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Macaulay on 2014 Bolshoi in NYC


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#1 California

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 02:59 PM

Macaulay's overview of the Bolshoi season just appeared:

http://www.nytimes.c...eason.html?_r=0

Nowhere to post comments on the NY Times site, but he makes an obvious factual error in the first paragraph:

Currently, however, there’s a preposterous incongruity at the David H. Koch Theater. Bag-checking is standard for its home company, New York City Ballet, but not for guest companies. So no bags were examined for the Bolshoi Ballet’s two-week 2014 season at the theater, which ended on Sunday.


Oops! Bags were checked on Thursday and Friday, July 17 & 18. The Malaysia plane was shot down on the 17th, which we presumed was the explanation. But now we know that Macaulay not only did not attend those performances -- he also didn't bother to check his facts with his colleagues at the Times or the theater. Wonder how long before that gets fixed on-line.

#2 maps

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 06:56 AM

    "To me, criticism is about reconciling heart and head. As you experience a work of art, you feel something you can't at first explain, but then you bring your mind - and your whole being - into trying to explain it as rationally as you can. History is all part of that inquiry."

 

from an interview: http://www.ballet.co...ir_macaulay.htm



#3 kfw

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 08:14 AM

Assuming that policy for most of the run was policy for the entire run is not exactly a cardinal sin in my book. I also don't see why a critic has to attend every performance.



#4 California

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 08:26 AM

Assuming that policy for most of the run was policy for the entire run is not exactly a cardinal sin in my book. I also don't see why a critic has to attend every performance.


A critic definitely does not have to attend every performance. Indeed, I'd hope the other critics at the Times had a crack at writing about the Bolshoi, too, and you would want the head critic to attend a variety of things.

But we now know the Times does not have fact-checkers (or editors who function as fact-checkers). I was hoping they would correct it by now. It was an interesting bit of history that on the day a Malaysian plane is shot down over Ukraine that the Koch Theater decided there might be a threat in NYC to a Russian ballet company. But the "paper of record" will not be a source on this in the future. Macaulay seemed to think that bag-checking at the Koch was so important that he made it the lead in his overview (which also struck me as a little peculiar). I read that protesters from Ukraine are planning demonstrations in Saratoga, but have no idea how many or what they are planning.

#5 kfw

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 08:48 AM

But we now know the Times does not have fact-checkers (or editors who function as fact-checkers). I was hoping they would correct it by now.

 

Editors, what are those anymore? dry.png Have you considered writing the editor? I've done so a couple of times in recent years and received polite responses. 



#6 DanielBenton

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 08:50 AM

Maps, thanks for the link to the in[depth and far-ranging Macaulay interview



#7 Barbara

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 10:25 AM

In my limited experience my bag is not often checked at the State Theatre but always is at the Met.



#8 Quiggin

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 09:19 PM

What's most interesting is what Macaulay goes onto say – despite the rather shaky start – that the Bolshoi has returned to late cold war ballet programming, or rather to a pre-glosnost, pro-Grigorovich sort: "New York has been given a non-Filin season." He gives this portrait of Sergei Filin in the audience:

 

His elegant carriage, eloquent head movements behind dark glasses and intent animation in conversation with colleagues were far more fascinating than any drama we saw onstage. He can have no cause for pride in a repertory that reflects none of the policies he has introduced since becoming director …

 

From 2011 to 2014, the Bolshoi led the world in the diversity of its live ballet broadcasts. Like the company’s last seasons in London and Paris, they reflected Mr. Filin’s choices — whether new stagings of 19th-century ballets (“Coppélia” and “Marco Spada”), Western 20th-century ballets (Balanchine’s “Jewels”) or 21st-century creations by Alexei Ratmansky (“The Bright Stream” and “Lost Illusions”). 

 

 

He might add "The Bolt" to that, though that might be an earlier production. Anyway it's a loss for us.



#9 California

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 03:25 AM

From 2011 to 2014, the Bolshoi led the world in the diversity of its live ballet broadcasts. Like the company’s last seasons in London and Paris, they reflected Mr. Filin’s choices — whether new stagings of 19th-century ballets (“Coppélia” and “Marco Spada”), Western 20th-century ballets (Balanchine’s “Jewels”) or 21st-century creations by Alexei Ratmansky (“The Bright Stream” and “Lost Illusions”).

 
He might add "The Bolt" to that, though that might be an earlier production. Anyway it's a loss for us.


Bolt was choreographed by Ratmansky to the 1931 Shostakovich score, with a world premiere recording in 2006. I have no idea how long (or whether) it stayed in active repertory at the Bolshoi with Filin, and can't tell from the DVD's booklet. If you're interested in Ratmansky and Russian/Soviet dance history, it's worth looking at the DVD, but I can't imagine it being staged or shown in the U.S. It has elements that reminded me of the third in the Ratmansky trilogy for ABT and SFB (Piano Concerto #1), especially the odd floating scenery, red and gray colorings in the sets and costumes, etc. Bolt is described on the DVD as "a ballet of the absurd set in a Soviet factory."

The DVD: http://www.amazon.co...ky shostakovich

#10 Swanilda8

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 04:32 AM

What's most interesting is what Macaulay goes onto say – despite the rather shaky start – that the Bolshoi has returned to late cold war ballet programming, or rather to a pre-glosnost, pro-Grigorovich sort: "New York has been given a non-Filin season." He gives this portrait of Sergei Filin in the audience:

 

His elegant carriage, eloquent head movements behind dark glasses and intent animation in conversation with colleagues were far more fascinating than any drama we saw onstage. He can have no cause for pride in a repertory that reflects none of the policies he has introduced since becoming director …

 

From 2011 to 2014, the Bolshoi led the world in the diversity of its live ballet broadcasts. Like the company’s last seasons in London and Paris, they reflected Mr. Filin’s choices — whether new stagings of 19th-century ballets (“Coppélia” and “Marco Spada”), Western 20th-century ballets (Balanchine’s “Jewels”) or 21st-century creations by Alexei Ratmansky (“The Bright Stream” and “Lost Illusions”). 

 

 

He might add "The Bolt" to that, though that might be an earlier production. Anyway it's a loss for us.

 

The problem with Macauley's reading of this programming is that, as many people on this forum have pointed out, the Lincoln Center Festival picked the ballets.  Macauley's protest in this last article that it essentially doesn't matter who picked the programming is entirely wrong. If the Lincoln Center Festival picked the ballets, it says far more about how Americans view Russian ballet than it says about the Russians themselves. It speaks to decades of American reviewers accusing the Bolshoi of conservatism (as Macauley does here) and then only applauding the oldest ballets in the repertory. 

 

Macauley's reviews of this entire season have been biased (even to the point of bigotry in the Don Quixote review) and rude. After spending two weeks savaging the ballet company, his claims in this final article to be defending Sergei Filin, who in Macauley's words ought to look like a "tragic figure," from his "Soviet" attackers is so out of place I can only assume it to be an attempt at grotesque comedy. 



#11 abatt

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 05:01 AM

It's easy for Macauley to complain that the programs were too conservative.  He didn't put up any of the money to make this tour happen.  The presenters needed bankable shows, which is what they got.



#12 kfw

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 05:08 AM

It was moving to observe him in the aisles of the theater during the Bolshoi’s Lincoln Center Festival performances. Though the damage inflicted on his sight and skin in an acid attack early last year ought to make him a tragic figure, he looks purposeful, focused, businesslike. His elegant carriage, eloquent head movements behind dark glasses and intent animation in conversation with colleagues were far more fascinating than any drama we saw onstage.

 

Leaving aside what sounds like misplaced or maybe just unrealistic criticism over conservative repertory, I actually found the above to be a touching tribute.



#13 Quiggin

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 09:10 AM

Good points about Macaulay's framing of the problem  – I get we're left with the observation that the programming was unadverturous. 

 

California, I have seen "The Bolt" on the Medici TV and while the setting is conventional compared to Shostakovich Triology, it has some amazing dance numbers – the pas de trio in the second part and the "Denis" role Ratmanksy set on Denis Savin in the first. Savin is really an original dancer, half ballet dancer, half hoofer – maybe he should be on ABT's list of potential guest artists? Some clips of Bolshoi productions circa 2011 in this interview –

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=OMoyAypB13U

 

 



#14 California

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 09:19 AM

California, I have seen "The Bolt" on the Medici TV and while the setting is conventional compared to Shostakovich Triology, it has some amazing dance numbers – the pas de trio in the second part and the "Denis" role Ratmanksy set on Denis Savin in the first. Savin is really an original dancer, half ballet dancer, half hoofer – maybe he should be on ABT's list of potential guest artists? Some clips of Bolshoi productions circa 2011 in this interview –
 
https://www.youtube....h?v=OMoyAypB13U


Thanks for sharing that link so others can take a look without buying the DVD. I didn't know it was available. Do you think a Ratmansky revival at ABT would work with U.S. audiences? Would it sell as well as the Grigorovich pieces if the Bolshoi brought it on a future tour? The seriously obsessed ballet lovers would appreciate it, but I think it might be too "culture-specific" for general audiences. At least with Bright Stream (a Ratmansky re-creation from that same era in the 1930s), the humor appealed to the casual ballet-goer.

#15 Quiggin

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 09:43 AM

 

He might add "The Bolt" to that, though that might be an earlier production ...


Do you think a Ratmansky revival at ABT would work with U.S. audiences? Would it sell as well as the Grigorovich pieces if the Bolshoi brought it on a future tour? The seriously obsessed ballet lovers would appreciate it, but I think it might be too "culture-specific" for general audiences ...

 

 

The Ratmansky ballets probably appeal to a smaller audience, perhaps the same special audience that followed Balanchine in the fifties. I don't know how economcially viable that is in big theaters. In San Francisco the Trilogy seemed to be watched very closely – no lapses in attention, no drooping heads, rustling programs as far as I could tell. It's a different audience from that of Wheeldon's Cinderella which depends on luxurious and liquid materials and movements, cute puppets but really doesn't say anything. The Ratmanksys have a text somewhere that we can't quite read but can feel – and seem part of our time.




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