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Ray

Tharp's The Times They Are A-Changin’

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No comment from anyone here on the SCATHING review in the Times on Tharp's Dylan musical? Those theater critics are pretty good at being mean!

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This is indeed a scathing review. (Quick! Get me my thesaurus! I need a word even more extreme that "scathing"!)

For those who want to read it, here's a LINK: http://theater2.nytimes.com/2006/10/27/the...=rssnyt&emc=rss

For example:

If you happen to be among the masochists who make a habit of attending the entertainments called jukebox musicals, in which pop hits are beaten up by singing robots, you may think you’ve seen it all: the neutering of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys in “Good Vibrations,” the canonizing (and shrinking) of John Lennon as a misunderstood angel-child in “Lennon,” and the forcible transformation of Johnny Cash from Man in Black to Sunshine Cowboy in “Ring of Fire.”

But even these spectacles of torture with a smile, frightening though they may be, are but bagatelles compared with the systematic steamrolling of Bob Dylan that occurs in “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” which opened last night at the Brooks Atkinson Theater.

To echo Ray's request: any comments?

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This is indeed a scathing review. (Quick! Get me my thesaurus! I need a word even more extreme that "scathing"!) For those who want to read it, here's a LINK: http://theater2.nytimes.com/2006/10/27/the...=rssnyt&emc=rss

For example:

If you happen to be among the masochists who make a habit of attending the entertainments called jukebox musicals..........
To echo Ray's request: any comments?

Well, there was an almost identical review in one of NY's freebie papers, "AM." I saw it and noted that I would wait until the Times came out. Ooops!

The opening followed an interesting profile in the NY Times, by Alex Witchel. She's a talented and brave woman, Twyla Tharp, and wise enough to not look to critics for her validation. She's had flops as well as hits before. So does everyone. I look forward to reading reviews by dance critics.

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This is indeed a scathing review. (Quick! Get me my thesaurus! I need a word even more extreme that "scathing"!)

How about excoriating? But I do like scathing. I like reviews to say what they mean and reviewers to really mean what they say.

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The opening followed an interesting profile in the NY Times, by Alex Witchel. She's a talented and brave woman, Twyla Tharp, and wise enough to not look to critics for her validation. She's had flops as well as hits before. So does everyone. I look forward to reading reviews by dance critics.

I was interested in the comments on this article (in the online edition of the Times) several of which felt that the author kept avoiding Tharp's desire to talk about her new work, in favor of pushing her for more personal details she did not wish to discuss.

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I was interested in the comments on this article (in the online edition of the Times) several of which felt that the author kept avoiding Tharp's desire to talk about her new work, in favor of pushing her for more personal details she did not wish to discuss.

Giving an interview to a reporter. is, when you have a new work being premiered, a marketing opportunity.

Any performing or creative artist of stature should via their press officer/agent etc set the ground rules for interviews. If they are not met and you are not happy, you have the opportunity to leave. Miss Tharp may or may not observe the dictum (we don't know),

" that there is no such thing as bad publicity as long as they spell your name right."

In the end, reporters will always write according to the editorial style that their editors require. It was after all only printed in a newspaper.

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profile in the NY Times, by Alex Witchel. She's a talented and brave woman, Twyla Tharp, and wise enough to not look to critics for her validation. She's had flops as well as hits before. So does everyone. I look forward to reading reviews by dance critics.

Let's be honest, though: do you know of any performer, creator, dance co. director, or presenter who reads a bad review and then says, "Gee, maybe I should think about what this critic said and go back to the work and fix it"? In my admittedly narrow experience, they seem only to like the critics who praise them *unconditionally*; all the rest "don't understand what we're doing" or "don't know what they're talking about," etc. So while Tharp may be notable for not looking to critics to validate her, do you think creators/presenters/performers ever take negative criticism well, i.e., constructively?

Trying to provoke, as ever...

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Speaking from experience on both sides of this fence, it's either a bouquet or a brick. It's why writers should not engage in a dialogue with the artists - only with the audience/reader. It's valid for critics to say what they think is right or wrong with a work, but offering suggestions is pointless; they aren't taken nor appreciated (and they shouldn't be.) I have, however, seen a few dancers that are much more interested in reviews and criticism as feedback and a tool to develop their performances.

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It may very well maybe that the critics are right. Sometimes a bad review is just a bad review.

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I do think Alex Witchel gets the balance right.

Bark, bark. You get the idea. But it is probably time to say this: There was not a person in that theater, including the 19 performers, musicians and production staff, who did not admire Tharp. Those new to her are scared of her, those used to her are over her, because they know that behind the barking lies a devotion to them, to the work — always, always the work — that is religious in its fervor. Yes, she is a control freak, a perfectionist, a zealot in forming a vision and stopping at nothing to see it realized. But when it is realized, when her dances are good-better-best, flying off the stage like some biblical fire on a mountaintop, there is nothing in the world like them. Twenty-three years ago, Robert Joffrey said that Tharp’s work “didn’t look like anyone else’s.” It still doesn’t.
A complicated person ... a great artist. The "story," for me, does (and should) lie in the interaction of the two.

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Let's be honest, though: do you know of any performer, creator, dance co. director, or presenter who reads a bad review and then says, "Gee, maybe I should think about what this critic said and go back to the work and fix it"? In my admittedly narrow experience, they seem only to like the critics who praise them *unconditionally*; all the rest "don't understand what we're doing" or "don't know what they're talking about," etc. So while Tharp may be notable for not looking to critics to validate her, do you think creators/presenters/performers ever take negative criticism well, i.e., constructively?

Trying to provoke, as ever...

I should have said "self validation." it takes a tough shell to not crack from that kind of pounding. A successful artist has to have it (or they wouldn't end up being successful). I know an artist doesn't take "direction" from a critic.

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It may very well maybe that the critics are right. Sometimes a bad review is just a bad review.

Although I haven't followed his criticism too closely for a few years now, I used to find Ben Brantley to be a pretty fair writer, I used to like to read his reviews (and hear capsule versions on WQXR as I drove to work)

So he may be calling it fairly as he sees it, as Dale pretty much puts it. But he also may be a bit burned out.

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I've been thinking about this:

I have, however, seen a few dancers that are much more interested in reviews and criticism as feedback and a tool to develop their performances.
I was wondering whether people think this is a good idea.

For each dancer who benefits from evaluating reviews of his/her performance, is there also one who is somehow crippled by it? At one point in my work life, when I was "performing" before groups of people (in a very non-artistic field), I was occasionally so concerned about and responsive to people's suggestions and criticisms that I found myself losing my own style and voice. It took a lot of effort to turn this around.

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I have, however, seen a few dancers that are much more interested in reviews and criticism as feedback and a tool to develop their performances.
I was wondering whether people think this is a good idea.
I know I posted this earlier on another thread, and while it is strictly anecdotal and far from a statistically siginificant sampling, it is very relevant to your wondering, bart.

A dancer I knew was once asked about a her reaction to a rough review. She replied, "Oh, I never pay attention to the reviews. I know that whatever I do, Kisselgoff won't like it and Dunning will."

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I have, however, seen a few dancers that are much more interested in reviews and criticism as feedback and a tool to develop their performances.
I was wondering whether people think this is a good idea.
I know I posted this earlier on another thread, and while it is strictly anecdotal and far from a statistically siginificant sampling, it is very relevant to your wondering, bart.

A dancer I knew was once asked about a her reaction to a rough review. She replied, "Oh, I never pay attention to the reviews. I know that whatever I do, Kisselgoff won't like it and Dunning will."

What *bothers* me, though, is the polarized nature of the response: "she likes me" or "she hates me." And Leigh, I wonder if you could elaborate on the assumptions behind your statement:

"offering suggestions is pointless; they aren't taken nor appreciated (and they shouldn't be.)"

Why/why not? Never ever? Sometimes, it's sad to say, critics just point out the elephant in the room...

Ray

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I'm sure there's some exception, but I'd say no. A review should assess the production as well as report, talking about its strengths and weaknesses, but the main point of what I said is that the dialogue is not with the artist. If a writer wants that, call the artist up or write a letter. A review is for the reader and audience.

Also, the writer isn't privy to the process behind a work; his/her reasoning is only an educated guess. S/he doesn't know who should have been fired but couldn't be, or who had flu, or who missed a crucial rehearsal because her mother died, or any of a hundred other factors that mattered significantly to the artists, but shouldn't matter to the audience.

To enter into a dialogue with the artist, one also needs to know clearly the artist's intentions - for example, was the dance supposed to be satiric or taken literally? It's the job of the dance writer to report to the reader what the audience saw and what was on the stage. It's something I've tried to eliminate from my own reviews because it's a natural impulse for me having been on both sides of the fence. It skews a review strangely when it seems more meant for the artists than the audience.

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I'd like to second what Leigh said above -- a review is about the dance in the theater at the time it's performed. It's about what the critic (and the audience they sat with) saw at that time in that place. Your knowledge of the work, the artist, the company, the whatever -- might amplify your ability to see, but what you are seeing remains the focus. You have to talk about the dance that is there, not the myriad other dances that might have been.

Previews and features are about the dance in the choreographer's head -- reviews are about the dance in the theater.

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Joan Acocella has written one of her very well-considered, well-written reviews of Tharp's piece in the new New Yorker. Here is the link: http://www.newyorker.com/critics/dancing/

She seems to think that one reason the production failed is a mis-match in point-of-view/gestalt/outlook/where they came from:

For “Movin’ Out,” Tharp approached Billy Joel, and you can see why—same teens, same cars. “The Times,” on the other hand, was Dylan’s idea. He approached Tharp. She should have said no.

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I agree with you totally. Violin COncerto -- I'd just back you up by adding the rest of the paragraph:

"Though they are the same age—sixty-five—[Tharp] belongs to the sock-hop generation of the late fifties and early sixties. On the evidence of her dances, her idea of teen rebellion is hot rods and hormones, jitterbug and juvie, the world of “Rock Around the Clock.” Dylan belongs to the real sixties, to sit-ins and drugs and apocalypticism, the world of—what? Of him. Tharp never had any politics to speak of. (Marcia Siegel’s recent book on her, “Howling Near Heaven” says that her political sympathies, if anything, lean right.) When a serious artist produces a dud, a lot of energy can be spent trying to figure out why, but sometimes the reason is just that the artist took on the wrong subject, and later realized this, and couldn’t back out, and ended up having to fake something.

I have to say, the phrase "the REAL sixties" seems to me journalistic genius, she's nailed it: I'm sure I'm going to be using that phrase a lot in the future. Acocella is a REALLY smart woman.

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"Though they are the same age—sixty-five—[Tharp] belongs to the sock-hop generation of the late fifties and early sixties. On the evidence of her dances, her idea of teen rebellion is hot rods and hormones, jitterbug and juvie, the world of “Rock Around the Clock.”
Exactly! I share a birth year (and month) with Tharp and can testify that this was a period of enormously fast transitions in pop culture and youth behavior. '63-'64 changed that world. We actually had a lot of choices. It was even possible to keep one foot solidly in the preppy '50s -- and without any irony whatsoever. :wink:

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