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April/May issue of Pointe

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I received it in the mail awhile back, and I was flipping through it again just yesterday and read this in one of the articles on music that I had passed up before:

Yet another view comes from teachers who think that music isn't that important.  If fact, George Balanchine was reported to have said, "Make your own music," encouraging dancers to focus on the physicality of movement rather than the musicality.

This obviously came as quite a shock. I doubt sincerely, when (or if) he said that, it was meant in that context. What do you think Balanchine was trying to say?

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I don't know the circumstances under which he may have said something like that, but I'll bet that it had to do with a certain group of dancers, in a certain ballet. The danger of taking "sound bites" out of context is very dangerous. "There are no mothers-in-law in ballet" is another alleged Balanchine quote. The original, verbatim, came in a discussion of mime. "It is very difficult to express, say, your mother-in-law in classical mime." Rather a different statement!

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Mr. Johnson, I don't think the writer was speaking of any single ballet in particular- it was an article on "musical awareness"- or maybe s/he didn't know or care much for Balanchine. Now, in the issue that came in today, there is something entirely opposite of what was stated (coming from a different writer, though):

This style- stemming directly from Balanchine's teachings and choreography- is easily recognized by the interesting use of musicality...

I have to wonder if comments like the first one are just to add volume.

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This is a bit off topic, but Alexandra's post above points up a question I have had for years.

Does anything get edited by anyone anymore? I realize that formulation of the question is too extreme, but it is the way that it seems when reading almost anything.

I am posting this here since many of the contributors to BalletTalk are writers, editors or both and may have an insider's perspective.

I may be oversensitive to it for a few reasons--one is that I have read the "New Yorker" for about 35 years so can remember what excellent editing was. And of course, based on the memoirs of writers from earlier periods, by the time I was reading it the editing had collapsed compared to 35 years before that. I assume that part of that must be due to writers getting back at editors.

Another reason is that I have worked in a part of the typesetting and printing industry in which every comma had to be in the right place, every column of numbers correctly aligned and every word spelled correctly. Sentences must make sense at least to the expected audience.

Some books are published by reputable houses (even if the houses are owned by multi-national media companies) that read as if they were uncorrected galleys. Magazines often read as if the articles were put through some type of auto-edit function, but not even looked at by human editors.

Part of it is due to technology--spell checking means you don't need proofreaders, for example. Part to the structure of the publishing business--the need to do everything more cheaply than before. Part is the rise of the internet---to the perceived need to compete on the basis of speed.

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Books certainly don't get edited, I can say from my own experience. I asked several friends and colleagues to read my manuscript, and each offered very helpful suggestions, but that's not the same as having someone knowledgeable about the subject saying, "you need to explain this further, you need to cut this, we need to know more/less about that," etc. Much less if something needs structural help.

The typo problem is lack of labor -- things used to be read dozens of times. Now they're read twice, it seems, and corrections are made the second time, which need to be made on the galleys, and it's at this stage that the army of proofreaders once moved in -- checking corrections against edited copy, then just checking for typos. With computer editing -- as all of us know from editing our posts -- the most common error is not taking out an entire phrase, so that the old, erroneous/changed phrase is still there, right next to the change.

The kind of editing that would have caught or questioned the statement above falls into a different category, though. You have to have people who know something about the subject. I would ask a writer who had submitted that piece -- assuming there was something else of value in the piece -- "What do you mean? Tell me what you know about Balanchine's musicality and how it's regarded." If I didn't get a satisfactory answer I'd change it -- or kill the piece, because it would make me suspect that nothing in the article could be trusted.

I thought of this a few weeks ago when one "critic" wrote about that great Balanchine ballet, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." There are errors and there are errors -- that one isn't tolerable and anyone who has a job editing an arts page should be able to catch it. Hell, the copy desk should be able to catch it.

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With no disrespect to Pointe

it's like the "Teen Beat" of ballet mags.

In New York Magazine a couple of weeks ago, they had in the listings section (the Go See) ABT's debut ballets for the season and then promptly listed NYCB's opening night program, complete with choreographers names and ballet titles.

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True, but so many dance students read it, and they don't know this -- I'm sure they trust it. To have kids think this about Balanchine is frightening -- I don't have the magazine and so can't read the whole article. I hope anyone who does, if you are bothered by this quote, will write a letter.

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As one who edits for a living, my experience has been that, since the mid-nineties at least, publishers have been decreasingly concerned with line and sense editing and increasingly concerned with maximizing profits. Human resources constitute most publishers' biggest expense, and the temptation to cut staff and refocus the remaining editors' work from ensuring quality to churning it out as efficiently as possible has been overwhelming, at least in the portion of the industry in which I work (professional publishing).

The disappearance of small publishers, whether independent or under the wing of a benign parent, and the merger & acquisition mania among publishers, has played a large part in this. My own company is an example. The office I work in was originally a small, independent publisher that focused on certain special interest areas and concentrated on giving its customers exactly what they wanted. The subscribers knew that they could rely on these publications to be accurate, well written, comprehensive, and trustworthy, and it was the editors who ensured this. Five years ago the company was bought by a large publisher whose concern is profit, profit, and profit. There is great pressure to avoid spending too much time on silly things like editing. We're told to make one of only two decisions when a new manuscript comes in: is it publishable or not? If not (and this decision is discouraged), you must send it back to the author with comments, but we are instructed not to spend too much time telling the author how to do his job. If the author isn't coming through, we should drop him.

You mention your experience in typesetting and printing, Ed. Now that computers have replaced the old methods, I think there's less of a sense that we're dealing with words and more that we're producing widgets.

The Internet has something to answer for, too. Casual communication (like e-mail and message boards :D ) has accustomed us to carelessness in spelling and grammar. When I was growing up, I expected that anything in print was grammatically and stylistically correct; I learned spelling by looking at a misspelled word and realizing that it looked different from the way I was used to seeing it. Nowadays, kids don't have any foundations on which to rely. Just last night I passed a distinguished repertory theater (that specializes in Shakespeare, for cripe's sake) and saw a prominent typo on one of their billboards. This carelessness implies that words, that expression, that writing don't matter.

I think I'll creak my way over to the rocking chair right now . . .

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Originally posted by Alexandra

I hope anyone who does, if you are bothered by this quote, will write a letter.

I plan to, and I agree with Calliope about it being a "teen" magazine. I only send for it because of the pictures. The new issue came out with a lovely poster of Jenifer Ringer.:D

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I also look at Pointe mostly for the pictures, which are indeed gorgeous!

(Re: Playboy, I don't think the guys were being entirely disingenuous. It's been a long time since I looked it, but once upon a time H. Hefner did aspire to give the magazine broader appeal, as it were, and there were some interesting articles in it. However, they never shoved aside the good old T&A. :D)

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Mel, that's a glitch caused by Pagemaker software, which is now used by many magazines. If you hyphenate a word at the end of a line, and then, in editing, change the line endings, it's supposed to be a "discretionary hyphen," i.e., it magically unhyphenates. Only it doesn't. The hyphen stays. So you have to read the copy again -- and, make a change, another hyphen pops up. This has been a problem with version 4.2, released in the '90s, and I think they're up to version 7.1 now, and it's still there!

OT, but hopefully helpful :D

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