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Macaulay on ABT 2018 Met season

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Posted (edited)

Now that Alastair Macaulay has published his first big piece on this year's ABT Met performances — a "critic's notebook" on Giselle — I thought it might be interesting to open a discussion on his coverage this season.

Reading the article, I was struck by the degree to which he sounded at times like a director "giving notes"; the dancers, if they were so inclined, could read this to learn exactly what tweaks Macaulay thinks they should make to their performances — or even to their physical appearances.

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A fraction more eye makeup and greater use of dynamic contrasts might make her project twice as powerfully.

This is nothing particularly new from him, I realize. But this particular article seemed structured largely as a series of suggestions for the dancers, with paragraphs on Osipova, Hallberg, Lane, Simkin, Cornejo & Copeland, and Whiteside & Boylston. Macaulay, I suspect, does not share the memorably stated opinion of another prominent dance critic (though I forget which! — anyone recall?) that dancers should not shape their performances to critics' desires.

I was also curious about this sentence in the paragraph partly on Misty Copeland:

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Since she’s now among the biggest names in world ballet, it’s refreshing to see how unspoiled she is; but I wish her dancing had more sheer authority.

Any thoughts on what he might mean by unspoiled? What would the opposite of that be? (Obviously, spoiled — but in which particular sense?)

Edited by nanushka

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Macaulay is a vocal opponent of the kind of grand diva Russian ballerina mannerisms. I think what he means is that Misty's dancing doesn't have those mannerisms. 

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3 minutes ago, canbelto said:

Macaulay is a vocal opponent of the kind of grand diva Russian ballerina mannerisms. I think what he means is that Misty's dancing doesn't have those mannerisms. 

Right, makes sense. I was wondering if unmannered might be a synonym for what he meant.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, nanushka said:

Now that Alastair Macaulay has published his first big piece on this year's ABT Met performances — a "critic's notebook" on Giselle — I thought it might be interesting to open a discussion on his coverage this season.

Reading the article, I was struck by the degree to which he sounded at times like a director "giving notes"; the dancers, if they were so inclined, could read this to learn exactly what tweaks Macaulay thinks they should make to their performances — or even to their physical appearances.

This is nothing particularly new from him, I realize. But this particular article seemed structured largely as a series of suggestions for the dancers, with paragraphs on Osipova, Hallberg, Lane, Simkin, Cornejo & Copeland, and Whiteside & Boylston. Macaulay, I suspect, does not share the memorably stated opinion of another prominent dance critic (though I forget which! — anyone recall?) that dancers should not shape their performances to critics' desires. (I don't think I have a particular opinion either way.)

I was also curious about this sentence in the paragraph partly on Misty Copeland:

Any thoughts on what he might mean by unspoiled? What would the opposite of that be? (Obviously, spoiled — but in which particular sense?)

I think he meant that Misty does not present any affectations and is not mannered. 

 

I was real happy that Lane and Simkin got favorable reviews.  I couldn't see them this year because I couldn't miss work. Maybe next year Lane will get an evening Giselle.  Any maybe, just maybe, she'll get a Swan Lake instead of the peasant pas!

Edited by abatt

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I wonder why he omitted the Bolle-Seo performance from last Monday. I wonder how he would "coach" Bolle...

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I guess I have a different opinion on what Macaulay means.

I think by "unspoiled" he's talking about her personally, as in she's remained humble and gracious despite her fame. I don't think he's talking about her dancing here, because "unspoiled" or "spoiled" usually refers to a person's character and also because he references her dancing immediately after that, changing the topic.

If he meant that her dancing was "unspoiled", then his sentence should have read something like: "Since she’s now among the biggest names in world ballet, it's refreshing to see how unspoiled her mannerisms are, but I wish she projected more sheer authority."

Macaulay has a habit of critiquing, or less often, praising the personal qualities of dancers, that has nothing to do with the actual dancing. How many remember the most unfortunate description he gave to Ethan Stiefel's hair and overall appearance several years ago?

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Posted (edited)
47 minutes ago, ABT Fan said:

I guess I have a different opinion on what Macaulay means.

I think by "unspoiled" he's talking about her personally, as in she's remained humble and gracious despite her fame. I don't think he's talking about her dancing here, because "unspoiled" or "spoiled" usually refers to a person's character and also because he references her dancing immediately after that, changing the topic.

If he meant that her dancing was "unspoiled", then his sentence should have read something like: "Since she’s now among the biggest names in world ballet, it's refreshing to see how unspoiled her mannerisms are, but I wish she projected more sheer authority."

Macaulay has a habit of critiquing, or less often, praising the personal qualities of dancers, that has nothing to do with the actual dancing. How many remember the most unfortunate description he gave to Ethan Stiefel's hair and overall appearance several years ago?

But how could he know anything about her personally, since he does not have a personal friendship or relationship with her.  As a critic, his remarks about each dancer relates to what they did on stage that he observed, not what they are like off stage. 

 

Edited by abatt

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1 minute ago, abatt said:

But how could he know anything about her personally, since he does not have a personal friendship or relationship with her.  As a critic, his remarks about each dancer relates to what they did on stage that he observed, not what they are like off stage. 

My guess is that he's judging her by what he's seen and read of her in interviews, in print and in video, and how she presents herself offstage. 

As a critic, his remarks should relate to someone's dancing, and only their dancing. But, he doesn't always do that. His comment years ago that Stiefel's hair made him look like a member of the Hitler Youth, had nothing to do with Stiefel's dancing (not to mention being highly offensive for many reasons).

My impression is that he isn't talking about Copeland's dancing here, but her offstage persona.

If he isn't, then using the word "unspoiled" is an odd adjective of choice to me.

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Posted (edited)
23 minutes ago, ABT Fan said:

My guess is that he's judging her by what he's seen and read of her in interviews, in print and in video, and how she presents herself offstage. 

As a critic, his remarks should relate to someone's dancing, and only their dancing. But, he doesn't always do that. His comment years ago that Stiefel's hair made him look like a member of the Hitler Youth, had nothing to do with Stiefel's dancing (not to mention being highly offensive for many reasons).

One difference, of course, is that Stiefel's hair was visible onstage as part of the performance.

(To clarify, I'm not defending the remark — just drawing a distinction.)

Edited by nanushka

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38 minutes ago, ABT Fan said:

My impression is that he isn't talking about Copeland's dancing here, but her offstage persona.

If he isn't, then using the word "unspoiled" is an odd adjective of choice to me.

In view of Macaulay's criticisms of Hallberg's dancing in the same article -- which seem to me to imply (and more than imply) that he has become more of a self-consciousl star dancer, I think it likeliest that his praise of Copeland as "unspoiled" does indeed refer to her dancing as un-mannered, which is to say, not having the excess self-consciousness that he criticizes in Hallberg, especially since the immediate follow up clause in the same sentence is clearly about her dancing (when he says that he wishes to see more authority in her dancing).  "Unspoiled" wouldn't be my choice of word, but I don't find it as odd as you do especially coming from this writer. 

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Posted (edited)
On 5/20/2018 at 6:05 PM, nanushka said:

Macaulay, I suspect, does not share the memorably stated opinion of another prominent dance critic (though I forget which! — anyone recall?) that dancers should not shape their performances to critics' desires.

I believe it was Arlene Croce. I can't provide a citation, but I recall reading it here on BA, in another forum. 

Edited by cobweb

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On 5/21/2018 at 11:02 AM, ABT Fan said:

I guess I have a different opinion on what Macaulay means.

I think by "unspoiled" he's talking about her personally, as in she's remained humble and gracious despite her fame. I don't think he's talking about her dancing here, because "unspoiled" or "spoiled" usually refers to a person's character and also because he references her dancing immediately after that, changing the topic.

If he meant that her dancing was "unspoiled", then his sentence should have read something like: "Since she’s now among the biggest names in world ballet, it's refreshing to see how unspoiled her mannerisms are, but I wish she projected more sheer authority."

Macaulay has a habit of critiquing, or less often, praising the personal qualities of dancers, that has nothing to do with the actual dancing. How many remember the most unfortunate description he gave to Ethan Stiefel's hair and overall appearance several years ago?

I'm pretty sure his comments refer to her presence on stage, not her personality.

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I took it that Macaulay's suggestions were about performing in a space as enormous as the Met and adjusting performances to that scale.

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Ballet Theater is the only company that plays this oversize opera house; as both actors and dancers, most of its performers would be suited to theaters half the size. 

and 

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A fraction more eye makeup and greater use of dynamic contrasts might make her project twice as powerfully. She’s an important dancer, but not yet a grand-scaled one — and the Met space is vast.

 

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How much more makeup can one wear than the Ratmansky Firebird?

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Just now, Vs1 said:

How much more makeup can one wear than the Ratmansky Firebird?

Macaulay's comment was in reference to Giselle, not Firebird (which hadn't yet been performed this season when he published).

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Anyone else find it odd that neither Macaulay nor anyone else at the Times reviewed Bayadere? Especially, given the fact that they had Kimin Kim and that there were multiple debuts.

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11 minutes ago, ABT Fan said:

Anyone else find it odd that neither Macaulay nor anyone else at the Times reviewed Bayadere? Especially, given the fact that they had Kimin Kim and that there were multiple debuts.

Yes, I noticed that. It's true they've cut back quite a bit, though, so perhaps with the season opener, followed by two premieres bookending Bayadère, they didn't want to do 4 weeks in a row. It's unfortunate, though.

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9 hours ago, nanushka said:

ABT fan said:

Anyone else find it odd that neither Macaulay nor anyone else at the Times reviewed Bayadere? Especially, given the fact that they had Kimin Kim and that there were multiple debuts.

nanushka said:

Yes, I noticed that. It's true they've cut back quite a bit, though, so perhaps with the season opener, followed by two premieres bookending Bayadère, they didn't want to do 4 weeks in a row. It's unfortunate, though.

I think it's odd too.  Despite cutbacks, they should at least have reviewed Lane's debut and Kimin Kim's performance.  I saw Seo, Murphy and Kim. He gave a thrilling performance as did Murphy.  Macaulay has said more than once that he dislikes ballet costumes that bare the midriff.  I say get over it!

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1 hour ago, Marta said:

I think it's odd too.  Despite cutbacks, they should at least have reviewed Lane's debut and Kimin Kim's performance.  I saw Seo, Murphy and Kim. He gave a thrilling performance as did Murphy.  Macaulay has said more than once that he dislikes ballet costumes that bare the midriff.  I say get over it!

At least ours don't have Solor bearing his!! 😂

I really really really think that is a horrific look

1 hour ago, Marta said:

I think it's odd too.  Despite cutbacks, they should at least have reviewed Lane's debut and Kimin Kim's performance.

I agree they should have reviews, but I'm not surprised. Last year was really bad re: reviews as well. So much so I tweeted at him about it. And he promptly blocked me.

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, ABT Fan said:

Anyone else find it odd that neither Macaulay nor anyone else at the Times reviewed Bayadere? Especially, given the fact that they had Kimin Kim and that there were multiple debuts.

Although there was no review in the paper, Macaulay did write about the Teuscher/Ahn performance on his public instagram account.   He saw the debut at the Wed matinee.  He had very positive  things to say about both the leads. I don't recall any mention of Gamzatti.

Correction:  He did also comment positively on Shevchenko's Gamzatti.

Edited by abatt

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22 hours ago, aurora said:
On 6/4/2018 at 11:01 PM, Marta said:

I think it's odd too.  Despite cutbacks, they should at least have reviewed Lane's debut and Kimin Kim's performance.  I saw Seo, Murphy and Kim. He gave a thrilling performance as did Murphy.  Macaulay has said more than once that he dislikes ballet costumes that bare the midriff.  I say get over it!

Aurora said:  

At least ours don't have Solor bearing his!! 😂

I really really really think that is a horrific look.

You must be referring to the Maryinsky's man-bra look?  I agree --it's bad, and laughable! 

 

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Posted (edited)

Macaulay's latest is a "Critic's Notebook" on a number of this week's R&J performances.

I've never understood what the basis is for his frequent claim that "Balletomanes care more about dancers than choreography." (He often states it as if it's not a claim at all, but a definition.)

I consider myself a balletomane, and I care deeply — and, I think, equally — about both. If his point rests on many balletomanes' obsessive interest in casting — well, casting involves two elements: a dancer, and a role. (And in ballet, a role is in large part, though not exclusively, defined by its choreography.) Personally, I care about casting because I have preferences for and interests in seeing certain dancers perform certain choreography.

Perhaps his idea is based on the known aspects of word's late-19th century usage. I don't know enough about those to say, but if that's the case he might clarify that he's using the term in a particular historical sense.

On a separate point, I raised my eyebrows at his use of the adjective crippled, then raised them higher at his subsequent use of the noun form. One doesn't often see those words used anymore in publications such as the Times. Perhaps he was evoking the time of the ballet's premiere, but his sentence did not at all make that clear to me.

Edited by nanushka

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29 minutes ago, nanushka said:

Macaulay's latest is a "Critic's Notebook" on a number of this week's R&J performances.

I've never understood what the basis is for his frequent claim that "Balletomanes care more about dancers than choreography." (He often states it as if it's not a claim at all, but a definition.)

I think ABT fans in general care more about dancers than choreography. This is from many years of observing ABT performances and talking with ABT audiences. 

It's also promoted heavily by ABT the way they announce their casting way before the season starts. 

NYCB circumvents this by announcing their casting two weeks before the actual performances. 

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Posted (edited)
3 minutes ago, canbelto said:

I think ABT fans in general care more about dancers than choreography. This is from many years of observing ABT performances and talking with ABT audiences. 

It's also promoted heavily by ABT the way they announce their casting way before the season starts.  

Based on a good number of years of the same, I disagree. I still don’t understand why an interest in casting should indicate an interest in one more than the other.

And do you mean to suggest that balletomanes and ABT fans are synonymous? Or are you making a point solely about the latter, not the former?

Edited by nanushka

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9 minutes ago, nanushka said:

Based on a good number of years of the same, I disagree. I still don’t understand why an interest in casting should indicate an interest in one more than the other.

And do you mean to suggest that balletomanes and ABT fans are synonymous? Or are you making a point solely about the latter, not the former?

I'm talking specifically about ABT fans. I say this because the audience for the 8 week Met season tends to be one that has a fairly limited knowledge of ballet choreography. I've known some who don't know much ballet beyond R&J, Swan Lake and Giselle. But their conversations have always centered around dancers. When I first started it was Nina and Julio and Alessandra, then it became Herman/David/Marcelo/Veronika/Diana, and nowadays it's Stella and Sarah and so on and so forth. 

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