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Joan Acocella's new book


dirac

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When you consider that Mr. B. lost his family at age 9, the same age as Ms. Farrell's when her family structure changed, it is only a matter of time till Ms. Acocella is criticised for not including a numero(il)logical analysis of the number 9 as it relates to the creative process.

I really do enjoy most of her writings for the visual descriptions she gives, and for the emotional impact she describes. It really isn't hard to distinguish these from the general conclusions she makes. Hyperbole is not literal, but a way to convey true enthusiasm. Who needs bored critics? Would that the Newspaper of Record had such a critic.

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"....if for no other reason than the fact that their mash notes may be hurled down from the heavens as thunderbolts of authority."

Please. What makes a critic influential is how well s/he writes. By "well," I mean vividly. Gautier is by today's standards a sexist and an elitist, but his pictures of hte dancers of his day are STILL influential becaue he wrote with the power of a poet. If he were WRONG, how could we know? He's still the best dance critic ever. He was widely read at the time, enormously influential, and poetic enough to have had a shaping hand in the genesis of "Giselle."

Lobenthal is a very smart man, a really knowledgeable critic, a very interesting mind. I hope he will write his own essay about Balanchine's ballerinas and their father issues. He may be onto something; Danilova, sure; Geva, Tallchief, Leclerq?.... Kirkland? hmmm. He should write it.

But hardly any critic writing in English today about anything writes better than Joan Acocella. She is unsurpassed mistress (should I say master? I'm willing) of English idiom. She writes unmisunderstandably, as a result of which her audience will be potentially as large as the world of people who'll read anything so long as it's intelligible -- furthermore, she picks her battles shrewdly and is fighting on hte side of the angels. She's likely to be read a hundred years from now (as are Croce and Denby) because she writes well enough for it to be "dulce et utile" to read her.

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But hardly any critic writing in English today about anything writes better than Joan Acocella. She is unsurpassed mistress (should I say master? I'm willing) of English idiom. She writes unmisunderstandably, as a result of which her audience will be potentially as large as the world of people who'll read anything so long as it's intelligible -- furthermore, she picks her battles shrewdly and is fighting on hte side of the angels. She's likely to be read a hundred years from now (as are Croce and Denby) because she writes well enough for it to be "dulce et utile" to read her.

I beg to differ; there are dozens of book, music, film, and theater critics I'd much rather read--who manage to provide insight and cultural context, and raise provocative questions about even those whom they revere. And in the dance world it's certainly a small pool. This makes me very sad because I want better stuff about an art I care alot about.

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Can we distinguish between two different genres here – one an analysis of an artist’s performance and the other a profile of that artist as a person?

Another person saying thanks for this distinction.

I've been mulling this over as the thread has progressed, and I think one of the difficulties that people are having is based in the physical nature of the art form. Some literary critics seek clues in the life of the author that might illuminate the book, and clues in the book that might illuminate the life of the author. But this is certainly not the only way to approach the book, or the author. In dance, the two elements are housed in the same body, and our responses to the work are felt in our own bodies -- it gets very personal very fast, and it's tricky to detach what they do from who they are, and both of those from how we feel about it. When I write about dance I have to perform this parlor trick, and it can be quite difficult, especially in modern dances where the tradition of personal expression makes you assume that all works are designed to be revelatory.

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Can we distinguish between two different genres here – one an analysis of an artist’s performance and the other a profile of that artist as a person?

Another person saying thanks for this distinction.

I've been mulling this over as the thread has progressed, and I think one of the difficulties that people are having is based in the physical nature of the art form. Some literary critics seek clues in the life of the author that might illuminate the book, and clues in the book that might illuminate the life of the author. But this is certainly not the only way to approach the book, or the author. and it can be quite difficult, especially in modern dances where the tradition of personal expression makes you assume that all works are designed to be revelatory.

I agree that it's a useful distinction - as long as it's not hard and fast. Acocella's profile told us about Farrell as a person and an artist. I wouldn't bring in biography if I were writing a daily review of an artist in performance, but for a deeper analysis I might very well import the personal if I thought it was appropriate.

In dance, the two elements are housed in the same body, and our responses to the work are felt in our own bodies -- it gets very personal very fast, and it's tricky to detach what they do from who they are, and both of those from how we feel about it.

That's so true. There are no performers so exposed as dancers, not even actors on stage, who have their characters to play. Dancers have choreography, which is not the same.

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I just picked up this book yesterday from Borders. I will withhold my opinion thus far until I've gotten a little farther.

The August issue of Dance Magazine features the book in its recommendation section along with Before, Between and Beyond: Three Decades of Dance Writing by Sally Barnes and Landscape with Moving Figures: A Decade on Dance by Laura Jacobs.

Here is the Entertainment Weekly book review on Acocella.

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20011339,00.html

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It is difficult to imagine dance being as great a theater art in America sans the greatest male and female dancers ever.

I am absolutely staggered by such an assertion. Not so IMHO, nor would I think would all of the contributors and readers of ballettalk agree. These dancers appeared at a time when the marketing of dancers as celebrities seriously hit the media and one needs to take that into account as regards their fame.

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