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Reading reviews of one's own work


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#16 Alexandra

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Posted 24 October 2000 - 06:44 PM

Leigh, I think legal opinions are a good analogy to criticism (not that I mean to put myself at the level of the Supreme Court Posted Image ).

I agree. A piece of criticism is certainly not a fact, and there are differences in perception among even experienced writers. I was trying to ward off the perception, which I have seen often on the internet, that because two reviewers have reached different conclusions, ergo, one or both has no more weight than any opinion one might overhear coming out of the theater. (And I hasten to say that I have heard many intelligent comments made by people coming out of a theater Posted Image )

Calliope, I think every critic's background is probably a bit different, but I can't think of a critic who hasn't gone through at least an informal tutoring program. Part of it is just having the chance to talk about ballet with people who love it as much as you do and who know more than you do (which, of course, at the beginning is just about everybody). I would spend hours with my mentors saying, "Is there anyone dancing today who's like Nora Kaye? Tanaquil LeClerq? Andre Eglevsky? Svetlana Beriosova?" Or "Why is that Swan Lake so different from the one that was here last week? I've read in X Y and Z that the black swan pas de deux should be placed after the character dances but this one places it before. Why?" I think it's a bit like getting to be three years old again and asking why the grass is green, but being old enough to remember the answers Posted Image

Jeff (with a side note to Basheva). On editors, I've had a few who needed a bit of training themselves, since they'd never seen a ballet performance. I have two wishes. That I find an editor whose only connotation for the word "Art" is NOT that it is a man's first name, and who doesn't think of "culture" as something that grows in yogurt.

[This message has been edited by alexandra (edited October 24, 2000).]

#17 Drew

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Posted 25 October 2000 - 03:44 PM

Alexandra (and other professional dance critics on the board): do you think dance criticism in magazines/newspapers suffers more than other arts -- classical music, theater, painting -- from editorial skepticism about dance as a serious art or dance writing as true "criticism". . .? I confess this is a suspicion of mine, but I don't really know the journalism "scene." I do often feel as if I am reading errors or finding lapses in dance criticism in magazines (and newspapers) that I can't help but feel might have been caught if it were not "just" dance writing. It's not so much that I think editors know more about other art forms as that at least they seem to grasp that there IS such a thing as expertise. Do you think dance is treated as a poor relation, or is this my own projection? (I do , after all, have more opinions about dance than other arts . . .)

P.S. I typed this and then realized it was off topic -- I'll post anyway. Certainly, it would be interesting to hear from artists being reviewed on this issue as well.

[This message has been edited by Drew (edited October 25, 2000).]

#18 Alexandra

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Posted 25 October 2000 - 04:36 PM

Originally posted by Drew:
Alexandra (and other professional dance critics on the board):  do you think dance criticism in magazines/newspapers suffers more than other arts -- classical music, theater, painting -- from editorial skepticism about dance as a serious art or dance writing as true "criticism". . .?


Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!!!!! In every way. It's very dependent on the editor, though. When I started at the Post, the Style editor didn't care at all about dance, but he cared very much that Kriegsman was the first dance critic to win a Pulitzer -- THAT gave them pause. And for about ten years we lived in Pulitzer afterglow. The next editor did care about dance, and her successor actually liked it and attended performances. During that period, I was often given 20 inches, and nearly always 15 -- unheard of these days (think 40 words to an inch).

After that editor left, probably merely coincidentally, her successors didn't seem to be dance people -- or arts people. Style cares about politics and pop culture now. If, tomorrow, by accident, an editor was appointed who knew something about dance, it would change.

It infuriates me -- and I've used this on various Post editors -- that this would not be tolerated in sports or business. They would not hire a sports editor who didn't know what a home run, or a hat trick was. Or who could let "Babe Ruth was the greatest quarterback to ever play the game" get by. They wouldn't dream of it. Nor would they make a sportswriter write: "The man hit the ball with the stick, then dropped it and began to run around in a diamond pattern, being sure he touched each of the little pillows he found on his way back to where he started."

The era of Bob Gottlieb and his kind -- educated, cultured individuals who are interested in, and knowledgeable about, all of the arts is, if not over, sleeping.

The only way to fix this is to try to educate the next generation to respect the arts -- then convince them to get a job at a newspaper Posted Image

Drew, I've noticed it a carelessness in magazines, too. Any writer will make mistakes -- a mistake doesn't mean they're stupid, or don't know something. A few years ago one very able critic made a couple of gaffes in print -- saying someone was making a debut in a role who had danced it numerous times, that kind of thing. The person was under a great deal of stress at the time. It shouldn't have happened. But that's why four people read a piece before it gets to layout.

Now, for a publication that respects dance, for whom, it might be said, dance is its sole raison d'etre, try DanceView Posted Image



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#19 Drew

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Posted 25 October 2000 - 10:55 PM

Alexandra: if I hadn't been laughing while I read your response, I would have found it depressing -- though not surprising.(By the by, I rushed back from ABT tonight to learn the fate of the Mets and, what do you know, the men were hitting the ball with a stick. . .)

#20 Alexandra

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Posted 25 October 2000 - 11:44 PM

Drew, the sad thing is, the editors always laugh at my baseball example, too. They think it's cute.

One thing I forgot to mention is the influence on The Numbers. When I began writing in 1979, the big ballet companies would do three different programs in a week, often with cast changes, and we'd review all of them. Sometimes two or three performances would be lumped in one review -- I had the Weekend Wrapup beat for years. Local modern dancers were infuriated by this, saying that their concerts only got one very short review on opening night (the point about covering cast changes never registered). The Post's reasoning was simply that 2200 people were at the ballet performances, and maybe 25-30 at Dance Place -- 100 is sell out for them.

I don't think this is just the Post -- I think it's everywhere. Now, The Numbers rule. Not many people read dance stories. Therefore, why should we publish dance stories when everybody will read a story about Survivor? Another idea that's gone is the notion that the newspaper has a responsibility to watch for what is new, or important that's not yet in the public eye. I've argued this one, too. How many people say Martha Graham's early concerts at the Y? What if John Martin hadn't gone to every single one of them and written? This argument might have won the day 30 years ago. Even if the editor hated Martha Graham he would have recognized her importance. Today, who would care?

It is extremely depressing.

So, please CLICK ON ALL OF THOSE LINKS EVEN IF YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT THE SPECIFIC REVIEW!!!!! They count internet clicks. If you ever see a little note at the bottom of a review "for more information about Peter Martins, click here" CLICK IT. They don't care a fig about telling you something about Peter Martins. They want to know if you're out there. Please be out there Posted Image

#21 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 26 October 2000 - 09:11 AM

Alexandra, I did not realize that about the links and the clicks being counted! Thanks for telling us that, as maybe if we all do it we might be able to make a little tiny bit of difference in the willingness of the editors to provide space for dance!

#22 Mel Johnson

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Posted 26 October 2000 - 06:39 PM

To return for a moment to the original line of this thread, about reading reviews of your own performances; Jean Kerr, the playwright and wife of critic Walter once wrote that she knew a colleague who pasted pans from every critic he could find to the bathroom mirror, so that he had to look at them every morning while shaving. "After awhile," she wrote, " 'Witless and tasteless' had about as much emotional comprehensibility as 'twenty-three skiddoo!' "

#23 Alexandra

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Posted 26 October 2000 - 08:47 PM

Thanks, Mel -- both for steering the thread back on course and for that story. It sounds like a very good tactic Posted Image

#24 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 27 October 2000 - 02:39 AM

I took a particularly well-written and pithy but excoriating quote from review and used it as my signature file for quite a while. It made it so I could laugh about it. Happily, the reviewer came back several years later and was a good deal more positive!

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