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 Post subject: Re: The power of critics
PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2004 4:29 pm 
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I received some criticism for my uncomplimentary review of ‘the contract,’ which got me to thinking: “Who cares?” Posters were concerned my review may effect attendance. Let’s examine this in more detail. The contract ran 7 times over 5 days. I do not have hard statistics for ballet companies worldwide but I think it safe to assume most ticket revenues are generated by season’s ticket sales. Just how much of an impact will a bad review have on single ticket sales when most reviews are published 2 days after the performance-unless the critic rushes the review for the next day’s publication? How seriously does the public take the word of a critic? Would it effect their decision to see the ballet? How many people even read reviews on a regular basis?
:D

Some reviews are sprinkled with so much ballet terminology it can only be understood by someone who dances, coaches or has access to a ballet dictionary. Despite this review written for experts being complementary, it may actually intimidate the average fan from attending the performance.

The industry most affected by bad reviews is the movie industry. Given that a film can run for months, poor reviews could certainly have an impact. Admittedly some movies are so horrible, you half expect to be given a DVD of the movie as you leave the theatre! The faster the DVD release, the worse the movie!! I could provide a veritable plethora of examples where a movie was panned by critics, yet went on to great success by word-of-mouth alone. One that sticks in my mind is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Taste is very personal. ;)

I just had to get the above out of my system or I was going to burst! Hence, I have dredged this topic deep from within the very bowels of CriticalDance history.

:p Does James Kudelka read CriticalDance?

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 Post subject: Re: The power of critics
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2005 2:03 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Focus on Careers in Dance - Critics
By Katie Bartlett For Dancing Times

It is the critic’s job to present an evaluation of a piece of work through a fusion of descriptive, interpretative and contextual analysis, and based on extensive subject knowledge. The dance critic has the added complexity of using language as the tool to bring performance back to its original form – that is, a visual image – and it’s not an easy task. Nevertheless, there are an abundance of established critics across the breadth of the arts, and plenty more who are desperate to get a foot in the door. I spoke to dance critic for The Independent, Zoë Anderson, to get the low-down on the profession…

click for more


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 Post subject: Re: The power of critics
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2005 10:44 am 
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An interesting article for all budding critics. I'm a little surprised that Zoë Anderson doesn't mention the Internet as a way into the profession - we now have at least two examples from CriticalDance.

<small>[ 01 February 2005, 11:45 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: The power of critics
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2005 5:29 pm 
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Location: Where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
In the five years or so that I've been reviewing, I'm finding that I am becoming less, not more, critical. I'm not sure why that is, but it coincides with not enjoying the interactions between the gaggle (or as they put it at a Dance Critics Association conference I attended, "shrivel") of critics that assembles at intermission and sometimes gets pretty shrill. I am reminded of an old saying that I used to hear frequently when I was politically active: "I don't need anyone on the shoreline teaching me how to swim." Dancers work so incredibly hard, and so much is out of their control--the choreography, working conditions, illness, injury, relationships between company members and their artistic director, conductors, orchestras, costumes, etc., that to do their careers damage based on any number of variables that they cannot control, seems to be an abuse of power. So the dilemma for me is how to write a critical review that starts with the humility that goes with being on the shoreline.

Interviews, on the other hand, (apart from the incredibly intense work of transcribing and sometimes even translating) are so immensely enjoyable because the challenges are greater and pretty much wide open. You have to establish a rapport with the artist you are interviewing--which seems to me to be far more important than any single question or type of question that you ask. That rapport includes learning to hold (and maybe write down to remember) additional questions that occur to you in the interview process. It's so important to let the artist (who may be tired, rushed, depressed, distracted, in pain or hungry) give full attention and thought to his or her answer. I think it's ideal to be able to interview him or her in two or three sessions. I notice when I do that that the latter sessions are so much better, just because the two of you DO have a rapport, and feel more relaxed with each other. The best interview I ever did was one with two artists--a three-way, as it were. The dialog between them made it impossible for me to interrupt them, and put everyone at ease, and it was much more like a conversation than an interview. It was all flow, and so easy to transcribe, edit and write.

<small>[ 01 February 2005, 06:31 PM: Message edited by: Toba Singer ]</small>

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 Post subject: Re: The power of critics
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2005 11:51 pm 
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Toba,

Quote:
gaggle of critics
I've been noticing that phenomenon at some venues and in some cities but not all. When you gather a group of critics together at intermission, you shouldn't expect to get anything less than criticism shared among each other -- every flaw is disseminated to every critic. When this happens often enough, sometimes you have younger critics developing the ideas and habits of the more established critics. This concept of the press room or press area then that some companies and presenters use to host light refreshment for the critics can be a double-edged sword. I observe critics yo-yo between two places: being kind in their reviews because they are too close to the company and being overly critical because they've worked each other up into a frenzy about minutiae that most people don't care about.

Also, I think there is a way to review without criticizing hard honest work. Travel reviews for example are usually honest without being bitter, You don't see a travel writer write, "The place is a dark, dingy dump!" Instead you see something like, "Once you get past its dark grittiness, you'll find Gotham City offers many unique adventures into its multiple characters. Most eventually come to respect its strong gothic architecture even if they at first find it unappealing."


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 Post subject: Re: The power of critics
PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 3:14 am 
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Quote:
I am reminded of an old saying that I used to hear frequently when I was politically active: "I don't need anyone on the shoreline teaching me how to swim."
It is, however, ocassionally helpful if someone on the shore shouts out to warn me that I'm swimming toward several circling fins.

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 Post subject: Re: The power of critics
PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 8:12 am 
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The word critic tends to have a negative connotation and some 'critics' seem to feel that a review is not complete without finding something to criticize. But there are ways of describing problems without destroying the overall positive effect of a performance, but too often 'critics' fall prey to the need to trash talk.
Perhaps one of the most positive and moving reviews I have ever read is posted in the forum today: By Ramsay Burt


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 Post subject: Re: The power of critics
PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 9:09 am 
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Is this the same Ramsay Burt that authored "The Male Dancer: Bodies, Spectacle, Sexualities," and "Alien Bodies: Representations of Modernity, Race, & Nation in Early Modern Dance", and is a Senior Research Fellow in Dance at De Montfort University?

<small>[ 02 February 2005, 10:10 AM: Message edited by: S. E. Arnold ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: The power of critics
PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 9:28 am 
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The very same, Steve. Ramsay's undiminished enthusiasm for dance performance is a joy to behold.


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 Post subject: Re: The power of critics
PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 1:55 pm 
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Location: Where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
Salzburg--Your point is well taken about warnings, as opposed to criticism, especially if what underlies those fins is a shrivel of critics.

Azlan--Couldn't agree more--a double edge. I listen to the gagglers with a third ear that hopefully lets in what's theirs and screens for what's mine. Travel guides--now I could get into THAT!!! I guess it would be redundant for CD to have a travel page, as we are an international site. Might be suitable for the far corners of the dance world, not necessarily dark and dingy, and requiring donated air mileage that those among us who are frequent travelers for other pursuits rack up daily??? ;)

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 Post subject: Re: The power of critics
PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 7:43 pm 
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I’ve always subscribed to the Howard Cosell ‘tell it like it is’ motto. You have a responsibility to your reader to enable them to make an intelligent decision on when to spend their entertainment dollar. I tend to be much harder on the choreographer than dancers. They have the ultimate control over their creation. If you try to place a positive spin on a ballet, movie, play, whatever you’re reviewing and your reader feels swindled, you may have just lost a reader.

Critics fall into the 3 categories: Paula Abdul (I don’t want to hurt your feelings but will eventually break the truth), Randy Jackson (balance of hurting feelings and providing an honest opinion) and then there’s Simon Cowell (Cosell ALL the way, let’s move on to the next victim). Like it or not, there are 6.5 billion people on the planet and not everyone is going to create a Balanchine masterpiece or dance like Kimberly Glasco!

I’m going to throw this out there even though it may stir up some controversy. Critics who write like Paula Abdul are doing no one any good. They are BORING and nobody is even going to read them. You have to entertain and inform as a critic. If that means stepping on someone’s feelings, as Bogie said: “Take it and like it!”

<img src="http://www.angrysimon.com/pictures/2.jpg" alt="" />

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 Post subject: Re: The power of critics
PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2005 11:29 am 
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I agree with Mr. Goldbarth as regards "informing", however I am not certain that "entertaing" is the province of the critic...perhaps to "educate" and "inform"?


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 Post subject: Re: The power of critics
PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2005 11:48 am 
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Shallot, I sympathise with your view of the role of the critic in an ideal world. However, dance critics working for newspapers and magazines have to entertain or at least write in an entertaining style, otherwise they won't be published. At its worst, this can provoke dismissive reactions, such as the one I heard from one dance professional: "The only purpose of reviews is to sell newspapers."


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 Post subject: Re: The power of critics
PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2005 12:10 pm 
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Hi there,

Whether it clouds or clarifies the topic of this thread, the questions found at the link below may nevertheless prove helpful to some readers.

http://www.dancecritics.org/20questions.htm


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 Post subject: Re: The power of critics
PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2005 5:08 pm 
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Like it or not, newspapers and ballet companies are in the entertainment business. Imagine reading a dry, factual ballet review teeming with ballet nomenclature and highfalutin prose that no one can understand. What purpose does that serve for the newspaper or ballet company? Writers who write like that write to a very small audience and with ballet, you’re already dealing with a small audience.

What I do love about reading ballet and theatre reviews is the sophistication and quality of the writing. It’s too bad some writers try too hard to whip up beautiful prose and end up scaring off the audience.

I know Simon can be cruel but sometimes it’s kinder to be cruel than provide someone with false expectations. If you can’t sing, you can’t sing. Sure you could take voice lessons and practice over and over and over but for what? A lot of things on this planet are God-given. Some are better than others at developing their gift from God. Only the very few are fortunate enough to live their dreams. The rest of us sit in the mezzanine and play the part of the audience – Those of us fortunate enough to afford a ticket.

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