Friday, May 2, 2008

let's be critical

From a dancer's stand point, I can't believe today's review of NYCB from Macaulay!

Read it here.

He bashes all of the wonderful dancers but pretends to sugar coat it by giving a half compliment first, before tearing them apart. Is that necessary?

"Wendy Whelan’s upper body was a nightmare of inelegance..."
"Daniel Ulbricht, whose amazing elevation and spruce timing often excite, just as his unrefined line often dismays..."
"Tiler so bold and strong that I wish she didn’t also seem hard-boiled..."

He goes on with naming and criticizing like 5 other dancers in the space of one review.

I feel like this kind of critical response should be reserved for the artistic director and ballet masters, not for the general public's reading. It's getting personal and it's fine if he feels that way and even if some of his arguments are valid, detailing such things in print is just like a child running off a list of annoyances about his friends. You know he'll keep going back with a smiling face and pretend nothing happened, so why bother hurting them publicly like that? If it's to "help the art form improve by criticizing it" that's all well and good, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty like that, just tell them in person in a rehearsal rather than subjecting the few of us left who read dance criticism to a petty bashing.

Rant over :)

1 comment:

Philip said...

I received so many e-mails today from people who were dismayed by Macaulay's review of the all-Balanchine programme. He is of course perfectly entitled to find fault with individual dancers but his attacks are too mean-spirited and personal. In a review of such limited space why waste words on someone you dislike? Simply don't write about them at all; they will realize (if they bother to read reviews) that they didn't make a good impression on the writer.

As we've been seeing and discussing, dwindling readership of print dailies and periodicals seems to be starting to put dance writers out of their jobs. When someone like Macaulay wastes space dumping ungraciously on people, you wonder why the NY TIMES bothers to keep reviewers on the payroll. And anyone who wanted to know how the evening went could have read about it on the blogs 24+ hours before the TIMES item appeared.

There are so many ways to express reservations about an evening of dance without getting cruel. Perhaps the writers feel they have an obligation to uphold some sort of 'standards' they have created in their minds but do they think honestly that people like Peter Martins, Sara Leland, Merrill Ashley, Jean-Pierre Frohlich, Karin von Aroldingen and Sean Lavery sit around making bad coaching and casting decisions night after night?

What purpose is served by writing such unkind words? If anyone still relies on print-media reviews to decide whether they should go to a performance or not, they may feel discouraged. Readers who like the Company and have enjoyed the performance will merely feel annoyed. The dancers who have been attacked will feel embarrassed to have been publicly maligned. Only the writer can feel some satisfaction with himself in having written off the dancers' efforts without making truly constructive remarks about how they could win his approval - short of retiring.

I am reminded of what Vaslav Nijinsky said: "Critics always feel they are cleverer than the artists."