Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Bite into NYCB

UPDATED: See Tonya's take on the article, and some more very insightful comments after this post.

Wow, Alastair was really harsh with this one. Whether you agree or not with everything he says, it boggles me that one person can have the power to say these things in basically the one print medium dance criticism has left. Ouch.


Anonymous said...

I don't know--I used to make it a point to see City Ballet whenever I was in New York but the experience so frequently was frustrating and disappointing that some years ago I just stopped. I don't see a problem with taking an organization that consumes such a vast proportion of all-too-limited arts funding resources to task if they consistently show they're using the money to fund complacency. IMHO.

Anonymous said...

The article points out many valid issues but as usual he ruins it with his sniping attacks on dancers he doesn't like. This is just a re-hash of stuff he's been saying for the past few seasons. I find it interesting that someone gets paid to keep recycling the same thoughts. It's no wonder fewer and fewer people read the TIMES. I in fact never read it, but my partner graciously read the article to me. He finds Alastair amusing, especially when he is salivating in print over David Hallberg.

Trailerpilot, City Ballet have some very interesting and exciting dancers coming up the ranks now. As with all dance, operatic and theatrical companies they have their good and mediocre nights. Those of us who go often find the dancers and rep to be generally satisfying and often impressive. Dancers like Sara Mearns, Ashley Bouder, the Angle brothers, Andrew Veyette and Daniel Ulbricht are are among the more interesting personalities. The older dancers that Macaulay chides dance rarely and seldom are given anything beyond their late-career capacities. And even they are sometimes capable of something quite fine. He has a personal dislike for a couple of the younger ballerinas but the public seem to like them, judging from the applause they received at the final two performances of the Winter season which has just ended.

Anonymous said...


If it makes you feel any better, the NYTimes is HURTING financially. They'll soon lose their beautiful new building (hubris?)and, more damning, have to start charging for online content. When that happens you (and other dance bloggers) will be capturing all of Mr. Macauley's readers. Post more often and you'll see what I mean.

That being said, he was perhaps a little irresponsible not to disclose the salaries of the positions in question. My guess is that he doesn't know the numbers. It's easy to work people into a lather when you don't have specifics.

I think I understand Peter Martins' thinking a little. When you fire corps de ballet dancers they are usually young enough to go out and find other work. When Nilas (and Yvonne -- prediction) get fired, that'll be the end of their careers.

Another point: Does Macauley really know what kind of contributions Nilas makes behind the scenes? With all his world travelling, my guess is 'no.'

Mr. Pilot, I happen to think City Ballet is a very good way to spend $20 million a year in gov. money. More importantly, gov. does too. (One cannot argue for increased spending on the arts and then complain about the inefficiencies with which it is dispersed. That my friend, is the nature of the beast.) I suppose the size of the award also representts an economies of scale issue. NYCB services a much bigger audience and provides much more programming than smaller organizations.

Cheers, NDB

Anonymous said...

What I loathe about Alastair's putdowns of individual ballerinas is that he isn't content to dress them down in print just once but keeps coming back at them, over and over, as if to demoralize them and drive them from the stage--I'm thinking particularly of his near-obsessive harping on Abi Stafford and (especially) Wendy Whelan. The knocks on Darci are a way of getting at Peter Martins and also reflect the continuing disappointment/bitterness of the Arlettes that Darci was never the dancer she might have been.

Alastair camouflages his vindictiveness with an urbane, British chattiness that still leaves too many dancegoers and Times readers conned.

But I think we can all agree Janie Taylor had a wonderful season; Sara Mearns too.

--James Wolcott

Taylor said...

Thank you all for such insightful comments! I want to post more in depth about some of this later this week when I get a moment...definitely a lot to think about...

Anonymous said...

Natalie, in the past year at my blog I have been getting more and more readers. Normally a good day would be 400 I always top 800 and in the past week have passed 1000 on 3 days. Today it's over 1100. I do think dance buffs surf the blogs looking for other viewpoints, or a simple change of tone and style.

Yesterday at the ballet I was talking with a number of the regular NYCB-goers and found that they either don't read Alastair any more or they skimmed the article and dismissed it as same-old-same-old. If ballet-lovers and patrons are not reading his articles, who is?

This is not to say that Macaulay is 'wrong' about everything but simply harping on his pet complaints really does no one any good.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree, Philip. I actually know a number of knowledgable dance enthusiasts who have stopped reading the Times because of Macauley. (The other critics they don't even bother with.) That begs the questions . . . who does read him?

I think the only people who take seriously what he or anyone else at the Times writes are choreographers. Again, online appears to me an even better medium for getting feedback. For one thing, it's faster.(Incidentally, reviews seem to have no impact on attendance and ticket sales.)

If dance reviews are written well they can attract a broader audience. That requires a lot more time and thought and is perhaps best left to a weekly or monthly publication. My prediction? You'll see daily arts coverage at all newspapers go to blog format where it can target its specialized audience. More general interest, broader arts stories will appear in the associated monthly magazines.

BTW, I personally think Rockwell marked the low point at the Times.

Philip, I'm super impressed by your stats. Shouldn't you be selling advertising by now?

Jennifer said...

taylor, i completely agree with you. one a very superficial level, i can see how macaulay's critiques could be called "funny" and make his readers laugh--however, if you think that what he is writing about are ballet dancers who are the best in their field... can you imagine what they must think when they read what he writes, and like everyone else said--macaulay's sounding like a broken record.