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Clement Crisp is At it Again

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I hope I am not stirring up a hornet's nest by drawing attention to every mother's favorite dance critic, but he is at it again. I showed this to a colleague at work who was a child dancer and she had a good laugh. So, armed with that endorsement I report that on Wednesday Mr. Crisp re-reviewed Makrarova's "The Sleeping Beauty" in "The Financial Times" and, grudgingly, acknowledges some improvement in lighting and stage craft. He even praised some of the dancing. He then concluded:

"As a bonus, Edward Watson made Carabosse a figure to frighten the tots: here was evil - everyone's thumbs should be pricking - and a splendidly vicious line in malice. Spiffing. Maybe he could even scare the Ballet School munchkins into dancing. For the rest, the Cupid is still there (another titbit for Carabosse), but I record that Balanchine made his first stage appearance in Beauty as a child Cupid at the Mariinsky - though the sensible management kept him in a cage."

It is clear to me that he does this to get a rise out of people. As much as I love to see children dancing-- Its one of the reasons I prefer Balanchine's Nutcracker to any of the others-- I have to admit I find his curmudgeonly humor funny.

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I think one of the wonderful things about Balanchine's work for children is he treated them as dancers first, just small ones :) Even though he had been quoted as saying by having children in ballets you have a built-in audience, his choreography never has them just simper and act out. I haven't seen the Royal's new Sleeping Beauty, but many of the objections to the Cupid is that the character distracts from the ballet and also takes away from the Lilac Fairy's role as a mistress of ceremonies. In addition, the cupid Balanchine played came on at the end of the ballet. He did not scamper about throughout the entire ballet.

I think Crisp is fun. His notions and style of writing were formed at a time before political correctness. When he jokes about the children in the ballet, it is with an exaggeration many have used. But I'm sure it is not to be taken literally. It's like when a parent says, "Oh, I'm going to kill that kid when I get my hands on him!" About 99 percent of the time, the parent is just using that phrase as a figure of speech out of frustration.

And I have to say I'm pleased that adjustments have been made to the Sleeping Beauty and that the critics are going back for another look.

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Originally posted by Mark D

...It is clear to me that he does this to get a rise out of people."

Oh, I don't think so. I think he truly doesn't like child performers. (I'm not mad for them myself. I also don't like them in the audience. This doesn't mean I don't like children, it just means I think there is a time and a place for them, including my own.) He's also really excellent on jesters.

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I take Crisp as being self-consciously curmudgeonly. As for children in ballet, I hold them to the same standard I keep for adults (and near-adults). I hate seeing them oversentimenalized. I hate when they are underrehearsed (as I'm sure they do to) or exploited for their cuteness (a self-defeating effort as far as I'm concerned). I love when they're well trained, musical and open to spontenaiety. It's the damn cooing from the audience at the mere appearance of these very short dancers -- so condescending! -- that sets my jaw. :)

[Okay to say "damn" on these boards, Alexandra?]

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i'm a Crisp fan too, marc - and i like that phrase "self-consciously curmudgeonly" - a quality the english are best at.

i met clement once, in the opera house bar, but would never have been gauche enough to act like a 'fan', then.

NOW, i might! - ;) :)

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