sonatina1234

Macaulay on NYCB

80 posts in this topic

There's a difference between reviews and dance criticism.  Sometimes what is written will include both.  But given space limitations, it's exceedingly difficult to write dance criticism in most newspapers, for example, which insist on limiting pixels to conform with their printed versions, and looks what happens every time Macaulay goes beyond what you describe. 

 

ETA:  While we might bemoan the lack of great critics, what we have is a critical mass of commentary.  However good or bad it is, we have a lot of data reflect how dance was experienced and seen and who was seeing it.

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It isn't just a question of lacking great critics, but any critics. Commentary, even lots of it, isn't criticism. As you rightly point out, it has its value, and it's something we didn't have before the internet, but it doesn't necessarily compensate for what it seems to be displacing.

 

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On 5/19/2017 at 10:23 AM, variated said:

There was a squabble recently on UK dance twitter over a review of the RB's Mayerling written for an online arts magazine, Exeunt.  I was intrigued by the defence offered by (presumably) the editor of that magazine of their preference for reviewers documenting their individual 'experience'.

 

Setting aside the rather tedious 'class warrior' elements of the debate (which nobody on either side of the argument came out of with much dignity) I thought it relevant to this discussion, because it strikes me that this kind of 'review' requires little or no expertise on the part of the reviewer and moves close to being a form of lifestyle journalism rather than true reviewing. I think the same thing has been happening for a long time with interviews of artists - whether dancers, writers, musicians or actors  - the interviewer now prioritises "uncovering them as a person" rather than discussing their art in any meaningful way.  

 

Looking back in 30 or 50 years time (as we do now to the writing of the dance boom era), I fear that many of today's 'reviews' will reveal more about the socio-cultural attitudes and personal feelings of reviewers than they do any of the works or performances they were supposedly reviewing.  That makes me quite sad.

 

Many thanks for the link to this publication -- I didn't know it, and am glad to have the connection.  I will say, though, that if the individual who objected to the critic's description of the Mayerling audience had looked a bit farther, they would have found much more vivid writing about the subject -- from a review of Jewels:

"Last week I was waiting for the Royal Ballet to begin a performance of George Balanchine’s plotless triptych Jewels when, behind me, a woman loudly bemoaned the theatre’s Friends scheme and its relation to the ticketing system. “I pay £1200 a year and still they keep good seats back for the public,” she spat to her companion. “I asked the person in charge about it and she says they have to appear to be egalitarian. Well, I don’t agree with egalitarian.” She repeated the last word with the sort of emphatic disgust usually reserved for talk of a seeping anal abscess rather than notions of social equality. Someone further along my row turned around nodding in agreement, eager to be complicit in these cut-glass assertions of privilege ... So, what a surprise – ballet has a class problem. The Covent Garden stalls are full of monied patrons, irradiated in the Algarve, clothed and shod on the Kings Road. And they always will be, lest the Revolution commences. That wealthy ballet-goers should so loudly espouse the kind of elitist, entitled attitudes that arts institutions struggle to dispel isn’t really much of a shock, but it has a certain piquancy given the ballet in question."

 

I agree, though, that the class war commentary doesn't really shed much light on the ballet itself, in either review.  But critics are often encouraged by readers to include a description of the general audience response, with the assumption that the audience will like something more than the fussier writer will.  I think it's useful sometimes to acknowledge when your opinion of a work seems to vary diametrically from the rest of the house, but it's not a substitute for explaining why you think what you do.

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That was written by the same critic as the Mayerling piece.  She seems to be singularly unlucky in her neighbours every time she attends an RB performance.  

 

I agree with you that describing the audience response to a ballet is an interesting and relevant thing for critics to do.  But writing about people's appearance and non-performance related conversations and making assumptions about their lives based on those is a little different.

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3 hours ago, variated said:

That was written by the same critic as the Mayerling piece.  She seems to be singularly unlucky in her neighbours every time she attends an RB performance.  

 

 

That rhetorical device (commenting on the audience) is one way to get into a discussion of the work but it's only one way.  She likely has a more generous word count for an online review, but unless she's working that material into the guts of the review, it takes up space that you could use discussing the actual works.

 

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