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Ask The New York Times Arts Editor

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Wow, well, you've excited me, and so I sent the following:

Dear Mr. Sifton:

Since you asked.........

The question that is most urgent for me about the culture section is the following: why in the world did you hire John Rockwell, an excellent MUSIC critic, to be the principal DANCE critic. He freely admitted that his only experience in the field was a few classes at Anna Halperin's studio in San Francisco, back in the days when she was (and we all were) going through a very reactive phase -- and rejected all dance history, training, and systems.

I am an unabashed "Balanchine-o-maniac," a volunteer with NYCB. While not a dancer myself, I have been carefully watching the Company for over 20 years, plus a few when I was a child. I find Mr. Rockwell's commentaries without true enthusiasm for the art form, a grounding in ballet or dance history, or a deep familiarity with the repertory of NYCB, ABT and other major companies. I was surprised to read, early in his tenure, that he is familiar with several forms of Indian classical dance (as I am), but again, his experience does not run very deep.

I've always enjoyed Jennifer Dunning, and tolerated Jack Anderson (now and then -- but all he does is tell us the "story" of the dance he has seen), and Gia Kourlas seems to have a good understanding of the form. Anna Kisselgoff, on the other hand, has none of these deficiencies, is extremely familiar with dance history, present and past, and very clearly loves the form. Now, it's true, she may have wanted to lighten her load at this time in her life, but did you have to put her out to pasture, and leave us with this ......., this......., I just can't say it.

Thank you for letting me express my feelings on this issue.


(I edited this a bit here, and of course should have had more patience and edited it when I sent it originally.)

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I agree with much of what you said/asked, ViolinConcerto, except for all his shortcomings, I still prefer Rockwell over (the admittedly more ballet-savvy) Kisselgoff. Maybe over Anderson as well.

But reading Sifton's too-cute-by-half replies to earlier questioners, I wonder whether it's worth it. Hello, we're The New York Times, and you're NOT!

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I read through the thread on the NY Times. In every instance, the editor's response basically was "you're wrong, we're right." There never was one time when he wrote "you know, we'll look into that" or "you have a point" or even "yeah, I know, but it's not possible for us to do that." Oh, well.

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