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NYCB's casting crisis


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#31 Calliope

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Posted 20 July 2002 - 09:33 AM

I'd debate Borree's being able to "do" Square Dance. One of my pet peeves with Borree is she doesn't seem to have an ability to emote, if you were to only look at her face, it looks the same in every ballet.
One of the things I love about Square Dance is the confectious joy, for me Borree doesn't show that.
She's not a bad dancer, she does the steps, but that's about all, a perfect example of a dancer badly in need of coaching.

#32 Calliope

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Posted 21 July 2002 - 02:58 AM

I think his point with Kowroski is that she's being given a rep that she hasn't grown into, simply because she's a principal. She gets new things that she can do, but doing it doesn't necessarily mean it's being done correctly. I like Kowroski, she's one of my favorites, but she goes out and does Swan Lake and it looks the same as her Nutcracker, Agon, etc.... Teaching steps isn't enough anymore.
As for Kistler, I liked her up until about 5 years ago. She has moments for me that are nice, but the rest of the time I wonder why she's out there. She's the last Balanchine ballerina though and b/c of that (and it doesn't hurt she's married to Martins) she's still out there, I get the feeling people are applauding her career.

On Borree, I was trying to be nice! jeez, you guys have no mercy, that's why I love you all :)

And as for Martins succeeding, I don't think of it in terms of who the director is, I could care less about Martins, I care more for the company and the rep than I even do about the dancers to an extent. They'll all come and go, but the legacy that's handed off to them is what scares me. Even in the past 20 years the amount of stuff that's been "lost" is frightening. I don't want to go see NYCB in another 20 and only see the 20 Balanchine works, 20 Robbins works and a bunch of other "stuff".

#33 Calliope

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Posted 24 July 2002 - 11:55 AM

A reader sent a letter to the editor, which basically agreed with Gottlieb and compared watching NYCB to "watching paint dry and crack off the walls". No link that I could find for the page.

#34 KayDenmark

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Posted 12 July 2002 - 05:00 AM

It can be hard to let go of fixed concepts of what a ballet **should** be like - even though time, technique, and dancers have moved on.

But it can also be hard to let go of dancers we once loved. One of the strongest points in Gottlieb's piece, I believe, is his frank appraisal of the company's ageing icons.

Darci Kistler, unfortunately, lost much of her magic long ago. Kyra is lovely, but as Gottlieb points out, she relies more on her aura than her technique at this point. Jock Soto is such a wonderful dancer, and a wonderful person, that it is hard to see him like this. And besides "Circus Polka", what in the world is Robert LaFosse still doing in the company? (And how do I arrange for an equivalent paycheck for an equivalent amount of work?)

Very few dancers have the character strength to go out on top. Others will probably beg to differ, but my memories of Merrill Ashley involve her barely being able to keep up with the corps while dancing "Ballo della Regina" during her last season.

One of the first things Peter Martins had to do when taking over the company was fire one of Balanchine's ageing icons, Allegra Kent. I hope we do not have to wait for Martins' successor to clear out some of **his** the tenured toe shoes and give the younger dancers the onstage time they need to make roles their own.

#35 KayDenmark

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Posted 18 July 2002 - 12:08 AM

Just read the new Gottlieb piece - it's like being seated at a dinner party next to a boring, rancorous drunk.

He's got some good points, particularly about the handing down of parts, but by the end it's hard to listen to anything he's saying in that monotonous whine.

Having worked as a critic myself, I know that complaints have a lot more impact when you mix them up with a few compliments here and there. This piece is just unpleasant.

#36 justafan

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Posted 20 July 2002 - 07:55 PM

Rereading this thread, I've given some thought to why I might agree with many of Gottlieb's observations and so few of his conclusions. For instance, although I love Jenny Ringer, I agree that she is somewhat underpowered in some Balanchine ballets. Do I think she was poorly cast in Who Cares, or would I prefer to see someone else in that role? Absolutely not! However, I did think Somogyi was the star the night I saw that performance.

I think the difference is simply I want to see Martins succeed and Gottlieb doesn't. And by that, I don't mean that Gottlieb wants to see the company fail. I don't know either of these men, but I would assume that anyone who had such a close association with the company would want to see it succeed as an institution. But I think anyone with such personal enmity toward Martins would want to see him have his comeuppance. (I'd certainly feel that way in his position.) And that colors all of his conclusions. Thus, you can "see" what he sees but still violently disagree with him.

Where I see Martin's long-term support of Whelan -- despite criticism that she was unsuited to certain roles -- as a triumph for both of them, he sees a fluke driven solely by Whelan's personal dedication. (Her dedication is unquestioned.) When I see a fabulous but young ballerina like Kowroski still growing and adjusting to the repertory, he sees an enigma that isn't being mentored properly.

If you don't see NYCB regularly but read these reviews and comments, you might think of NYCB as a company in trouble. That is so sad. Indeed, it is simply a company held to standard like no other. Those of us in the New York area, of course, are used to this from local critics. We see it all the time -- particularly toward our sports teams. (Half the time, even the Yankees are treated like bums.)

The only comments by Gottlieb that truly got my goat -- other than the over-the-top asides such as "teach what?" -- was his suggestion that Darci Kistler owes her position in the company to nepotism. I've often shuddered to think what the Martins' bashers would have done to Darci if she was not the supreme dancer that she is and has been for the past 20 years. Well, now we know.

#37 stan

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Posted 20 July 2002 - 04:23 AM

On this business of Borree's not being a technician, if she's not a technician, how is it that she is one of the few people who can actually do Square Dance which, I am reliably informed, is one of Balanchines's toughest ballets?

#38 BW

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Posted 15 July 2002 - 04:47 PM

Having just reread Mr. Gottlieb's article, I have to say from my point of view his manner is, indeed, strident and often cruel. Why is it that criticism has to descend into personal attack? I don't see the purpose in his asides, nor do I agree with them.

I do, however, agree with Ari's remarks:

...that if we’re going to have a productive dialogue on how Balanchine’s company is to develop without him, we will need to bury personal hatchets, lower the temperature, and discuss issues in a level-headed way. Criticism like Gottlieb’s makes this impossible.


It is especially Gottlieb's asides that are unfortunate.:)

The world is becoming smaller and smaller, in part, due to the Internet and I expect that, as Michael pointed out, there are many more pairs of eyes reading these pages than most might think!

#39 BW

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Posted 16 July 2002 - 04:38 AM

Well, I don't know Alexandra, I read a lot of reviews both of ballet and other performing arts and I still think Gottlieb makes some unnecessary asides as in "teach what?" in regard to Margaret Tracey; and his comment re Yvonne Borree, "but then why is she there in the first place?" to name only two.

Perhaps, it is a matter of style? In this article Gottlieb reminds me of Clement Crisp who, although he makes me laugh at times, is even more severe with his acerbic comments.

This aside, your story about the excess make up and "green gunk" is a good one! You critics had better watch yourselves! ;)

#40 BW

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Posted 16 July 2002 - 07:26 AM

Michael and Alexandra, thanks for the background info on The Observer and the glimpse into the "underworld" of conspiracy theories ;).

I suppose I just need to put aside my Emily Post when I'm reading these things. :)

#41 BW

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Posted 16 July 2002 - 10:05 AM

Two very interesting and well written articles - many thanks for the link.:) It would be interesting to read people's reactions to them, but perhaps this is not the place. She makes some great points, and explains her perspective well.

#42 BW

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Posted 16 July 2002 - 03:46 PM

Bobbi - I did enjoy Margaret Tracey at times but my husband is the one who is truly enamored of her!:) And as for Ms. Borree, I have seen her perform and truly did enjoy watching her. I appreciate your compliments :)...and suppose that I just need to toughen up my psyche a bit on behalf of whichever dancer who is falling under the mighty pen at the moment I'm reading!;)

I understand we all have our tastes in things whether they be ice cream, men, women, pets, vacations, literature, etc. One of the worst thing for me it to absolutely love something - say a book like Helprin's A Winter's Tale and then to lend it to someone I'm really fond of, and find they hate it! :)

At this stage of the game, I should know better! Guess I'm the sensitive type, however, again, I did find the link to Joan Acocella's pieces to be quite quite helpful in my "recovery". :)

#43 BW

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Posted 17 July 2002 - 04:27 AM

No problem, Bobbi re the use of the pronoun "he"! :) ;) How would you know, unless your frequented the Mom's and Dad's section on here?

However, I do want to say that your explanations about your views of Ms. Tracey and Ms. Borree mean a great deal more to me than those of Mr. Gottliebs - perhaps, this is because I am not an afficianado of ballet technique - though I am learning! I think I'm going to ask Leigh Witchel to arrange a 4th ring society seminar and those of us who don't have the technical background can then be given a crash course by fire!;) But, seriously, I do appreciate your taking the time to expound upon the "why's" of your feelings about the specific dancers mentioned in Gottlieb's piece.

I know that this has now really derailed this thread from it's initial "casting crisis" theme, and I apologize, but :) I do think that understanding "criticism" and being able to express oneself when one takes exception only furthers the understanding and appreciation of the dance.

Now, back to the "crisis"....which I hope is not as bad as most people seem to think it is.

#44 Farrell Fan

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Posted 23 July 2002 - 03:17 PM

I'm a subscriber to The New York Observer and can report that the second Robert Gottlieb piece is accompanied by a photograph of Peter Martins which makes him look like a serial killer in a dinner jacket.

#45 bobbi

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Posted 16 July 2002 - 03:14 PM

When I read Robert Gottlieb's article, the two comments to which BW took great umbrage -- about Tracey ("Teach what?") and Borree ("Why is she there?") -- are the very ones about which I said to myself, "Yes, yes." Maybe the comments were indeed terse. However, if you agree with the comments, I think the right word is "succinct" (i.e., they just pinpointed with total accuracy one's view of those dancers). BW uses the word "cruel" (perhaps he likes those dancers?), but I would use the word "realistic" (because I don't care for those dancers). It's like preferring chocolate or vanilla: individual tastes. But I'm sorry that BW was offended (as I enjoy his many interesting posts).

Just my two cents. . . .


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