CriticalDance Forum

Alastair Macaulay
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Dec 02, 2010 4:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Alastair Macaulay

New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay is drawing fire for comments made in a review of the Friday, November 26, 2010 "Nutcracker" at New York City Ballet. Jennifer Edwards comments in the Huffington Post.

Huffington Post

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Dec 04, 2010 1:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alastair Macaulay

Alastair Macaulay responds in the New York Times.

NY Times

Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Sun Dec 05, 2010 8:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alastair Macaulay

I just read the articles-Wow! All those words over one sugar plum too many! At least the ballet is getting lots of publicity. Oddly, I usually think the opposite way. I want to take the ballerina out for a big steak dinner or double burger with fries. I really wonder if Jenifer Ringer was noticeably overweight? Does anybody have any photos? Were any CDers at that production or have seen her perform this season? I can honestly say I have never thought any National Ballet of Canada dancer was too fat-Male or female.

Given this is a visual art form, I believe the critic is within his rights to comment but I seriously have to wonder about his idea of what is fat? I could see him writing the goddess of decadence Nigella Lawson looks like she consumed one too many sugar plums because she probably has! And what if I subscribe to her philosophy of eating or watching ballet for pleasure? What if I don’t care if the ballerina has consumed one too many sugar plums? The scrooge critic probably never read ‘Dancing on My Grave.’ If Jenifer Ringer was not noticeably overweight, I think the writer should be suspended. Given NYCB’s skinny history, a little more sensitivity should have been observed.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Dec 07, 2010 3:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alastair Macaulay

In Salon, Tracy Clark-Flory interviews University of California at Irvine dance faculty member Jennifer Fisher about Alastair Macaulay's comments in his NYCB "Nutcracker" review.


Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Dec 13, 2010 8:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alastair Macaulay

Jenifer Ringer appears on NBC's "Today" show.

NY Times

Yahoo article with video

Author:  ksneds [ Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alastair Macaulay

It's big news here in Canada too: ... ballerina/

I've never been a fan of Macaulay, but it's really interesting that he seems to have such a problem with womanly figures give that he started his critic career in Europe where there is a great deal more diversity in ballerina physiques. The NY Times better keep him well away from the Royal Danish Ballet tour next year since the RDB has quite the range of curves on their ballerinas, and quite a number of ballerinas who are mothers.

Certainly this who issue has made me really think about how I comment on physiques in my reviews. I've not held back from talking about physiques, but I tend to have more of an issue with costumers who are "one size fits all" rather than "less than ideal" physiques. There was a dancer with the Scottish Ballet who had a very long torso and short legs - not really ideal for Balanchine type ballets, but my beef was that they tended to emphasize her torso with the costumes, rather than flattering her by cutting her costumes to play up her legs and minimize her torso. Her dancing was fine! I'd much prefer to see more body types on stage, and more focus on hiring costume designers who are able to work with a range of physiques, a flatter non stick thin body types.

I also tend to be careful about making assumptions - a dancer who appears less than fit might be returning from an injury, or just naturally bulkier. Such, as, I suspect, Jared Angle. Angle has been more svelte, but I give him a lot of leeway because he's dealt with a LOT of injury issues in his career, yet has become a fantastic partner. I've also wondered, whether male dancers in particular have a greater challenge in their more mature years because it's easy to bulk up when you are lifting ballerinas, and depending upon how you add bulk, it doesn't always look good in white tights/bright lights. Plus, when you've been a principal for a while, I imagine it isn't easy - for men and women - to balance dancing in fewer performances with a metabolism that's probably going to slow down gradually no matter the shape you're in as a dancer.

The big thing, though, is I think we need to look beyond our obvious biases - and I find that easier with the men than the ballerinas. But, certainly, some of the finest dancers have been less than skeletal, particularly later in their careers. Jock Soto, Angel Corella, Jared Angle etc. are but a few of the guys who were or are not in the top visible physical shape anymore, but continue (or continued) to dance beautifully and are/were in demand as partners. Monique Meunier was a stunning dancer despite never having the so-called ballerina ideal body type.

Heck, there was an NBoC dancer this past weekend who didn't look ideal in white tights. But I decided it wasn't review worthy because there could be any number of reasons for it - returning from injury, natural bulkiness, young dancer who's still growing/working his body into top physical shape or just not a body that looks stunning in white tights. And because he danced more than adequately whenever I saw him onstage - and that's what counts.

Also, I've learned from much time backstage that appearances on stage can be very misleading. What looks "huge" under stage lighting, is often quite the opposite up close. So don't judge from a far...

As to Macaulay - I think he's always been snide, and frankly, I suspect he's reviewed too many performances. I'm happy to have stepped back a bit because I see the quality of my reviews dropping when I do too many. Sometimes you need to see the ballet without having to worry about reviewing it. And to appreciate the chance to see the art form, rather than being used to free tickets, free trips and other perks. I, for one, could do without the NY Times sending Macaulay on all these reviewing trips. There's plenty to see in NY without him going to Europe and around the US quite frequently. However, I he may be signing his own retirement check with this one - time to find younger blood to take the reviews in a healthier direction.

Oh, and though I might disagree, I don't think he's wrong in judging their performances, but I think commentating on physiques is equally inappropriate for men and women. What the dancers look like shouldn't come into play unless it affects the performance - i.e. they are huffing and puffing half way through a pas de deux or can't do the steps ( a la Kyra Nichols when she returned too soon after one maternity leave - her elegance was intact, but she was cast in ballets that she simply could not do....). Nowhere in his review is there any suggestion that Ringer or Angle couldn't do their roles competently.

Author:  Cassandra [ Thu Dec 16, 2010 8:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alastair Macaulay

As to Macaulay - I think he's always been snide, and frankly, I suspect he's reviewed too many performances. I'm happy to have stepped back a bit because I see the quality of my reviews dropping when I do too many. Sometimes you need to see the ballet without having to worry about reviewing it. And to appreciate the chance to see the art form, rather than being used to free tickets, free trips and other perks.

Wise words from Kate.

This story now seems to have taken off here in the UK as it was being discussed on LBC when I turned on the radio early this morning. Last night the following appeared in the Evening Standard with the accompanying photo taking up over half the page. ...

The Times (no longer free on line so no link), has a double page article written by the RB's Deborah Bull about the problems of eating disorders.

Macaulay's reviews have been laced with spite for as long as I can remember and I see his attack on Ms Ringer as further proof of his need to belittle performers in order to display what he considers to be wit. Whenever I think of Macauley I'm reminded of this quote by the Irish writer Brendan Behan:

Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves.

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