sonatina1234

Macaulay on NYCB

77 posts in this topic

3 hours ago, Emma said:

I think Laracey does have the wow factor in certain roles.  I saw her at the Kennedy Center dance both Ash and the Infernal Machine the same night.  She was stunning in the Infernal Machine -- so much that I was shocked it was the same dancer in both roles.  She was a last minute sub for Isaacs in Ash but was scheduled for it later that week.

 

In other news, Megan Fairchild was a perfect Aurora and just thought I should share =).  She really projected her dancing.

 

I'm so glad to hear. Megan's dancing has been exquisite all this year, and I hope Alistair McCauley acknowledges it this year without disparaging her as he has year after year. FYI, is it just me or I find it extremely unprofessional of him to be following certain dancers on instagram and leaving remarks. I just don't think it's right for him to do that as a jouranlist. 

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It's really weird, I agree.  At the same time, I haven't seen an NYCB review in the New York Times in a long time.  I've seen a lot of puff pieces on the other hand.  While I appreciate learning about the character of Aurora, for example, I prefer ballet criticism.

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NYTimes decided to downsize its classical music coverage. There are less standalone reviews of events and more "critics notebooks."

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6 hours ago, sonatina1234 said:

... is it just me or I find it extremely unprofessional of him to be following certain dancers on instagram and leaving remarks. I just don't think it's right for him to do that as a jouranlist. 

 

It's not just you. I was rather surprised to see Maucalay's sentimental comments on several Instagram photos taken by a Miami dancer on a trip to Greece. It devalues his reviews which are on the whole a positive thing for ballet. (Though not quite sure about his "A,B,C" pantheon mix of Ashton, Balanchine, Cunningham.)

 

Terrible about the Times cutting back more on classic coverage. They used to hire off-salary stringers to review everything which mustn't have been that expensive. 

 

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1 hour ago, Quiggin said:

Terrible about the Times cutting back more on classic coverage. They used to hire off-salary stringers to review everything which mustn't have been that expensive. 

 

 

The writer's fee is only a part of the cost of running an article -- the real trouble is finding enough advertising revenue to run enough pages. 

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I was disconcerted the first time I saw Macaulay responding to an Instagram post. Sort of surprised the NYTimes doesn't have stricter protocols about that even if their individual reviewers don't. I guess it may also be the case that if formal arts coverage is getting cut and cut, dance writers feel they need other ways/avenues to stake out their 'place' and make themselves visible. Still seems odd to me.

 

It cannot be a good thing for arts organizations (or anyone who loves the arts) to have the NYTimes of all places cutting back its coverage. I had noticed I was seeing fewer ballet reviews than I was used to seeing, but hadn't really thought through that that must be a formal policy . . .

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13 hours ago, Emma said:

At the same time, I haven't seen an NYCB review in the New York Times in a long time.  I've seen a lot of puff pieces on the other hand.

The decline in the number of actual reviews in the Times has become more noticeable in the last year. There has also been a corresponding rise in the number of dance "lifestyle" pieces that you would normally see in a publication like Vogue.

 

7 hours ago, Quiggin said:

 

I was rather surprised to see Maucalay's sentimental comments on several Instagram photos taken by a Miami dancer on a trip to Greece. It devalues his reviews which are on the whole a positive thing for ballet. (Though not quite sure about his "A,B,C" pantheon mix of Ashton, Balanchine, Cunningham.)

 

5 hours ago, Drew said:

I was disconcerted the first time I saw Macaulay responding to an Instagram post. Sort of surprised the NYTimes doesn't have stricter protocols about that even if their individual reviewers don't.

I was shocked when I started to see Macaulay posting on dancer Instagram feeds. I can't believe the Times allows this. And I have to wonder what the City Ballet dancers think of him posting on their Instagram feeds given what he wrote about Jenifer Ringer and Jared Angle several years ago.

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I don't know what the actual policy is at the NYT, but I do know that several daily publications encourage their staff writers to participate in social media -- the thinking is that it raises the profile of the writer and, by extension, the profile of the publication.  In general, we don't comment publically on the websites or social media of other publications, but the rest of the field is open.

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Macaulay is hardly the only dance writer to interact with dancers on various social media platforms, although I'll admit that I find the practice a bit disconcerting, especially when the writer represents a heavyweight news organization. But then Macaulay's reviews have never struck me as having a "journalistic" quality, though I sometimes wish they did. I enjoy his writing very much, but it is highly subjective, and I can't help feeling that he is leaving behind a lopsided record for posterity. I don't begrudge those dancers and choreographers who are habitual recipients of his ebullient praise, but my heart aches for those, whom he just doesn't seem to like.

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I don't know why, LOL, but I immediately flashed on this great film line:

“You CANNOT make friends with the rock stars!”
Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in Almost Famous

[Granted, the rock music industry and classical ballet world don't share many similarities.]

I tend to agree that anyone representing his or her self as a journalist should not be 'socializing' on social media with the dancers that they critique. That is a very slippery slope - not only are people going to have their feelings hurt unnecessarily, but favoritism will become an even more obvious issue. What good would be served by writers and dancers getting into random or pointed arguments online?

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Well in defense of Macauley he's consistent. The dancers he lavishes the most adoration on in his reviews are also the dancers he follows on social media. 

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8 minutes ago, canbelto said:

Well in defense of Macauley he's consistent. The dancers he lavishes the most adoration on in his reviews are also the dancers he follows on social media. 

 

But, that's obvious favoritism. So is he a fanboy/cheerleader, or a critic? Most likely he shifts back and forth endlessly, which is one of the reasons why his writing can be both thoughtful, and needlessly annoying.

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11 minutes ago, pherank said:

 

But, that's obvious favoritism. So is he a fanboy/cheerleader, or a critic? Most likely he shifts back and forth endlessly, which is one of the reasons why his writing can be both thoughtful, and needlessly annoying.

 

I think he's both, which is why you'll never hear a bad word about Sara Mearns from his lips -- he also follows her avidly on social media. But he's very consistent about his likes, dislikes, and pet hangups. For instance I groan whenever it's a new work and he sees only "heterosexual partnering" -- I know that it's his #1 red flag and nothing the work can do will redeem itself if it doesn't include some sort of same sex partnering. 

 

But if you read his columns like you'd read a dance blogger, his work becomes less annoying. I do feel bad for Teresa Reichlen who because she often dances the same roles as Sara Mearns is almost never covered.

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32 minutes ago, canbelto said:

 

But if you read his columns like you'd read a dance blogger, his work becomes less annoying. I do feel bad for Teresa Reichlen who because she often dances the same roles as Sara Mearns is almost never covered.

 

At least he was forced(!) to say something nice in his piece about NYCB on PBS:

"The broadcast contains several top-form performances, for example Tiler Peck and Teresa Reichlen (the one a diamond, the other [a] mountain stream) in Symphony in C."

There are various dancers that he tends to ignore, but of course, we all have our favorites.

 

Given the current political climate, "heterosexual partnering", is not likely to disappear anytime soon. ;)

Macaulay should realize that it isn't about replacing one thing with another: it's about allowing different approaches to exist, side-by-side. We humans don't do sharing very well.

 

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Sometimes his fixations do get in the way of a review. This annoys me more with new works than with classics like Balanchine. We all have our favorite interpreters of "the classics" and it's naive to expect that a critic can put aside his favorite interpreters.

 

However for the fall gala I knew the four works would be consigned to the "thumbs down" heap once he made it clear there was all heterosexual partnering:

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/22/arts/dance/review-new-york-city-ballet-fall-fashion-and-ballet-gala.html

 

So the piece came across as a gush/tribute to Sara Mearns and a railing against exclusively hetero partnering. Which was predictable but didn't tell me much about the new works at all.

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11 minutes ago, canbelto said:

Sometimes his fixations do get in the way of a review. This annoys me more with new works than with classics like Balanchine. We all have our favorite interpreters of "the classics" and it's naive to expect that a critic can put aside his favorite interpreters.

 

However for the fall gala I knew the four works would be consigned to the "thumbs down" heap once he made it clear there was all heterosexual partnering:

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/22/arts/dance/review-new-york-city-ballet-fall-fashion-and-ballet-gala.html

 

So the piece came across as a gush/tribute to Sara Mearns and a railing against exclusively hetero partnering. Which was predictable but didn't tell me much about the new works at all.

 

Yes, I well remember. And if Mearns should ever say something amiss online, then Macaulay will have an out-of-proportion meltdown. And that's reason enough not to get hung up on the subjects of one's reviews.

 

I have to finish with this great little bit from Almost Famous - two depressed writers commiserating together:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moWrN3JP3jA&spfreload=10

 

 

Edited by pherank

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18 hours ago, canbelto said:

 

I know that it's his #1 red flag and nothing the work can do will redeem itself if it doesn't include some sort of same sex partnering. 

 

Actually I don't mind Macaulay nudging ballet away from standard "heterosexual" couples and hierachies. As a result of that trend, we got to see the mysterious five-male pas de cinque in Rodeo. Wendy Lesser, in The Threepenny Review, notes that:

 

Quote

Ratmansky can do couples if he has to, but he is much less interested in them than in the odder numbers: the singular loner, the trio of friends or the strange multi-sided construct that is made up of interlocking unrequited triangles.

 

 

Regarding the Times shrinking arts coverage, here are some sobering excerpts from the Jeremy Gerard Dateline Hollywood report that Emma linked above:

 

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Critics have been urged to stop covering events least likely to appeal to online subscribers: indie movies having brief runs in art houses; one-night-only concerts, off- and off-off-Broadway shows that aren’t star-driven, cabaret performances, and small art galleries. Many of the Times‘ contingent of freelance contributors, who provide much of that coverage, are likely to meet the same fate as the regional freelancers last summer. But even staff critics have been given the same marching orders, telling Deadline they are being pressured more frequently by editors to focus on higher-profile events . . .

 

. . . for much of the last century and the beginning of this one, the Times had an almost proprietary stake in covering the culture of New York. In turn, filmmakers, musicians, playwrights and actors, artists and choreographers may have still have had to bus tables and do office temp work, but they could be assured of a Times review or features story that could launch a career, interest an agent, challenge a reader. Those days, too, are numbered.

 

 

 

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Didn't know my personal peeves about Macauley's writing were so universal. Truly wish he would step back from the Sara Mearns gush. (She's great, possibly the best. But the company has nearly 100 other dancers that I would like to learn more about.) I will say that I enjoy following his instagram and articles that trend more toward the academic side of dance. His feed is a consistent flow of information that enriches my knowledge base about the  structure, history, and context of ballet.

 

On the same-sex partnering: I think there is something to be said for critics cheering on the forward progression of art. Same-sex partnering shouldn't be a prerequisite for a favorable review, but I do think it's important that choreographers feel the support of the community to move beyond Petipa, Ashton, and Balanchine in the medium. 

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I have no problem with Macaulay trying to move the needle towards more acceptance of same-sex partnering in ballet. However his using that as the sole litmus test for whether he likes a new work seems overly dogmatic. And as of late it does seem like he's only looking to see if there's same sex partnering in contemporary ballets. 

 

His other adored ballerina is Isabella Boylston. ABT reviews tend to center heavily around her. 

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I have no problem with Macaulay trying to move the needle towards more acceptance of same-sex partnering in ballet. However his using that as the sole litmus test for whether he likes a new work seems overly dogmatic. And as of late it does seem like he's only looking to see if there's same sex partnering in contemporary ballets. 

 

I agree. In Macaulay's case it registers not so much as a cause as more of a bee in his bonnet that won't stop buzzing. I also wonder if there is actually any need to worry about "acceptance" of mix 'n' match gender partnering since as far as I know audiences aren't complaining (?)

 

Quote

Ratmansky can do couples if he has to, but he is much less interested in them than in the odder numbers: the singular loner, the trio of friends or the strange multi-sided construct that is made up of interlocking unrequited triangles.

 

Lesser's point is a good one, but a ballet choreographer who can't "do couples" would be in a bit of a spot as a ballet choreographer; the pas de deux remains a central element in the art form.

 

In fairness to the NYT, it has held the line on arts reviews and coverage a lot longer than any other broadsheet and many magazines. As the article Emma linked to notes, the paper has the only remaining stand-alone book review in the country.  Sandik has mentioned the collapse in print advertising revenue, also mentioned in the article, which is driving the current cutbacks. Another factor is that in the internet era, clicks are all, and reviews are not getting the clicks. Even the theater reviewers, traditionally the most influential critics, are being told there will be fewer reviews and less space in which to write them.

 

I would suggest that anyone here who subscribes to the NYT or otherwise financially contributes to the paper in some way write to the editor with their concerns.

 

 

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Does anyone else find it strange that the Times sent its lead dance critic to Miami to publish a full blown review of The Fairy's Kiss at Miami City Ballet, but there was no review of two weeks of Sleeping Beauty at NYCB. Also, these little interviews with the dancers are tiresome.  I don't care about Anthony Huxley's mental anxieties or what dancer X ate for breakfast.  These are poor substitutes for performance reviews.

Edited by abatt

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The Times is the only US paper that sends its critics out of town to review dance performances in other parts of the country (and the world), so I would suggest that's actually a Good Thing.  I can also understand why Macaulay might be more interested in covering Ratmansky's new version of The Fairy's Kiss than re-reviewing Martins' Sleeping Beauty, even with cast changes  -- and some of his audience might be more interested in reading about it. (Ideally, there would be no choice to make and both would get reviewed.)

 

 

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2 hours ago, dirac said:

I would suggest that anyone here who subscribes to the NYT or otherwise financially contributes to the paper in some way write to the editor with their concerns.

 

 

Could we extend this to all of the publications that we're reading -- if your local paper doesn't cover dance, or covers it very sparingly, let them know you'd like to read more.

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