word I was searching for by couldn't put my finger on when I saw National Ballet of Canada, on whom it was choreographed, perform it in Vancouver a few years ago. I love "in the middle" -- and I saw Carla Korbes and Maria Chapman do a fantastic job with it -- and "Artifact II" -- I've seen a range of performances in that, but "The Second Detail," not at all, nor did I like the one NYCB did for the American Music Festival in the 80's.

Harss writes incisively about a wide range of dance, and she's never seemed to me to be wedded to genre. It's possible that this piece is weak. All great choreographers have made them.

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Good comments, Drew, but I find myself questioning more and more the notion that going to NYC can provide dance companies with some kind of 'big break', or a nice pat on the head for the regional companies. That idea may be as stale as 90's Forsythe (to paraphrase Harss). ;)

It's hard to see how BB is benefiting from this little tour, either monetarily or through good press/vibes, whatever. Time for a new approach - this is afterall the new media age. [i write as a I sit watching POB's Dances at a Gathering streaming online...]

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I just saw the second detail in Toronto in May and I didn't think it looked stale at all. I was flabbergasted by the negativity of Macaulay's review.

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Apollinaire Scherr's review for the FT was decidedly more positive about Forsythe's Second Detail than Macauley's was:


The night could not have begun better. Made for the National Ballet of Canada in 1991, The Second Detail is William Forsythe at his most translucently neoclassical. The rigorous, sunny ensemble piece is about classical steps, which it stretches to the limit.

I gather she wasn't as taken by Ekman's Cacti as Marina Harss Lauren Gallagher* was, however.

I happen to enjoy a shot of 90's Forsythe from time to time, myself. I keep hoping NYCB will revive Behind the China Dogs (1988?), but I'm beginning to suspect they never will ...

*Whoops! I'd assumed Harss had written the Dance Tabs review without actually looking at the byline.

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I would like to hear what the NY audience thinks would be the best repetoire for BB to present in NY - what would be truly effective given the all the competion this summer.

I'm selfish: I'd like visiting companies to bring stuff that we don't get to see much of in New York, even if it turns out to be junk.

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kbarber - agree. flabbergasted. Was there nothing postitive in the tremendous effort of Boston Ballet's team of artists and artistic staff that was worth mentioning? unlikely.

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I went back and looked over reviews of The Second Detail, both in Boston and in London. For the most part, all the reviews seemed very positive, some even ranking The Second Detail up there with In the Middle. One reviewer in London said she hoped Boston would return with another Forsythe piece.

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kbarber - agree. flabbergasted. Was there nothing postitive in the tremendous effort of Boston Ballet's team of artists and artistic staff that was worth mentioning? unlikely.

If he hated the ballets, the only positive thing to remark on would be the dancers, and their talents would be better shown in a better program. I'll be very surprised if he doesn't have at least some praise for them in his review of the second program.

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I just saw the second detail in Toronto in May and I didn't think it looked stale at all. I was flabbergasted by the negativity of Macaulay's review.

Massine looks "stale" also. He's still danced a lot. One could argue DeMille looks 'stale" also unless coached really well. The list goes on. Sometimes it's good to look at older works, just to see and reflect on how far (or not) dance and choreography has come from the past years. I'm just happy to be seeing the Boston Company. Tonight is Program B and tomorrow is the A. I am not afraid!

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I think there's a big difference between "stale," and "dated." Something that appears dated can be appreciated for what it is and in context. Something stale, not so much, and, of course, lots of opposing views have been expressed among critics and among ourselves.

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Nothing to see here IMO. Macaulay was warning darkly of Boston Ballet's suspicious Forsythiness years ago. He has never liked Forsythe's stuff and he's having another go at him. There are reasons not to care for Forsythe, and Macaulay has some points, but to me Macaulay on the subject has always sounded mainly cranky.

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Nothing to see here IMO. Macaulay was warning darkly of Boston Ballet's suspicious Forsythiness years ago. He has never liked Forsythe's stuff and he's having another go at him. There are reasons not to care for Forsythe, and Macaulay has some points, but to me Macaulay on the subject has always sounded mainly cranky.

He's doing his best John Martin impression. And succeeding.

The issue for me is just that the online article purports to be a review of Boston Ballet, ending their 50th anniversary tour (which is what this thread originally was about), and Macaulay gives them nothing. That's what makes this 'review' mostly just rude, and no one really learns anything from it. As you say, Dirac, there's nothing to see here, really. If anyone wants to learn about the Program 1 performances they will have to look elsewhere.

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Agreed. I do think a critic should come out with strong opinions if they really believe in those opinions, but this review doesn't begin to address the superb dancers in the Boston Ballet. The only dancer he even mentions by name is Erica Cornejo, and he does so only to describe her costume. Possibly, he was having a hard time distinguishing the dancers from one another, since he doesn't know the company well?

I also happen to strenuously disagree with him about the merits of The Second Detail and Cacti. I have seen Boston perform both works, and they are engaging, exciting pieces, both intellectually and viscerally. Cacti is very postmodern, and I wouldn't want every ballet to be so self-referential. But since it's actually a strikingly unusual work for the ballet world, particularly the ballet world in New York, I would have thought that it would be seen as refreshing and funny. I laughed so hard I almost cried.

Since he seems to approve of the next program more (big surprise since it's anchored by a Balanchine work) maybe he's justifying this review by planning to praise the dancers in the next one. But it seems really unfair to review an out-of-town company and not comment on the quality of its performers at all. Though who knows how he'll react to Kylian.

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I just saw the second detail in Toronto in May and I didn't think it looked stale at all. I was flabbergasted by the negativity of Macaulay's review.

Massine looks "stale" also. He's still danced a lot. One could argue DeMille looks 'stale" also unless coached really well. The list goes on. Sometimes it's good to look at older works, just to see and reflect on how far (or not) dance and choreography has come from the past years. I'm just happy to be seeing the Boston Company. Tonight is Program B and tomorrow is the A. I am not afraid!

Other aspects notwithstanding, is Massine really "danced a lot" lately?

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Went to Sun. mat with my husband and had a delightful time. This was my first viewing of BB so first off the dancers - beautiful bodies, technically strong, teeming with energy and joy.

I liked The Second Detail (Forsythe) but know he isn't everyone's cup of tea. I think he is an excellent craftsman. He can move groups well and have a lot happening on onstage while still directing your eye, so it never feels like random chaos. I really enjoy the combination of attack and fluidity in the work. In the piece I also felt as if the dancers were creating a community onstage, a community of individuals. It was like the ballet was a world of its own. I just want to add the the piece shows the dancers off very well.

I didn't like Resonance (Martinez), but the dancers again looked great. I just didn't find the piece very musical or interesting. There were elements that I guess were supposed to be meaningful such as having a wall that was moved, sometime casting large shadows of the dancers, and 2 pianos. One was upstage and one at the lip of the stage. Anyway I lost interest in the piece, took out my opera glasses and started watching individual dancers!

Cacti was delightful. I was surprised to read that the choreographer, Alexander Ekman is just 30 years old. The piece is funny, charming, self referential, inventive and well constructed. I smiled and laughed the whole way through. The dancers on squares beating out rhythms, the voice over coming in with pretentious nonsense, the dancers carrying cacti in stage, the couple dancing to the voice over saying their thoughts. I was totally delighted and charmed. There were a lot of children in the audience who obvious loved this. It is a piece that is funny on so many different levels that I can see how it would appeal to a child as well as an experienced theater goer.

I look forward to seeing more of these dancers. I have a relative in Boston who I'll be making well timed visits to see.

I couldn't agree more, Vipa. While I didn't love all of the Forsythe, still it shows the dancers to their excellent best. Felt the same about Resonance. It simply faded choreographically by the end. But the delicious Cacti saved the day!! What a romp! I don't recall laughing so much in a ballet for a long while. It just sent up EVERYTHING we hold dear and think we know about dance and art in general. No wonder Macauley didn't like it. It even skewered critics or people like him who propose to inform us all about so much, but in the end tell us nothing. There were so many clever aspects to this work and they went by so fast, my mind can barely register them all. An astute eye could even make out references to every ballet that Boston presented here this week. I caught arm references to the Balanchine, as well as the specific hands of Faun. I loved the "white way" that was laid down for the hysterical pas de deux danced to the music of the inner thoughts of the dancers. Doesn't Paul Taylor use that diagonal all the time? His are done with light; here it was Marley flooring! And that the dancers began this work on platforms (which might be related to the pedestals we put artists on at times), and then re-arranged these platforms (pedestals) in a silly jumble as if to say "none of this matters". The use of the cacti was golden! How ridiculous! How perfect! I heard one older man say as we exited; "why cactus"? Exactly! Why in ever not cactus? This was a superb closing to a courageous, thrilling and magnificent showing of BB! Please come back and soon!

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the delicious Cacti saved the day!! What a romp! I don't recall laughing so much in a ballet for a long while. It just sent up EVERYTHING we hold dear and think we know about dance and art in general. No wonder Macauley didn't like it.

From Macaulay's 8/15/13 review of Olivier Wevers' company, Whim W'Him:

Because the Seattle company Whim W’Him is straining against the orthodoxies of ballet, it made, on Monday and Tuesday, a usefully provocative addition to the Joyce Theater’s current Ballet v6.0 festival, which features small experimental ballet troupes. It challenges conventional ballet’s presentations of sociology, gender and music. That’s welcome.

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