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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's "Othello" / PBS Contro
PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2002 11:30 am 
To respond to ewaynes question on why SFB would allow her onstage.....well isnt Lacarra the type of dancer that SFB prefers??? Isnt this a Ballanchine style/image honed company(and after the Keefer case, isnt it obvious)??? All the other reviews of Ms Lacarra praise her look, her extensions,etc.<BR> No matter,I feel theres a way to say that ones look may be affecting ones performance without being.....well MEAN.<BR> <BR> <p>[This message has been edited by angela (edited March 03, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's "Othello" / PBS Contro
PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2002 12:20 pm 
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I keep waffling on this... Ewayne's remarks along with others (privately to me) tells me that you have to be there to appreciate it. With so many people observing the same thing and thinking the same thing, the reviewer has successfully captured the essence of what we all believed, and that is something remarkable for a reviewer to do.<P>From afar, it is easy to remark that the comment was mean. Over here, many of us are guilty of thinking what this reviewer dared write and therefore don't find the comment so mean, as it echoes how we feel.<P>I'm not sure if Lacarra is exactly the type of dancer SFB likes, as there as so many body types here. For these particular performances, Lacarra's arms looked exceptionally thin when compared to other very thin dancers.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's "Othello" / PBS Contro
PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2002 1:28 pm 
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As you have re-opened the discussion of Rachel Howard's article<BR>Azlan, I'll throw in my two cents worth. This review left a very unpleasant taste<BR>in my mouth for a number of reasons:<P>- the discussion of the Richardson affair is a sloppy piece of journalism.<BR>It appears to be based on hearsay, as indicated in the phrase in the opening<BR>paragraph, 'it seems'. Surely it was necessary to clarify matters with the choreographer, but this was not done. Nevertheless sweeping statements are made that culminate in, ‘…Ultimately, it's an insult to Richardson, whose recorded performance, no matter how compelling, will never escape the taint of reverse discrimination.’ Well, this viewer will watch the performance on video on its merits. The taint has come from various commentators in the SF area and ‘Frankly my Dear, I don’t give a damn!’ <P><BR>- It is clear that Howard did not enjoy Lacarra’s performance. That’s fine – it’s a critic’s job to comment on the way a role is brought to the stage. However, the sneering way that Lacarra’s performance is described does not seem the way to treat any dance artist, let alone one who takes her art so seriously and has come up with the goods on so many occasions. I am surprised that there is no comment made about Lacarra’s dancing in the ‘Othello’ review.<P>- In amongst a wide range of sneers is the one, ‘….and MacMillan was already lite enough.’ Well we all have our likes and dislikes and that’s fine. However, for many of us in the UK, Macmillan is one of our favourite ballet choreographers and for a dance critic to throw out a cheap crack about someone who made such a contribution to the world dance scene made my blood boil. MacMillan also gave great encouragemant to young choreographers like Forsythe, including the advice, ‘…ignore what the critics say,’ - how wise.<P>- From a European standpoint the most distasteful remark is the ‘concentration camp arms’ statement. I was shocked by this phrase. Firstly, it is inaccurate as anyone who has seen the concentration camp pictures can testify. Further, it does great disservice both to the concentration camp victims and to those suffering human rights abuse around the world today. <P>- Azlan and I agree about so much that I am always surprised when we do disagree so sharply, but this is one instance where we do. There are lots of ways to say that a viewer has a concern for the health of a dancer. This one is totally inappropriate. I was shocked for a second time when Azlan wrote that it was a commonly used term in the US. In case I was being over-sensitive I consulted a friend who has worked extensively on the UK’s ‘Healthy Dancer’ programme. She described the remark straight away as ‘horrid’ and after further consideration as, ‘unhelpful and unlikely to be of value to the dancer.’ If the remark had been made directly on criticaldance, I would have sought a concensus of the Moderators to have it removed from the site. <P>I wish Rachel Howard well in her career as a dance writer, but this piece does her no credit whatsoever. <BR> <P><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited March 03, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's "Othello" / PBS Contro
PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2002 9:07 am 
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I agree with those who found the "concentration camp" phrase offensive and unnecessary. A reviewer can comment that a dancer does not look right for the part, i.e. too thin, etc. without being personally insulting to the dancer and offensive.<BR>I admit I've never seen Lacarra dance, unfortunately. She was scheduled to appear in Sleeping Beauty Act 3 at Stern Grove last summer but was replaced at the last minute by Lorena Feijoo (not that Feijoo is a disappointment). But I remember seeing a photo of one of her first performances when she arrived in SF. The reviewer, I think Octavio Roca, referred to her as "beautiful". I thought that while her dancing may be beautiful, this photo did not show a beautiful woman at all, even her face and neck looked gaunt. Interesting that some audience members would find this distracting. I loved Julie Kent's dancing and radiance in Le Corsaire but especially in certain costumes found her extreme thinness distracting. <BR>Still Howard's comment is inappropriate and her relating gossip as "fact" irresponsible.<BR>My $.02.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's "Othello" / PBS Contro
PostPosted: Tue Mar 05, 2002 4:45 pm 
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OK, I'm going to defend her.<P>Nothing she wrote is untrue. What more can a journalist really hope for?


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's "Othello" / PBS Contro
PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2002 10:45 am 
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San Francisco Ballet, War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco<BR>Program 3: “Othello”<BR>March 1, 2002<P>With all the controversy surrounding the production of Lar Lubovitch’s “Othello” which was presented by the San Francisco Ballet last week, it would be difficult to evaluate this production on its own merits. It will be immortalized on television, with the controversially non-controversial choice of Desmond Richardson as the lead, and it carries the imprimatur of two major American dance companies, but is it any good? As with many productions, I can say unreservedly that this is a ballet with interesting music, beautiful sets and adequate choreography and its success will depend entirely on who is dancing it and what they can make of it.<P>On Friday night, Cyril Pierre and Lucia Lacarra took on the leading roles of Othello and his wife Desdemona with Damian Smith playing Iago with a crafty glee, and Sherri LeBlanc as Emilia, his wife. <P>Frankly with all the brouhaha over the casting (Should it be a black actor playing “the Moor”? Will audiences accept a white male in black face on stage? And what of the Asian Desdemona?), it never seemed to occur to anyone to simply have Othello be played by whomever it was played, black, white, brown or yellow, without resorting to the questionable “Al Jolson” look. In the program notes, Lubovitch notes that in Giraldi Cinthio’s original novella (on which the Shakespeare play was based), “race is not an issue.” Why make it an issue now? This ballet could have played exactly the same without any indication as to ethnic background. It is the story of a man driven to jealousy and murder by the envy and scheming of an unscrupulous friend. Why does Othello have to be black? Why should Desdemona be white? The confusion about whether or not we would have non-traditional casting was all compounded by the appearance of Chidozie Nzerem (the only black dancer in the company) in the corps. It made Pierre’s makeup only too obvious.<P>The theatrical sets by George Tsypin along with imaginative projections created by Wendall K. Harrington, are impressive and modern, for the most part. I could have done without the too literal and anachronistic projection of the ship as they came to the port in Cyprus, but that was only one moment in a whole evening of beautifully architectural backgrounds. The score, by Elliot Goldenthal certainly gave the choreographer a tapestry to work with, and included some fascinating effects from instruments, such as contrabass clarinets, a contrabassoon and a glass armonica, about which my more musical companion had to educate me. Still, it seemed to me to be a little too relentlessly driving for the length of the ballet. We were barely given a respite for the entire two plus hours, but then, the strength of the music underscored the primal feeling that I suspect Lubovitch meant to evoke with his choreography.<P>Creating a full-evening length ballet is no mean feat, and Lubovitch deserves credit for assembling quite a production, and for putting together some very nice moments. Nevertheless, one feels that this “Othello” will never be a classic. The story is not particularly clearly told, and the choreography, while interesting, is entirely dependent on the dramatic skills of the individual dancer to elevate it to “compelling”. <P>As the work opens, we are shown the wedding of Othello and Desdemona set in an abstracted version of the Doges palace in Venice. The percussive music elicits an articulated style of dancing, and each of the leads I saw that evening interpreted it in a different fashion, which helped to establish their characters right off the bat. Pierre’s approach was brutish and heavy, perhaps appropriate for the man of action rather than brains, and he sharply contrasted with both Lacarra, as his child-like wife, and Smith, who had clarity to his movement, even as he softened the edges to his steps. Smith’s portrayal was without doubt, the winner of the evening, and he made every scene he was in worthwhile. His Iago never made a move without calculating it and covering the whole process with a cool slickness that was deliciously malevolent. He was not a man to be trifled with and one had the sense that there was no one onstage who was up to the challenge of dealing with him, least of all the very youthful and spirited Cassio, danced beautifully by Stephen Legate. I began to think of Cassio as the “Mercutio” role, against Smith’s “Tybalt” role, partly because there were so many jesting movements that seemed to be lifted straight out of Kennth MacMillan’s “Romeo & Juliet”. What was not like MacMillan though, was Lubovitch’s neglect of the musical cues. There would be a great crescendo in the score, and onstage the dancers would be dancing on as if nothing had happened. It felt like several dramatic moments were missing, and I found myself scanning the stage to see if some small event were happening that I ought to be noticing. If there were one, I definitely missed it.<P>The wedding dances as a whole, did not look to be much fun. The dancers ran though their paces, some even smiling, but the propulsive nature of the score demanded a more abstract look on their faces. Then too, Pierre’s almost feral attack into a pas de deux with Lacarra made me really wonder if this was a wedding and if he even liked her. Possibly a more effective way to build the performance would have been to make Othello’s character a little more tender at the beginning, so as to establish that he really loved his wife. Their pas de deux was quite difficult, with much running and complex lifts, but in the end, it seemed to lead to nowhere, as it didn’t reveal any more about their characters than before. <P>In this “Othello” it is perhaps, more up to the dancers to take the choreography and invest it with meaning. Certainly Smith’s solo and later his duet with LeBlanc demonstrated this. The choreography had him mainly stalking and slithering about, but he managed to infuse every gesture with meaning and contained rage. Whenever Smith was present, and even when he was not, we felt his eyes taking everything in. It was most unsettling because I was willing to bet that when he went offstage, he continued to fix Othello and Cassio in his gaze. He and Le Blanc clearly had decisions made for each moment in their choreography and their sense of purpose completely encompassed the telling of the story. By contrast, Lacarra had a disconcertingly presentational style, by which I mean she was less the devoted wife to Othello, and more the woman playing the devoted wife to Othello. Sometimes her gestures didn’t even make sense. When Othello demanded to know where the all-important handkerchief was, she looked in her sleeves, in her dress and then.under her skirt.<P>The corps seemed to fare better in the second act. There was a truly affecting moment at the start, in which they surrounded Lacarra, Le Blanc and Legate like undulating waves against a projection of stormy seas. I was a little disappointed when they arrived at Cyprus and suddenly looked less like water nymphs and more like galley slaves to be sold in a Turkish market. Some of the partnering was peculiarly awkward, although I give Nzerem credit for being gentlemanly enough to adjust his partner’s costume to a more attractive line at one point. Still, the sets were imposing, and I especially liked the stark lines of the ropes in the background. A solo for Kristin Long, as Bianca, a woman of questionable background, was lively and she attacked the role with her usual zest. In the trio in which Smith contrived to plant the handkerchief on Cassio via Bianca, the three worked well, if not seamlessly together. Smith was the undisputed master of the situation and Legate was gracious enough to allow him to be that.<P>It is hard to say whether this story is too thin for a three act ballet because it’s too thin, or because there exists a more compressed version that distilled it down to the essentials so beautifully. I surely could have done without the semi-sexual pas de deux between Iago and Othello in the third act. Having already established that Iago loved power, there was no need to add the complication of him loving Othello as well. Perhaps this twist was to demonstrate yet another way for Iago to exercise control over Othello, to humiliate him further, although I began to think I might be reading too much into it all when the duet with Emilia and Desdemona took place. After all, no one thinks that Emilia is making a sexual advance to Desdemona when she embraces her. <P>It all ends exactly the way you’d think it would, even if you don’t know the story, with the requisite lapse into melodrama and I felt, unsurprisingly, unfulfilled at the finish. Maybe it will look better on TV.<P>A word about Lacarra’s appearance really should be made, not as a personal attack, but as a genuine indication of alarm. While her dancing was clean, her thinness is, to say the least, a distraction. Less so in the first two acts where the costumes largely hide her figure, but very obviously prominent in the last act where she is more exposed. On the whole she is so unusual a dancer that one might be inclined to think that it was her flexibility that makes her look at times strangely alien, but it is also the extreme attenuation of her body. I have seen performances of Lacarra’s that I have enjoyed, and I wouldn’t want to decry her abilities as an interpretive dancer, but I feel she could be so much more effective, stronger, and audiences would not worry about her continuing health.<p>[This message has been edited by mehunt (edited March 07, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's "Othello" / PBS Contro
PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2002 11:28 pm 
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Maybe it will look better on TV.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Umm... err... hmm.<P>Don't mince words, MEHunt. Tell us what you really think! Image


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's "Othello" / PBS Contro
PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2002 7:49 am 
Is Lacarra really that much thinner than Muriel Maffre or Yuan Yuan Tan? I find all three of those dancers to be distressingly thin even though I think they're all wonderful. I'm just thankful there are many other dancers in the company that don't have that body. <P>Personally, I don't find super thin dancers appealing in the least. I found Makarova and Kirkland unconvincing in Don Q because I just couldn't stand seeing an emaciated Kitri trying to be coquettish. When I see a really thin Giselle or ballerina in La Sylphide, it ruins the romantic era asthetic. An emaciated Aurora just doesn't look fresh. <P>------------------<BR>cheers,<BR>ralph


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's "Othello" / PBS Contro
PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2002 8:38 am 
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That um... is what I really think. Actually I'm looking forward to seeing Yuan Yuan as I didn't get a chance to catch her in the Desdemona role. <P>As to thinness, ralphsf, I think it's hard to say whether Lacarra is thinner than Maffre or Tan because the three dancers are all very slender, but they do essentially have different body types (Muriel is much taller, and I think Yuan Yuan is a little more delicate-boned). I know I don't notice Lacarra's weight as much when she dances next to Tan, say. I do notice however, that in general (and I'm thinking about this season so far) both Tan and Maffre are consistently dancing with strength and beautiful technique. I can't always say that of Lacarra. Sometimes she does, and sometimes she doesn't. And when she doesn't, I worry that it's her health.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's "Othello" / PBS Contro
PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2002 12:27 pm 
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I want to reply to previous post by LMCTech, "OK, I'm going to defend her.<BR>Nothing she wrote is untrue. What more can a journalist really hope for?"<P>Obviously a critic has to give his/her honest opinion, including if a dancer is physically wrong for a part. But I think it can be done without personal insults or offensive language. For example, she could have said something like "Lacarra's extreme thinness is becoming a distraction that detracts attention from her excellent technique" or "Lacarra should be careful not to overdo it. Too thin is not good for a dancer's health or strength". IMO, if a critic has negative comments the purpose should be to suggest how a performance can be improved. I don't think the original comments would serve that purpose. Look at your own jobs, if you are outside dance (as I am). Do you respond better to a supervisor saying "this was an error, this is how you can improve so you don't make that error in future" or "you stupid jerk, you belong in an institution for the severely retarded"? <P>As to the idea that it's OK to be offensive as long as what you are saying is true... Any sports fans may have seen ads for Jim Rome's talk show. They always show some gross insult, generally directed against a woman or girl who is called fat and/or ugly, followed by the promo "brutally honest". That's not honest, it's vicious. Is it OK for the school misfit to be called ugly every day of her life, as long as she really is? Is it only wrong to call a pretty student ugly? I doubt LMCTech would think that is OK. Or that it is OK to use derogatory terms for gays, African-Americans, Asians, Jews etc. as long as the person being addressed really is gay, etc. Again, I doubt anyone here would agree with that. <P>Unfortunately, what used to be called courtesy or respect has now been renamed "political correctness" and is something to be avoided. And what used to be called simply bad manners now is "politically incorrect" and hence desireable. Maybe I'm getting old, hell, I AM getting old, but I simply don't agree.<P>Criticize the dance and the dancer if deserved. It can be done without insulting anyone and is a lot more likely to be taken to heart.<P>And now, I am going to be brutally honest so if you have a weak stomach stop reading now. Lucia Lacarra is too thin and it is not pretty or healthy. She is NOT "concentration camp skinny". Women who survived death camps weighed in at 70 or 80 lbs. Their teeth were gone, from beatings and/or malnutrition. Their eyes were inflamed as tear ducts dried up from dehydration. They did not have small breasts, they had no breasts as their bodies had long since broken down all fatty tissues. None of them had menstrual periods. They had scabs and sores all over their bodies. To call Lacarra "concentration camp skinny" is not only insulting to her, it trivializes how those women really looked and what they suffered. So it does not even have the merit of being true.<BR>Apolgize if I sound like I'm ranting but this has been rattling around in my head for the past week and I finally had to spill it out.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's "Othello" / PBS Contro
PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2002 2:22 pm 
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I think the comment was "concentration camp skinny arms" and not "concentration camp skinny." And in fact the article contrasted the arms to the "beefy" thighs. Not to say it's wrong or right but to delineate a little better what was written and what was not written.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's "Othello" / PBS Contro
PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2002 4:04 pm 
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I think it is time to let this one go. Some will find the comment offensive, others will not. Period, end of story.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's "Othello" / PBS Contro
PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2002 9:46 am 
BOSS LADY HAS SPOKEN(LOL).<BR>BTW,when will this air on PBS???I know I havent missed it<p>[This message has been edited by angela (edited March 13, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's "Othello" / PBS Contro
PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2002 10:44 am 
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I heard Sept. as a tentative date.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's "Othello" / PBS Contro
PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2002 4:30 pm 
Thanks!


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