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 Post subject: Re: What does it take to be a "well-informed"critic?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2000 5:02 pm 
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How about looking at this from the other side of the mirror - what is it about a critic that would obviate that person's opinion/writing? What characteristics are negatives in furthering good writing and observation?<P>Bias - is certainly one. That occurred here in San Diego when the newspaper dance critic's husband was a teacher at a studio that regularly performed and she critiqued. <P>Copious polysyllabic ego-enhancing verbiage - like this <--------- LOL And, I have seen quite a bit of that!! Saying it simply is most often saying it best. <P>There are some critics who are more into power/ego trips than giving the reader a visual trip. They enjoy being rather secretive - keeping their special world hidden from the great unwashed. <P>Accuracy - get the names right, actually attend the performance on which you are writing (yes, that has happened to some very well known and thought of critics).<P>Though negative comments can be illuminating to both the artists and the readers - usually turning them around as positive recommendations - is more helpful. <P>Be ready to back up your opinions - saying "It was a beautiful performance" says very little - tell why it was beautiful - what made it meaningful. <P>The critique can take a middle road twixt a technical paper written for the cognesenti and the relatively uninitiated. It should be written for the benefit of both the reader and the artists rather than for the benefit of the critic. <P>


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 Post subject: Re: What does it take to be a "well-informed"critic?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2000 7:00 pm 
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well, what a great thread this has turned into! Image <P>i have enjoyed all the posts above.<P>azlan has done a service by differentiating types or reviews, and i've certainly seen these types in action.<P>my only real concern was over this following statement, which i think is probably a lot like the old "ground glass in the pointe shoe" story - we'll ALL heard it, but NO-ONE's ever known it happen - even when you've been in the business for 30 years or more - and neither has anyone else you know......so you have to wonder.....<P>it's VERY popular to hate critics - mindlessly.......<P>actually it's ASTOUNDINGLY popular to hate critics.....<P>here's the statement i'm objecting to, or at least asking that it be taken with a grain of salt. by all means, know what you know and believe what you know to be true. i personally have never come across this:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>I have read of several instances in which the critic (some VERY notable ones, too) wrote a critique when they had not even seen the performance.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>btw, in one instance which attracted an extraordinary amount of condemnation a few years back, a very popular band played an expensive concert in perth. i don't know what the venue holds, but i'll guess quite a few thousand (a sports stadium). <P>the arts editor of the daily newspaper (which is a monopoly - no other daily paper in this city), reviewed the show, but had to leave at half time or 3/4, to meet his deadline. obviously he reviewed what he saw, and made general comments on how the show was received. <P>his view was more negative than many of the fans departing at the end of their much-anticipated, expensive evening. when they read his review, it attracted more letters to the editor than ANY other subject bar 2 in the newspaper's history - no political event, war, famine, crime issue or electoral issue had attracted so much public response for many years, nor since...<P>it was hypothesised at the time, that the fans who had 'invested' a lot of money and emotional anticipation in the event, simply were NOT prepared to see it as less than ideal. <P>and i think there's something in this point of view: that, especially with exorbitant ticket-prices, many event-goers are of a mindset to 'have a good time', come hell or high water (!), so are not best placed to objectively evaluate what they are seeing. they paid to be there, and they have a right to experience it & remember it their own way, of course.

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 Post subject: Re: What does it take to be a "well-informed"critic?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2000 7:23 pm 
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quote:<BR>--------------------------------------------------------------------------------<BR>I have read of several instances in which the critic (some VERY notable ones, too) wrote a critique when they had not even seen the performance.<BR>--------------------------------------------------------------------------------<P>Sadly grace, I have heard of this happening in the U.K. and of critics leaving the performance half way through - to catch a certain train back to London. Consequently publishing a negative review of a good performance - completely irresponsible.


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 Post subject: Re: What does it take to be a "well-informed"critic?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2000 8:19 pm 
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To be a well-informed critic you need to be ALL OF THE ABOVE that has been written plus INTEGRITY. Too many critics let personal bias sway their review. In Toronto too many critics believe it is critical to support the NBoC by giving them kind reviews even if they or the audience did not enjoy the performance. This was definitely the case for Firebird. It only received polite applause and very few fans gave it a standing ovation. At the end of Don Quixote almost everyone in the Hummingbird Centre was standing despite the fact most had seen the NBoC perform it many times. <P>Too many critics also write for the companies they critique. Case in pointe: Paula Citron. She writes for the NBoC souvenir yearbook and program plus reviews ballet for the National Post and Classical 96 and 103 FM. How she pulls that off is a mystery.<P>------------------<BR>Michael Goldbarth

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 Post subject: Re: What does it take to be a "well-informed"critic?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2000 8:50 pm 
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michael montgomery: 2 things - one is that you say you have heard of this happening - that's precisely my point: everyone thinks they have 'heard of' it, but it never happens to anyone you know - so does it really happen? (i don't mean 'ever' - i'm sure maybe once in the dark ages someone, probably a child just fooling around, put ground glass in a pointe shoe - probably BECAUSE they'd read of the idea in a book! - but that doesn't mean 'it happens'......)<P>just as marian mcdermott recently reported in her new zealand ballet teaching methods survey that supposedly this occurs....(ground glass in point shoes).....which then became a reason to question the suitability of ballet as an appropriate pursuit for healthy children in new zealand.....<P>and 2 is, that leaving midway through a performance because one has a deadline, or a train to catch, is not in any way shape or form, the same as not attending - and that makes your post a good example of the romour-mongering i referred to, above. here, you are intimating that the sin of 'reviewing something you did not see' happens.....but you are supporting it with personal evidence of quite something different altogether.<P>i have written ABOUT performances i did not see ALL of (maybe only once, and unavoidably - the other option being they got no coverage), but of course i only wrote about what i SAW. and london critics have to leave before the end of things not infrequently, based on what i've seen - but i couldn't say how often - NOT often would be my guess - but it does happen - unavoidably. that's real life with deadlines.

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 Post subject: Re: What does it take to be a "well-informed"critic?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2000 8:53 pm 
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michael goldbarth, i would have no trouble whatsoever writing FOR the ballet company here, at the same time that i write ABOUT the same company. how is it done? integrity! Image

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 Post subject: Re: What does it take to be a "well-informed"critic?
PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2000 5:39 am 
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I’m not sure if you understood what I wrote Grace. I don’t think you can get paid to write by a ballet company and also review their ballets. That is a definite CONFLICT OF INTEREST.<P>------------------<BR>Michael Goldbarth

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 Post subject: Re: What does it take to be a "well-informed"critic?
PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2000 5:52 am 
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OOOHH Susan did I hit a sensitive spot?<BR>The reason I did not give more details in such a public arena should be clear I hope.<BR>Although I know exactly who committed these crimes and although not a first hand experience (which explains not naming names) I consider the source more than completely reliable (not to mention possible lawsuits!)<BR>The bottom line for me is that NO critic possesses the right to have a review of a performance published that they have not witnessed; regardless of the circumstances and I would like to thank Michael G. for mentioning the key word and golden rule for dance critics here - INTEGRITY!<BR>I do not undersand your response in this context - could you please explain further... are you really saying that catching a train back to London could be a reasonable excuse for publishing a review of a performance you have not witnessed?<BR>Very confused - M.


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 Post subject: Re: What does it take to be a "well-informed"critic?
PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2000 6:13 am 
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well, like you, micheal, i do not understand why it is not clear. <P>catching a train back to london before the conclusion of the performence you are viewing (because you have a deadline, or because it's the last trian), means that you WERE THERE to see the performance. (so that's got nothing to do with reviwing a performance you didn't attend.)<P>(i would add, in your example up above, that it's just as likely that critic might give a GOOD review to something that progressed badly, as vice versa - and of course that's just as irresponsible. the assumption that the departing critic (black mark #1) would give a bad review (black mark #2) innappropriately (black mark #3), is typical of the emotional attitude generally taken to critics (black mark just for existing!), so it seems only fair to state that such a scenario could work the opposite way - hypothetically. in reality, again, i don't imagine it happens barely any more often than it HAS TO, as dictated by circumstances.<P>i can accept that you know of one personal case, and of course i understand you not naming names. fair enuf! i personally have never come across this, and i have been reviwing for ten years now.<P>michael goldbarth - i THINK i understand you - and i still don't get it. as i said, i would have NO PROBLEM writing, say, program notes (which i VOLUNTEERED to do for the company here) or informative notes on the company history or any other factual material, whilst also producing the kind of foul-tempered review i think i am about to come out with of their latest offering! the one has nothing to do with the other. an opinion piece and a factual piece need have no crossover. the only hard bit is walking into the building the next day - but you just face up to it. that's life.<P>i would certainly agree with you, that if one is paid on a fulltime basis to work WITH the company 9 to 5-ish, in their premises, as a writer, then you couldn't review them - but i've never heard of that happening.

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 Post subject: Re: What does it take to be a "well-informed"critic?
PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2000 6:25 am 
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OOOHH - Did I touch a sensitive spot?<BR>The first time I responded to this it didn't come through on the site...<BR>The source of this information I take to be entirely reliable, as does the majority of dance readers on the planet and the point of my comment was that it is entirely irresponsible for a dance critic to have a review of a performance they have not witnessed published - no excuses (yes it can and has happenned). It is not rumour mongering in any form and am partial to take offence at such accusations, but simply a genuine attempt to engage in this excellent and open discussion whilst at the same time avoiding possible lawsuits (yes I could name names, but don't feel it would be useful to this debate).<BR>I think Michael G. hit the nail on the head and the golden rule for any form of dance criticism with the word INTEGRITY.<BR>Grace, I am confused by your vehement response - could you explain further?


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 Post subject: Re: What does it take to be a "well-informed"critic?
PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2000 6:28 am 
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woops, forgot to say two things:<P>1. michael G - 'conflict of interest' doesn't apply. one's interest, as the writer, is in satisfying the company with what THEY pay you to write, and in satisfying the magazine's reading public with what THEY pay you to write. <P>there are (hypothetically) two separate pieces of writing, which could be as different as chalk and cheese; the one being an opinion - which must be 'honestly held' to be legally acceptable in australian courts - and the other being an item of the writer's/wordsmith's craft, a simple use of an acquired skill to a specified end.<P>it's like the difference between writing an intimate poem - and writing a train timetable, or notes for a technical manual, or a description of what's depicted in a historical photograph - no opinion is involved.<P>michael M - you write "did I hit a sensitive spot?" yes, maligning people unfairly will always anger me. i understand now that you had a specific case in mind, where you had reason to have anger yourself. i suggest though, that it's best not to generalise from a personal anecdote, especially if the result is adding further insult to people who are usually already grossly disrespected.<P>it really is the most thankless pursuit. i wouldn't recommend it to anyone. no matter who you personally are, or what you actually do, the label brings with it such negative reactions. <P>the only person i expect to see escape from this censure, is australian dancer and choreographer simone clifford, who has ventured into reviewing recently. my guess is she will give it up pretty swiftly though....it will be interesting to see...

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 Post subject: Re: What does it take to be a "well-informed"critic?
PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2000 6:39 am 
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We live in totally different worlds here Grace. Call the Toronto Star and you will discover they have a policy in regards to CONFLICT OF INTEREST. If you want to be a critic for the Toronto Star you cannot write for the people you are critiquing. It just doesn’t make sense to have a critic write on behalf of a ballet company and then write a review of their performance in a newspaper. I can’t believe you can’t see the CONFLICT OF INTEREST in that.<P>------------------<BR>Michael Goldbarth

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 Post subject: Re: What does it take to be a "well-informed"critic?
PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2000 6:48 am 
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I also want to add that I was horrified to read of a critic writing a review of a ballet performance without seeing it in its entirety or in one case not even attending the performance. That sounds like grounds for dismissal. How can any reader believe what they write after such an incident? As for Grace, I think she wants to have her cake and eat it too. <P>------------------<BR>Michael Goldbarth

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 Post subject: Re: What does it take to be a "well-informed"critic?
PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2000 6:52 am 
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I also want to add that if Grace baked a cake I would eat it in its entirety. I could think of no greater pleasure in life than licking the icing off a cake baked by the lovely—albeit slightly naive—Grace!<P>------------------<BR>Michael Goldbarth

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 Post subject: Re: What does it take to be a "well-informed"critic?
PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2000 7:12 am 
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michael - i'm not naive about myself - i know what i can do and what i can't. if *I* couldn't keep such tasks completely unaffected, i would simply relinquish one. it's called being principled.<P>if any organisation has such a policy, then that makes life really simple.<P>you are quite correct that "We live in totally different worlds here Grace." living in different worlds, we come to different conclusions. i can't say whether yours applies in your world, but i know mine applies to me in my world! Image<P>i WOULD see a conflict of interest if employed by the company to do almost anything ELSE....i.e. to teach, or notate or in any way contribute to the success of their product - but some tasks are just cut and dried. the only kind of writing i COULDN'T accept doing would be promotional - in other words, where ones opinion would have to be involved (and would HAVE to be positive....)<P>

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