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NY Times Writings on ABT

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Coverage is always a balancing act with multiple elements involved -- it could be that there were other, one-off events that took up column inches at that time.

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14 hours ago, canbelto said:

 

...beginning with his requisite soft dig at balletomanes. :dry: As if we're all still throwing dead cats on the stage like in the good old days.

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The New York Times is fake news. The Dance section is a travesty. Alastair McCauley, a man who has never danced a day in his life, being the Times' authority on ballet. Which is why 99.9% of his "reviews" are historical exposition on the ballet (which he can Google) and the rest a fragment of a sentence about a dancer's facial expression or the like. 

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27 minutes ago, Fleurfairy said:

 Alastair McCauley, a man who has never danced a day in his life, being the Times' authority on ballet. 

 

I take issue with the widely held view that experience as a dancer is essential to being a good dance critic. Some of our best critics never set foot in a dance studio -- Robert Gottlieb and Arlene Croce, e.g. Having a good eye, memory, writing ability, and experience in other ways with the art form -- indeed, with all the arts -- are what matter.

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Alistair Macaulay on the revised Aurora's Wedding.  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/23/arts/dance/the-sleeping-beauty-royalist-ballet-or-harmonious-ideal.html"...vivid, but its kind of ballet delights without providing any classical revelation. We feel ballet’s bloom here, but not the transcendence of line and form.

Perhaps what’s needed, as with so much period-instrument Mozart, is more time to adjust. I’m curious to see where Mr. Ratmansky’s “Aurora”s Wedding” takes us this July. I’m happiest when “The Sleeping Beauty” remains a work in progress..."

 

I agree.  Is Lilac at the Wedding?  Not in Diaghilev.  The  Mariinsky's  Lilac is a "prima" role in all acts[music and choreography] and the Rose Adagio lift is high impact.  Judith Mackrall wrote a bio of Lydia Lopokova- Lilac and Blue Bird in the Diaghilev Sleeping Princess. Lilac is a non-dancing role in Acts 2/3 of the reproduction.  Re-orchestration by Stravinsky:  https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200185235/ https://www.loc.gov/resource/ihas.200181868.0/?sp=26 .  The scrapbook http://memory.loc.gov/natlib/ihas/service/vaultscan.2/200181897/200181897.pdf p 30 of 237 "...the classic ballet is an exhibition of dancing, but has anybody ever seen an operatic performance in which there appeared nine prima donnas in one evening?"  

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/arts/dance/new-york-city-ballet-review-justin-peck-pontus-lidberg.html?mcubz=1&_r=0   "Mr. Peck’s taste in, and response to, contemporary music seem the weakest aspect of his generally formidable talent."  Diplomatic.

Edited by maps

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I'm going to have a cranky moment here.

 

It's Alastair Macaulay.

 

/cranky

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3 hours ago, Fleurfairy said:

The New York Times is fake news. The Dance section is a travesty. Alastair McCauley, a man who has never danced a day in his life, being the Times' authority on ballet. Which is why 99.9% of his "reviews" are historical exposition on the ballet (which he can Google) and the rest a fragment of a sentence about a dancer's facial expression or the like. 

 

The idea that a critic must also have been a practitioner is, for the most part, exploded.  Like the other old insult ("Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.") it implies that commentary and analysis are subordinate to the thing itself.  It's true that criticism is a reactive kind of writing (we are responding to the art form), but it's not a lesser activity.

 

Like most writers who came up at the end of the 20th c, Macaulay is trained to look at the work in its context, whether that's historical or otherwise.  He has worked as a historian, so he's steeped in that material, and I'm sure that his paper considers that an asset -- part of his job is to explain to the Times' readers why something looks the way it does, and why that matters.

 

But certainly, his work might not speak to you -- if you find yourself on the opposite side of his viewpoint on a regular basis, you can either use his writing as a kind of negative guide ("if M likes it, I'm sure to hate it"), or you can just not read it.

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The NYT is not fake news, nor is its Arts section fake news.  Just because it is underfunded, or one does not agree with its critics does not make the paper fake news.  

 

Fake news is the proliferation of false webpages based out of eastern europe that wrote racy headlines with articles mixing recycled wire news facts with false facts.  These websites imitates newspapers, but had zero editors, ethics boards, fact checkers, professional journalists, or source confirmation policies.  They made many Macedonian teenagers and young adults six figure incomes through online ad sales.  

 

I don't always agree with many editorial policies at the Wall Street Journal, but WSJ is just as much a legitimate news organization as NYT, WaPo, or the Chicago Tribune. 

 

Rant over, back to dance writing.  

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Um, I can't believe I'm wading into this but "Fake News" is not "a critic's review that I disagree with" or "an article in the NYTimes/CNN/WaPo that doesn't fit my Make America Great Again political ideology." Fake News is the deliberate creation of clickbait articles that are deliberately circulated among social media sites and make these social media sites lots of money because said social media sites then have a better idea of your interests, political ideology, and thus a better way of targeting ads for you. The Hillary-run pizzeria being a front for sex slaves is an example of fake news.

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16 hours ago, Jayne said:

The NYT is not fake news, nor is its Arts section fake news.  Just because it is underfunded, or one does not agree with its critics does not make the paper fake news.  

 

Fake news is the proliferation of false webpages based out of eastern europe that wrote racy headlines with articles mixing recycled wire news facts with false facts.  These websites imitates newspapers, but had zero editors, ethics boards, fact checkers, professional journalists, or source confirmation policies.  They made many Macedonian teenagers and young adults six figure incomes through online ad sales.  

 

I don't always agree with many editorial policies at the Wall Street Journal, but WSJ is just as much a legitimate news organization as NYT, WaPo, or the Chicago Tribune. 

 

Rant over, back to dance writing.  

 

Not just in EasternEurope, Jayne. All over. :)

 

I happen to (mostly) love Alastair's reviews because he's not afraid to be "anti PC." Too bad that he & other legit arts critics get less and less space to publish nowadays.

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26 minutes ago, Natalia said:

 

I happen to (mostly) love Alastair's reviews because he's not afraid to be "anti PC."

 

I'm curious, what do you have in mind as some examples of his being willing to be "anti PC"? Things such as the infamous "ate too many sugarplums" comment, or other sorts of things?

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On 6/26/2017 at 9:08 AM, nanushka said:

 

...beginning with his requisite soft dig at balletomanes. :dry: As if we're all still throwing dead cats on the stage like in the good old days.

 

That was a standout to me as well.

I know he likes to position himself as a connoisseur of choreography as opposed to the balletomanes who are gaga over dancers and thus crass.

But his definition which opens the review was hilarious: "One definition of a balletomane is someone who cares more about dancers than about choreography, to or beyond the point of madness."

I mean who besides himself has ever included "to or beyond the point of madness" in their definition of a balletomane?

 

And the fact of the matter is, he is just as guilty of caring wildly about dancers as anyone else. If you read his reviews (when the Times ran them with any frequency) over time, or look at his Instagram, he is just as clear in his preference for some dancers as anyone on this board. Most of his enthusiasms are male--there was the David David David period!!!! the brief excitement (before any really seemed deserved) over Corey Stearns, the ongoing adoration of Cornejo. He is more moderate over female dancers generally and almost always complains about things as well, but his love for Sara Mearns is well documented. As was his dislike of Wendy Whelan.

 

I just don't see why it is necessary to act, as he does, like caring about who dances, is somehow silly. It is a performing art and as he does clearly know and recognize, the performers matter. So does the choreography. A good performance takes both, and in my mind a good review should consider both. However since the choreography doesn't change and the performance does, I'm rather more interested (when it is something performed frequently) in reading about the performance; he is more interested in focusing generally on the choreography, sometimes neglecting the specific performance almost entirely. A balance is ideal.

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35 minutes ago, aurora said:

I mean who besides himself has ever included "to or beyond the point of madness" in their definition of a balletomane?

 

In the root of the word is "mania" –– i.e. "madness." But otherwise, I completely agree with everything you've said, aurora!

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1 hour ago, Natalia said:

Not just in EasternEurope, Jayne. All over. :)

:"Fake news" is neither biased coverage or incorrect news prematurely or erroneously released by legitimate news organizations who have established processes, like fact checking, copy editing, etc.  It is specifically what Jayne described, which is click-bait designed entirely to generate revenue.  It was created and proliferated in Eastern Europe, and while there are copycats everywhere, it does not apply to the mainstream media's arts coverage. It does not apply to mainstream media that you don't agree with, at least here.

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45 minutes ago, Helene said:

:"Fake news" is neither biased coverage or incorrect news prematurely or erroneously released by legitimate news organizations who have established processes, like fact checking, copy editing, etc.  It is specifically what Jayne described, which is click-bait designed entirely to generate revenue.  It was created and proliferated in Eastern Europe, and while there are copycats everywhere, it does not apply to the mainstream media's arts coverage. It does not apply to mainstream media that you don't agree with, at least here.

 

Right, and that shouldn't need explaining. Further, "fake news" has become a propaganda term, which is to say one which obscures the truth. Calling something fake suggests it was made to look like the real thing. It’s to imply not just that something is false, but that there was intention to falsify. Everyone makes mistakes, critics included. Making a mistake and falsifying are two very different things.

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3 hours ago, aurora said:

 

However since the choreography doesn't change and the performance does,

 

Well, actually the choreography does change, sometimes at the behest of the choreographer, and sometimes not...

 

I do take your point about the balance between the performer and the thing performed.  They are interdependent.  Without choreography, performers don't really have anything to do.  Without dancers, choreography is a nice idea.

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2 minutes ago, sandik said:

 

Well, actually the choreography does change, sometimes at the behest of the choreographer, and sometimes not...

 

I do take your point about the balance between the performer and the thing performed.  They are interdependent.  Without choreography, performers don't really have anything to do.  Without dancers, choreography is a nice idea.

 

That is a good point as well! But if it is due to the dancers, that would (I'd argue) be part of a discussion of them.

 

When I said the choreography doesn't change, I meant when a company is doing the same production and that is what is being reviewed again. I should have been more specific on that.

 

Obviously if it is a new production, then that (which would include different choreography, at least to some extent) would necessarily be a much more critical and substantial part of the review (at least in my ideal review world!)

 

I will say Macaulay's articles (not proper reviews) on the histories of ballets, like that on Sleeping Beauty, are interesting, and personally I think the best sort of thing he writes. I just find it less successful when he shoe-horns too much of it into reviews proper. Perhaps largely because of the space limitations.

 

 

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17 minutes ago, aurora said:

 

I will say Macaulay's articles (not proper reviews) on the histories of ballets, like that on Sleeping Beauty, are interesting, and personally I think the best sort of thing he writes. I just find it less successful when he shoe-horns too much of it into reviews proper. Perhaps largely because of the space limitations.

 

 

 

I agree. I think Macaulay is at his best as a dance historian –– e.g. in the very detailed and comprehensive article on "evolutionary changes" in Serenade in the Winter 2016-17 Ballet Review. I don't find him to be as convincing in his writing on individual performances. More than with almost any other reviewer, when I've seen the actual performance (or at least others by the same artist –– though that's obviously less fair of a comparison) that he's writing about, I'm left wondering "How is that what he saw??"

 

Edited to add:

Which is not to suggest that I necessarily want to read reviews that merely confirm what I've seen myself. Rather, in such a situation, I want the reviewer to help me "see better" what I've already seen –– or to see it better the next time around. I simply haven't had that experience very often if at all from reading Macaulay's reviews.

Edited by nanushka

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16 minutes ago, aurora said:

 

That is a good point as well! But if it is due to the dancers, that would (I'd argue) be part of a discussion of them.

 

When I said the choreography doesn't change, I meant when a company is doing the same production and that is what is being reviewed again. I should have been more specific on that.

 

Obviously if it is a new production, then that (which would include different choreography, at least to some extent) would necessarily be a much more critical and substantial part of the review (at least in my ideal review world!)

 

I will say Macaulay's articles (not proper reviews) on the histories of ballets, like that on Sleeping Beauty, are interesting, and personally I think the best sort of thing he writes. I just find it less successful when he shoe-horns too much of it into reviews proper. Perhaps largely because of the space limitations.

 

 

 

In a more perfect world, everyone would have read everything I've written, and so if I explained how Balanchine's 4 T's worked and how it fit into the repertory once, I wouldn't have to do it again.

 

Alas, even my partner hasn't followed along that closely.

 

And so I (and my colleagues) keep looking for yet another way to explain neo-classical ballet, the role of Marius Petipa in the development of the art form, the distinction between a reconstruction and a re-working, etc, etc, etc...

 

I think the twisty part here is that we've got such a mix of people reading these reviews, so they need to cover a lot of positions -- they have to put the performance in a context while they discuss the specifics of what happened on that particular night.  And they have to do it on deadline in a relatively small number of words. 

 

I agree that Macaulay does excellent long-form work -- I really value that kind of analysis.  But writing for Ballet Review is a very different task than writing for a daily, even when it's the NYT.

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17 hours ago, fondoffouettes said:

I'm more disheartened by the dwindling quantity and quality of arts coverage. What's the point of even publishing something like this? I guess it's a nice free plug for ABT, but that's about it...

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/28/arts/dance/american-ballet-theater-moves-to-tchaikovsky.html

 

 

oof no kidding!

 

1) it is more of an advertisement than an article (as you say, free plug, which honestly ABT kind of deserves after the lack of reviews)

2) It also feels like the first paragraph of something. I got to the bottom and was like--that is it? did the page not load properly?

3) What is there is half baked--if it is about Tchaikovsky and ballet, why isn't it even telling us what the music is. Obviously it is clear(ish) with some (though he could say *what* pas from Nutcracker). But what is the music for Aftereffect? More clarity on Mozartiana?

 

bleh

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It seems like it should be a snippet in the Times' Dance in NYC This Week column.  

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I'm an online Times subscriber and I was just prompted to take a survey. There are a lot of multiple choice questions but a few places where you can type in your own comments, so I added my two cents on the sad state of the dance review coverage. Unfortunately, the survey is quite long. But, if anyone else here is a subscriber and you get the pop-up survey, you may want to take the 10 minutes or so to give your feedback. It can't hurt.

 

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