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Burke on Ballet & Violence against Women

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I definitely can see what Mearns POV was when she tweeted those things (and it's a human reaction.) As someone mentioned, she may have a different outlook some years from now when she isn't in the middle of it all. 


My issue is that, when addressing what Burke wrote, both she and Macaulay misrepresent what she said as they argued against it; they make her article seem superficial when it isn't. That doesn't do a real service towards defending the work either. 


Artists are free to create work but an essential part of art is what the viewer feels as well. 



Edited by elena

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I hope this controversy does not cause Martins to refrain from presenting Odessa in future seasons.  It is scheduled to return next season.

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2 hours ago, abatt said:

I hope this controversy does not cause Martins to refrain from presenting Odessa in future seasons.  It is scheduled to return next season.

I can't imagine he will. Martins has taken massive criticisms his whole directorial career. Has he ever cancelled a scheduled ballet for reasons other than injury to dancers or some such? If I were inclined to worry, then I would be more worried about Ratmansky's reaction. But should critics be expected to self-censor? I don't know that I agree with any number of things Burke wrote, but I do not think she was irresponsible. 


As for audiences: controversy is likelier to drum up interest than anything else. (To take an extreme example: sales and rentals of Last Tango in Paris are said to have gone up when details recently came out about how the rape scene was filmed keeping the actress in the dark about key aspects of it as the director wanted her to show 'real' humiliation on camera. I hardly know how to comment.)


Burke explicitly says that she might react differently to Odessa when seeing it in future -- which makes it pretty clear that she expects to do so. 


 I do understand why people involved in the creation of the ballet may feel it got hijacked for this debate, but I think it needs to be emphasized that nothing in the article suggests this ballet or any other should be repressed. The article is calling for choreographers to think differently about what they are doing in some cases. But it's only likely to have any impact as part of a larger series of events/conversations by critics, dancers, and choreographers themselves including discussions of women choreographers etc.

Edited by Drew

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14 hours ago, pherank said:

Burke, Macaulay and Mearns each have their own relationship to the Odessa ballet, which was central to the Burke article. And so each person has their own viewpoint regarding that artwork. Burke used a scene in the ballet as a jumping off point to discuss what she feels are the many "images of violence against women" in contemporary ballet. Macaulay gets to defend himself in the NYT, so I won't say anything about him here, but I can make a good guess as to what Mearns was feeling:

She had just spent weeks working in conjunction with Ratmansky on the Odessa ballet, and judging from her remarks on Twitter, felt that it was a strong piece that they all had high hopes for. And certainly, the creators may have hoped to hear some excited conversation regarding the ballet, but what they got after the first positive reviews was Burke's scathing piece with Odessa set firmly at the center of it all. It's pretty obvious that Mearns thinks that Burke got the piece all wrong, which is a valid issue of another kind, and the ballet creators/preformers no doubt feel that their artwork has been hijacked for someone else's agenda. They are going to feel hurt, and they are going to be pissed off. And it hardly matters if Burke was on a righteous crusade or not - the creators/performers of the art piece are going to feel they have been unfairly maligned even though they performed with only positive intent.

As a boss of mine used to like to say, "feelings are facts too!" - I hated hearing that, but he wasn't wrong.


This was "scathing"?  I thought Burke was bending over backwards to be polite to Ratmansky and the piece. It would be more fair to say that she's expressing a point of view, not an "agenda." 



They are going to feel hurt, and they are going to be pissed off.


Mearns' hurt fee-fees are not Burke's problem as a writer and critic. Artists and artmakers present themselves and their work onstage to be appraised. This is not to excuse outright cruelty or unseemly comments, but Burke was not guilty of that, and if Mearns is really as upset as you think she is, the old saw about heat and kitchens comes to mind. And I fully appreciate that she wanted to come to the defense of the ballet in good faith. Twitter is not the best place to make a reasoned defense of something.



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I am glad that someone finally (at least I was unaware of earlier times)  brought this issue up at all. 


Of course each audience member has their own way of seeing things and interpreting things, and the artist may have a totally different way of seeing it. 

The issue  is whether something which is undesireable in a society is being unwittingly perpetuated by being made to appear "harmelss and everyday" onstage. 

There are times when things are taken for granted and are "just fine", and then there are times when they are not. (ways of depicting peoples, minorities, and that sort of thing) 

I got the impression that Burke was more calling into discussion what she perceived as using certain "images" just to achieve an effect, and not going into them deeper. What I am not sure of (having obviously not seen the piece... I am in Germany...) is if a choreographer is really  ever aware of what they are putting out there, and very often their intent is quite different to what the audience member feels. 


Oh, dear.. I am afraid I am not very good at putting this into words. But I have seen multiple examples of this throughout my years as a dancer, then teacher and (very minor) choreographer. 



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