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Macaulay on NYCB

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dirac   
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WSJ has for a long time written about topics other than business and politics. Indeed, one of its most enduring and well read sections is its "A-HED" column where the topic is typically something unusual. I often enjoy those articles. And in today's arts section of the WSJ, there's an article titled "‘Curlew River,’ ‘Dido and Aeneas’ and ‘Otello’ Reviews: Classics Get a Refresh" about an opera, with no comments, that demonstrates that the WSJ is not only about business and finance.

Absolutely, Stecyk, the WSJ is not only about business and politics.  It also publishes the ballet reviews of Robert Greskovic and in recent times it has expanded its lifestyle sections, which tend to be attractive to advertisers. However, such changes aren’t always welcomed by the readership, and sometimes the readership has a point.  


 

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When I read articles in various newspapers, I typically scan the comments because sometimes someone has something valuable to share, other than he or she agrees or disagrees. The other person might be familiar with the latest research or have come across important information that isn't widely known or has an interesting analytical view on the subject. Sometimes a reader contributes more than the writer.

 

I do this as well and I agree. It’s very true, sometimes commenters can provide a gloss on the article that’s better than the article, or they can engage in a back-and-forth that’s interesting and/or illuminating.

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dirac   
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I would not be surprised if he and Acocella were on the same page about what dance and what in dance is worth writing about.

 

Yes, that's likely part of the problem.

 

 

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Stecyk   
33 minutes ago, dirac said:

Absolutely, Stecyk, the WSJ is not only about business and politics.  It also publishes the ballet reviews of Robert Greskovic and in recent times it has expanded its lifestyle sections, which tend to be attractive to advertisers. However, such changes aren’t always welcomed by the readership, and sometimes the readership has a point.  

 

Thank you for your reply.

 

The advertisers wouldn't be interested in those sections unless readers read them. And, as mentioned in my prior post, they have the hard data to support that readers do, in fact, read lifestyle articles. With precious resources so scarce these days in media, everything has a purpose.

 

The Financial Times also has a lifestyle section. For example, how should or can wealthy people spend their affluence? What will afford them the most hedonistic pleasures?

 

Even though "corporate types" tend to read WSJ for "hard core" business stuff, many read softer articles as well because those articles have direct relevance to their work lives or have relevance to their livers after hours. Interpersonal stuff, whether at work or at home, plays a large role. If we can learn to improve ourselves or help manage a difficult situation, so much the better. Moreover, I believe one presidential candidate once said, “Corporations are people, my friend.” So you see, it's all the same stuff.

 

Speaking for myself, I always browse the lifestyle and health sections. Sometimes a quick suggestion can play a significant role in helping one navigate through life. When articles discuss negotiation or communication styles, particularly women versus men, I read with even more attention. Is there anything in the article that I can use? How can I communicate more effectively? What works and what doesn't?

 

For most business positions and careers, it's the "soft" stuff that is important. With time and effort, most technical stuff can be learned. The soft stuff can be learned, too, but it requires more of a sustained effort. Some tigers can't change their stripes. While others are more chameleon-like and will adapt to their changing circumstances.

 

From your response, dirac, I sense we largely agree with each other.

Edited by Stecyk

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Drew   

The New Yorker's lack of interest in dance is depressing to me --I don't expect them to care exactly about what interests me or the sort of things that I may find myself arguing about on balletalert. But there is so little written about...Who believes that every new book reviewed in the New Yorker is a field changing masterpiece? That doesn't mean they are not serious occasions for critique, discussion, and debate. And some of the movies covered? They are covered as part of the cultural scene and to let readers know about them, not as inspiring works of art. Dance is more ephemeral. Two weeks later I can't buy tickets to what someone reviews. But New Yorker reviews were always something more than a heads up. In theory the critics themselves are writers people want to read.

 

Acocella also writes on other topics, so why might she not share dance writing duties with someone else interested in things she does not want to write about? That's a rhetorical question ... and I agree Remnick is probably on the same page with her as far as what he wants as editor. I remember his piece on the Bolshoi, but I don't really see it as evidence of substantive interest in dance as an art form calling for critique, discussion, and debate.

 

I take for granted that though the New Yorker cares about advertizing dollars and 'clicks', the day that is ALL they care about they are no longer the New Yorker. (To some extent that is also true of any major Newspaper such as the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, but with less wriggle room, since they have so much more competition as news organizations,)

Edited by Drew

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5 hours ago, dirac said:

That’s been the case for years, alas. As Joan Acocella has said, most recently to Ballet Review, for a long time she couldn't find much to engage her in what was going on. While I understand that some dance eras are less inspiriting than others, I often wished that if such were the case, the magazine might consider making room for a dance critic who was actually interested in the dance beat. 

 

Acocella needs to get out more. 

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Quiggin   

The readership of the New Yorker is slightly larger outside New York and much of it in California (in San Francisco I always see someone holding a copy on the bus). It might be the magazine of ex-New Yorkers.

 

So while that nationwide audience most likely has access to movies and books and road show versions of musicals justifying the coverage, it wouldn't to a two week dance event at the Joyce. What might be workable  is a quarterly or bimonthly column on the dance scene in New York, summarizing the trends along with paragraph reviews of some of the standouts. Richard Brody occasionally does that with film festivals.

Edited by Quiggin

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Drew   

That's an idea. But I also think part of the point of getting the New Yorker outside of New York is, in some sense, feeling in touch with New York cultural life and whatever that is supposed to stand for in the larger cultural life of the world. I don't live in New York, but that is one reason I want to read in more detail about what's going on there in dance. (Same for theater and music, though -- in my case -- to a lesser extent.)

 

But I may not be typical of their target audience. I recently re-subscribed after giving it up for a few years, but as it is haven't decided whether or not to renew. (Not exclusively because of lack of serious dance criticism, but that would make a difference to me.)

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Emma   
50 minutes ago, Quiggin said:

The readership of the New Yorker is slightly larger outside New York and much of it in California (in San Francisco I always see someone holding a copy on the bus). It might be the magazine of ex-New Yorkers.

 

Hah!  This must be true.  I now live in DC and subscribed to the New Yorker a few months ago (they targeted me with an offer of 12 issues for $6.  How could I refuse?).  I would appreciate more dance coverage as well.

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dirac   
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So while that nationwide audience most likely has access to movies and books and road show versions of musicals justifying the coverage, it wouldn't to a two week dance event at the Joyce.

True, but I tend to think, as Drew suggests, that one reason people outside New York are reading a magazine called The New Yorker is to learn about what’s going on in New York, no? (It's definitely a motivation for this reader.) Croce was filing pieces almost weekly back in the day. The magazine’s national readership hadn’t a hope of seeing most of the troupes she wrote about regularly, even the big ones, without making a trip to NY. However, Croce had Shawn and Gottlieb as her editors for much of that time, men who were committed to dance coverage. (No idea if that is the difference.)

 

 I should note that The New Yorker critics today don’t have the space Croce did and I can understand Acocella not wanting or needing to write as frequently.

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canbelto   

I actually find Acocella's attitude offensive. Part of being a critic is sampling what is out there whether it interests you or not. I have a lot of objections to the way Macaulay reviews but he does make it a point to see a diverse amount of dance every week. Arlene Croce and Edwin Denby might sound extremely opinionated and even didactic today but they created a written history of dance in the era they covered and that's treasurable. Robert Gottlieb is in his 80's and still out there reviewing stuff. 

 

The New Yorker's lack of dance coverage is sad considering its history of reviewing the arts.

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kfw   
6 hours ago, Drew said:

Acocella also writes on other topics, so why might she not share dance writing duties with someone else interested in things she does not want to write about? That's a rhetorical question ... and I agree Remnick is probably on the same page with her as far as what he wants as editor. I remember his piece on the Bolshoi, but I don't really see it as evidence of substantive interest in dance as an art form calling for critique, discussion, and debate.

 

Remnick's a former Moscow correspondent for the Washington Post and wrote a book entitled Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire, so the Bolshoi scandal was bound to interest him regardless of his degree of interest in or taste in dance.

 

As for Acocella, in an ironic was she is being a critic by not writing about what she finds uninteresting. But I agree that she's going about it in the wrong way. 

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Helene   

In the "The New Yorker Radio Hour," Remnick has not shown disinterest in dance.

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dirac   
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I recently re-subscribed after giving it up for a few years, but as it is haven't decided whether or not to renew. (Not exclusively because of lack of serious dance criticism, but that would make a difference to me.)

 

Interesting. I recently did the same after a long hiatus. I'm going to give it a year.

 

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As for Acocella, in an ironic was she is being a critic by not writing about what she finds uninteresting.

 

Good point, and she is within her rights to pick and choose (and fortunate to have the option). I only wish there was someone else to pick up the slack.

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From your response, dirac, I sense we largely agree with each other

 

 

I think so too, Stecyk. :flowers:

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sandik   
2 hours ago, canbelto said:

I actually find Acocella's attitude offensive. Part of being a critic is sampling what is out there whether it interests you or not. I have a lot of objections to the way Macaulay reviews but he does make it a point to see a diverse amount of dance every week. Arlene Croce and Edwin Denby might sound extremely opinionated and even didactic today but they created a written history of dance in the era they covered and that's treasurable. Robert Gottlieb is in his 80's and still out there reviewing stuff. 

 

The New Yorker's lack of dance coverage is sad considering its history of reviewing the arts.

 

Croce was the staff dance critic during the heyday of the dance boom, which I think influenced both her approach and the willingness of the magazine to cover the scene.  The NYT is the paper of record -- they consider it part of their responsibility to see and discuss the greater part of the season.  The New Yorker has never had that mandate.

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Drew   
2 hours ago, sandik said:

 

Croce was the staff dance critic during the heyday of the dance boom, which I think influenced both her approach and the willingness of the magazine to cover the scene.  The NYT is the paper of record -- they consider it part of their responsibility to see and discuss the greater part of the season.  The New Yorker has never had that mandate.

 

This sounds right to me and returns us to the topic of this thread. But also to the problem that got this sidebar going, which is that it's not clear that the New York Times does consider it their responsibility to see and discuss the greater part of the season anymore. (I assume from everything already discussed that this is due to business decisions at the paper.)

 

Perhaps it's wishful thinking on my part, but I also think ballet is having a 'moment' right now. More new choreography that critics and fans are genuinely intrigued by, a substantive debate on appropriate approaches to revivals/reconstructions of the classics on the one hand, but also fresh re-imaginings of them on the other (Bourne, Khan) -- plus institutional support for critical/historical study of ballet/dance, and, on the less esoteric side of things, celebrity ballerinas, a high profile 'ballet' movie, and at least one high profile (if admittedly horrific) ballet scandal. Even a frisson of politics here and there...

 

I don't follow modern dance in the same way I follow ballet, but regularly read about premiers and choreographers I wish I could see...and think some of the issues pressing on ballet and its relation to its history have analogues in modern dance (eg Paul Taylor's partial transformation of his company into a modern dance repertory company). There is also a burgeoning development of disability/dance work. 

 

It's not a dance "boom" but ... not a dance whimper either. Anyway, more reviews in the Times would be very welcome--and . . . uh . . .  more coverage in the New Yorker too.

Edited by Drew

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lmspear   
2 hours ago, sandik said:

 

Croce was the staff dance critic during the heyday of the dance boom, which I think influenced both her approach and the willingness of the magazine to cover the scene.  The NYT is the paper of record -- they consider it part of their responsibility to see and discuss the greater part of the season.  The New Yorker has never had that mandate.

This is an ancient memory and I don't have access to the source material, so please forgive me if I'm wrong or unclear.  Brendan Gill's history/memoir  "Here at the New Yorker," described the magazine during the William Shawn years (1952-1987 per Wikipedia) as an outlet where writers, including critics, were given as much space as they wanted to write about whatever they wanted to write about, as often as they wanted to write.  That was the New Yorker I grew up on.  

 

Edited by lmspear
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Quiggin   
10 hours ago, lmspear said:

This is an ancient memory and I don't have access to the source material, so please forgive me if I'm wrong or unclear.  Brendan Gill's history/memoir  "Here at the New Yorker," described the magazine during the William Shawn years (1952-1987 per Wikipedia) as an outlet where writers, including critics, were given as much space as they wanted to write about whatever they wanted to write about, as often as they wanted to write.  That was the New Yorker I grew up on.  

 

 

That does appear to be the case again. Only Anthony Lane seems to have a regular beat, after that there are the semi regulars Peter Schjeldahl and James Wood whereas Hilton Als and Adam Gopnik are free to write department to department. Plus lots of good political commentary upfront.

 

Joan Acocella seems to write more for the New York Review of Books than the New Yorker. On dance but also other subjects. (Of course who will edit the NYRB now that the founder Robert Silvers has died is a big question.) 

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sandik   
23 hours ago, Drew said:

It's not a dance "boom" but ... not a dance whimper either. Anyway, more reviews in the Times would be very welcome--and . . . uh . . .  more coverage in the New Yorker too.

 

You'll get no argument from me about that -- I'm all for as many voices as we can possibly read.  I have a feeling, though, that most of them will be coming along online.

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sandik   
On 3/27/2017 at 10:56 PM, lmspear said:

This is an ancient memory and I don't have access to the source material, so please forgive me if I'm wrong or unclear.  Brendan Gill's history/memoir  "Here at the New Yorker," described the magazine during the William Shawn years (1952-1987 per Wikipedia) as an outlet where writers, including critics, were given as much space as they wanted to write about whatever they wanted to write about, as often as they wanted to write.  That was the New Yorker I grew up on.  

 

 

The ironical thing is that we thought the internet would really be the place that didn't have to deal with the limitations of word count or column inches.

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miliosr   
On ‎3‎/‎27‎/‎2017 at 10:56 PM, sandik said:

 

The NYT is the paper of record -- they consider it part of their responsibility to see and discuss the greater part of the season.  The New Yorker has never had that mandate.

 

On ‎3‎/‎27‎/‎2017 at 11:17 PM, Drew said:

 

This sounds right to me and returns us to the topic of this thread. But also to the problem that got this sidebar going, which is that it's not clear that the New York Times does consider it their responsibility to see and discuss the greater part of the season anymore. (I assume from everything already discussed that this is due to business decisions at the paper.)

ITA w/ Drew. I don't think the Times sees itself as the paper of record any more. You can see it in the way they covered the Paris Opera Ballet's recent production of Balanchine's Midsummer Night's Dream. The Times printed a long feature about Christian Lacroix's lavish new costumes for the production but, to my knowledge, there hasn't been a single review as to the quality of the production or to how well Balanchine and the POB dancers go together. 

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Quiggin   
5 hours ago, miliosr said:

 

ITA w/ Drew. I don't think the Times sees itself as the paper of record any more. You can see it in the way they covered the Paris Opera Ballet's recent production of Balanchine's Midsummer Night's Dream.

 

I don't think the Times mandate was to cover Europe, even the International Herald Tribune didn't do that though maybe I'm remembering it in its last days. The Times regularly covered Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall and a good amount of art openings. The Voice covered the downtown scene pretty well, PS 122 and the Kitchen, etc. The Times has seems to have pulled the plug on its "legacy" obligations  at the end of 2016.

 

The problem with all this moving to the great internet is that here are 1) there are no editors to guide writers resulting in a kind of waywardness of content 2) there's kind of false balance or false dialectical form to writing online and no overarching ideas or philosophy; a kind of feel-goodness results 3) it comes from a "no place", has no aegis, no agency ... I know that's vague but it's hard to get a grip on but something's missing in this new world.

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Considering how hard these dancers train and the almost monastic and insular lifestyle these artists lead, I am sometimes repulsed by M. Macaulay's often indecorous remarks. Even so, I can also appreciate that he sometimes "hits the mark" and can be quite illuminating, so that he is not, after all, a mere crackpot posing as a genius.

Edited by altongrimes

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variated   

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.

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Helene   
2 minutes ago, variated said:

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's true of most review, and it's true of much art.

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variated   

Of course the reviewer's own 'angle' will always be present, in some cases more strongly than others, but I think the balance is tipping so far in many cases that the actual discussion of the performance does nothing more than rehash the 'plot' (where the ballet is narrative), describe the costumes and set (for abstract ballets) and name some dancers.  The balance would have been otherwise in the days of Croce.

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