Below are some excerpts from a letter to the editor I mailed to the Globe & Mail a few days after Deirdre Kelly’s “Lame-Duck Ballet” article (September 27th, 1999). It went unpublished even though I got down on both knees and puckered up to Deirdre Kelly’s alabaster tutu!<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR> No ballet fan can resist her sweet muse. Poetic wax so good you can almost taste it! Her words literally jeté across the page. Only two pleasures in life hold a candelabra to Deirdre Kelly’s prose: ballet à la Kimberly Glasco and making love to music. As much as I love Deirdre Kelly for spilling her hot poetic wax all over the all-omnipotent rulers running the National Ballet of Canada—she too deserves some hot poetic wax! I don’t want to see Giselle in a psycho ward; I don’t want to see Princess Aurora sleeping with junkies, and I most certainly do not want to see Carmen chomping on a cigar! This may turn Deirdre Kelly and James Kudelka on their collective tutu but I believe the ballet world could do without yet another revision of a classic! You don’t remake something just for the sake of posting your name on it. <P>...Not all the critics showered Kudelka with kudos. Dance Magazine gave him a failing grade and so did Deirdre Kelly: “One of the biggest disappointments is that it is strangely void of lyricism and magic.” A surprising U-turn from an earlier review of a preview of Swan Lake—as ridiculous as that reads. Kudelka presented the sneak preview at the National Ballet School’s Spring Showcase in May of /98. Kelly waxed enthusiastically: “Kudelka’s Swan Lake, the first Canadian production of the legendary ballet, promises to be a splendidly classical affair, full of intricate and richly musical choreography that will confirm Kudelka’s reputation as an innovator.” Did Kelly’s pro Glasco coverage taint her review? For me the answer is a resounding yes! If Glasco was still with the company, I’m sure Kelly would have buttered up Kudelka’s ego to the point of nausea just like every other tutu kissing critic in Toronto. For me, a tie-in with the previous review would have added credibility.<P>...In case you were wondering, I do have some more bricks (the spongy kind) for Deirdre Kelly! Claiming the National Ballet of Canada to be a “sea of white limbs and faces” is lazy journalism, completely irresponsible, and most of all: completely UNTRUE! The National Ballet of Canada employs dancers from all over the world. Go grab your 98/99 yearbook. As you leaf through the pages you’ll see Bei Di Sheng, Chan Hon Goh and Xiao Nan Yu from China; Je-an Salas and Tanya Evidente from the Philippines; Misa Yokose from Japan; Philip Lau from Hong Kong; Piotyr Stanczyk from Poland; Tomas Schramek from Czechoslovakia; Hazaros Surmeyan from Yugoslavia; Avinoam Silverman from Israel; Johan Persson from Sweden, and Christopher Body from South Africa. Keep turning and you’ll see Stacey Minagawa of Japenesse origin, Aleksandar Antonijevic of Yugoslavian-Polish descent and Sonia Rodriguez, created in Toronto but raised in Spain. Then there’s Jhe Russell, who is black and made in Massachusetts. Russell, recently promoted to second soloist, left the Boston Ballet School at age 14 for the National Ballet School so he could work in a color-blind environment. Lighting this supposed “sea of white faces” is Lighting Co-ordinator Christopher Dennis, who is black. <P>I wasn’t sure of the origin of Kevin Law from Guelph, so I called Kristen Burke (Artistic Assistant for the National Ballet of Canada). According to Burke, most at the ballet thought his parents were from Malaysia but no one was 100% sure. So there you go! The above 18 dancers give the NBoC ample racial variety. How much variety does Deirdre Kelly need? The NBoC’s regular roster totaled 48 last year. Those numbers crunch out to 37.5% of variety. The rest of the NBoC originates from across the U.S.A. and all over Canada—from B.C. to Alberta to Ontario to Quebec to Newfoundland. Pulling out the race card was a pretty lame attempt to disgrace the National Ballet of Canada. Before Kelly’s “LAME-DUCK Ballet” article, I never thought about what color a dancer was.<P>The race card wasn’t enough for Kelly! Next up, the infamous Don Cherry card! Kelly actually accused the NBoC of being un-Canadian: “the company’s chief choreographer should be thinking of creating or commissioning works that reflect the real Canada.” Kelly need look no further than the season opener, November 20th, for Inspired by Gould. How much more Canadian can the National Ballet of Canada get? <P>...According to Deirdre Kelly, “Critics of the organization say poor management is at fault” for the ballet’s debt. Who are these critics and what exactly is poor management? Kelly did not elaborate, so I will. The National spent two million dollars on a Nutcracker that can only play at the Hummingbird Centre. Companies create their own works so they can swap productions. If you have nothing new coming up, you either stick with what you’ve got in your repertoire or pay for someone else’s ballet. No one’s fighting over Kudelka’s Nutcracker because it comes with a very heavy moving bill: 11 truckloads of sets. The sets are also a pain in the toes for the dancers. Their weight prevents them from dancing on the company’s regular spring floor. Approving Kudelka’s Nutcracker was a major faux pas by the NBoC’s Board of Directors. At the time, they all raved how this Xmas ballet would tour the world and elevate the National to its previous glory. It’s a shame Kudelka’s Nutcracker can’t tour because it is a spectacular production. This was one ballet which needed a face lift. The Drosselmeyer character was far too dark. The ballet was too black and white. This is one of the few instances where colorizing something actually worked! My only qualm with Kudelka’s version was the sacrifice of show for the spirit of Christmas. Imbue Kudelka’s Nutcracker with the spirit of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and you might just have a “classic.”<P>Deirdre Kelly’s pro Glasco coverage should come as no surprise. She went toe-to-toe with the Globe & Mail for wrongful dismissal years ago and won! Hence, the Globe & Mail’s editorial stance came as no big surprise: “Can there be any art form as cruel as ballet? A dancer’s body is her instrument. She can polish, tune, even repair it, but once past her physical prime, a ballerina is largely finished as a performer. She can’t commission a replacement body the way a musician can find a new clarinet or violin. Age matters. This is the painful lesson...Glasco...is discovering in a public drama that threatens to descend from pathos into farce.” The title of the editorial was equally cruel: “Dance Ballerina Dance.” (Funny how I wrote a pro-Glasco letter to the editor with that very line and it mysteriously ends up in their editorial without my letter being printed.) If that isn’t hitting below the tutu, I don’t know what is! Somebody was doing some deep brown-nosing all for the glory of James. <P>Kelly writes herself into an even deeper hole with the following suggestion: “The country’s craze for social dances like swing and tango and salsa might also fuel new creations that meld the classical steps of old with a sensibility that is more of today.” For the 1999/2000 season, the NBoC will be stretching the boundaries of ballet to its very limits with a work by Edouard Lock of La La Human Steps. I can’t envision anything more today; more hip; more anti-tradition than the harsh physicality of Lock’s dance gelling with classical ballet. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>One would think the NBoC’s Directors would have sued the Globe & Mail for the above article. Of course, Kelly didn’t criticize them as concerned citizens did in a NOW Magazine paid advertisement. The ad pointed out that the NBoC has incurred a debt of over $4 million and spent about $1 million fighting to keep Glasco’s toes off Kudelka’s stage. Coincidentally they’re seeking $1 million in damages from NOW magazine, lawyer William Hechter, and J. Doe 1 and 2. <P>The Board claims it has been libeled by the ad comparing the firing of Glasco to the dismissal of Jewish artists in Nazi Germany. It is important to note that the ad reads: “IN 1933, Bruno Walter, Vasily Kandinsky, Alexander Granach, Fritz Kreisler, and Kurt Weil were dismissed...not for Artistic Reasons.” <P>Weil was misspelled with only one “l.” Kurt Weil was a composer, Bruno Walter was a music director, Alexander Granach was an actor, and Fritz Kreisler was a violinist. All fled Nazi Germany for reasons of survival. That makes the ad in very bad taste NOT libel for $1 million. The ad went on to say: “IN 1998, Kimberly Glasco was dismissed...not as in 1933, but still not for Artistic Reasons.”<P>The key wording here is “not as in 1933.” <P>I doubt very much the Board will receive $1 million. More than likely they will win but only receive one loony for their trouble. They would have been better off suing the Globe & Mail for Kelly’s Lame-Duck Ballet article. It was far more damaging with many provable errors in fact.<P> <P><BR>------------------<BR>Michael Goldbarth<P>[This message has been edited by Michael Goldbarth (edited June 22, 2000).]<p>[This message has been edited by Michael Goldbarth (edited June 22, 2000).]
The world revolves around the beauty of the ballerina.