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 Post subject: Reviewers are not always qualified.
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 11:13 am 
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:shock: I read two recent reviews in San Francisco Chronicle by Diablo Ballet's latest production. I am beginning to think that the shoes of Octavio Roca will never be filled. Mr. Roca had opinions which many times sounded like he needed his coffee for the morning, still he always had a genius and impeccable insight into the ballets that he reviewed. I didn't always agree with his reviews but I always walked away with more information (not less) into the soul of the performance. Mr. Roca's love for ballet was shaped in Communist Cuba under a suppressive regime where people looked up to the arts as salvation.
The latest Chronical reviews continue to sound more like personal attacks on individual artists. These attacks arise from a level of mediocrity rather than an artistic writer with insight into the heart and soul of the dance. They say more about their own lack of cultural background than about the performance. The current state of critical dance reviewers in the bay area is in sad shape. Their shallow pessimist reviews do nothing to improve the understanding or give a new perspective to an audience about a performance. A viewer must have acute intellectual acumen to witness a dance performance, then, interpret the cogs and wheels of an avant-guard choreographers mind, and his intent. Many dances need to be seen twice to truly understand what is taking place on stage. One such ballet is the multilayered and complex production of Nikolai Kabaniaev's Petrushka.

To a thinking mind Petrushka was one of the most imaginative, creative and intelligent productions done on a ballet stage.
To read the recent Chronicle review it sound as if the reviewer has only attended 2 or 3 ballets ever. The review also shows a glaring lack of research into the local ballet scene. One screaming mistake the reviewer makes: among the two Kabanaiev brothers there is no younger or older brother as has been stated many times. Not unless you want to express it in older or younger by minutes apart. Nikolai and Victor are TWINS. Everyone who has attended any one of their inventive and creative ballets more than once already knows this fact.
The styles of the two brothers are unique and at the same time strangely symbiotic. This adds to the complexity and ongoing delight of watching one of either brother’s repertoires of works as they continue to unfold here in the bay area.

I love the dance world and I love our Bay Area talent. I am tired of seeing it trashed by nonsensical brainless twits who have nothing creative to say about dance. They don't get it. They shouldn't be writing about it. Diablo’s recent ballet with choreography of both Viktor and Nikolai’s was beautiful. Viktor’s was beautiful, sensitive and simple. Nikolai’s Petruska was like a philosopher’s stone. It asked questions and gave complex answers to a life through art. Go see them again, if they are still around after all this negativity misplaced.
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Last edited by touche on Tue May 31, 2005 9:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 1:41 pm 
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I am going to move this over to dance issues, as it relates more to dance in general than any one company.

Cheers
Kate


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 3:57 pm 
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Location: The Bronx is up; the Battery's down
...And I'm going to remind everybody that our Courtesy Policy applies to posts about critics as well as to posts about dancers, choreographers, and designers.

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Jeffrey E. Salzberg,
Dance Lighting Design
http://www.jeffsalzberg.com


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 8:03 pm 
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Location: SF Bay Area
Welcome, touche, but whoa.

I agree that reviewers in the SF Bay Area are not the most qualified. I can think of a couple whom I have respect for; the rest at the very least make me wonder. However, the review you mentioned cannot be judged in the way that you have. There are certainly some problems with it but the arguments you bring up may not stick. Here's why:

1. Not everyone agreed with the quality of the choreography for Petrushka. Most of us were amazed at the talents of the dancers and some were very impressed by the production, including the video projections, but there were certainly disagreements about the choreography itself, both at the theater among dance professionals as well as in this forum. So you cannot pick on a critic for not liking this particular work;

2. In the review, a statement was made regarding the over-reliance by the company on one single choreographer who is not to everyone's taste. It's the same criticism we have heard all along about LINES Ballet relying too heavily on the same repetitive steps from Alonzo King and Smuin Ballet having too much of Michael Smuin's "soft-art." Almost the same thing happened last season when some fans complained of too many Helgi Tomasson works at SF Ballet and too many Kent Stowell works at PNB. The statement in the review referred to the over-exposure of a single choreographer. If companies have money, in my personal opinion, I think it would be great to have many different choreographers and not the same choreographers every program. I think you will find much opposition if you think one choreographer should domimate a company's whole season;

3. The "twins" issue is most likely an honest mistake. There is no where in the official program notes or the press releases that note the Kabaniaev brothers as twins. Can you therefore fault anyone for not knowing that? In fact, in a way it is refreshing to see a critic who is not close enough to the company to know that, for one of my biggest complaints of critics is that too many of them are too close to the artists they review.

Yes, SF Bay Area critics in general have biases and double standards. For awhile, it seems SFB could do no wrong no matter how mediocre the work or how many dancers trip on stage . Yet, a regional company is denigraded when a work is 1% flawed (MWS is a typical critic who has sold companies short and betrayed the trust of the public. He's become a running joke to dance readers -- I have heard the term MWS used to describe people who take themselves too seriously not realizing that everyone else has already figured them out to be fools).

HOWEVER, the arguments we make to encourage (or force) the change have to be based on solid facts and not insinuations or popular sentiment. To change the minds of critics and their editors, you need to show them the overwhelming evidence to force a paradigm shift.

As as example, some years ago, I pointed out that Octavia Roca would always give Ballet San Jose the greatest reviews no matter what, especially when there were Cuban dancers in the works. I "exposed" his bias by comparing his reviews side by side others. MEHunt did similar work recently to uncover his "self-plagiarism" by comparing Roca's reviews to his older writings. In the former case, it may or may not have had a direct impact but we began to see reviews critical of San Jose from him, even of works by fellow Cuban Denis Nahat. As for the latter, well, he was fired from the Miami Herald for plagiarizing his reviews from the SF Chronicle after he was found out by a librarian.

Facts make a difference -- in Roca's example, we had proven that this reviewer had betrayed the trust of the public.


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 Post subject: Thank you for your response
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 9:48 pm 
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Thank you for your response. It is still of interest to me that many times the reviewers do not discuss the dance itself. I would like to see reviewers elevate their craft rather than discuss the age or body flab or personal like or dislike of any one artist.

If is unfair that anyone artist no matter who they be have to see an personal comments in a major paper with a huge audience and not be able to respond in kind. I think that is more my point.

This particular review mentioned nothing about the dance itself. Almost as if they had not been there. It was a controversial piece but the audience all around me loved it. I listened many comments both nights.
They were talking about what just happened. Art, ticket sales, and peoples personal careers should not be affected by the words of one reviewer. Nice to read your thoughts.


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 Post subject: Re: Thank you for your response
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 11:01 pm 
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touche wrote:
Thank you for your response. It is still of interest to me that many times the reviewers do not discuss the dance itself. I would like to see reviewers elevate their craft rather than discuss the age or body flab or personal like or dislike of any one artist.


I agree. Someone told me that there is actually an opinion published recently on another site that promotes reviews of choreography instead of performances... Weird.

touche wrote:
If is unfair that anyone artist no matter who they be have to see an personal comments in a major paper with a huge audience and not be able to respond in kind. I think that is more my point.


True. However, that's one of the facets that come with being an artist. Movie personalities I think suffer the most -- so many movies bomb before they even make it to the screen, along with the reputations of many fine artists. That's one reason CriticalDance was started -- to give people an alternative voice.

touche wrote:
Art, ticket sales, and peoples personal careers should not be affected by the words of one reviewer.


I agree with you on that one. Maybe it's the reviewer's responsibility to choose the approach carefully rather than write from an emotional place. Even reviews of bad performances can be interesting if the reviewer is talented enough. Some of the best reviews I've read are of works the critics didn't like. This particular review could have benefitted from a bit more creativity and compassion.

touche wrote:
This particular review mentioned nothing about the dance itself. Almost as if they had not been there. It was a controversial piece but the audience all around me loved it. I listened many comments both nights.


For the record, I liked both works by the Kabaniaev twins. One was direct and honest. The other was creative and promoted the qualities of the dancers.


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 Post subject: Petrushka Revisited
PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2005 1:15 am 
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I think a point has been overlooked here in reference to critics in general and, more specifically, to Rachel Howard's latest review regarding Nikolai Kavaniaev's Petrushka. Surely, a critic is entitled to his/her technical and creative opinions regarding a performance, but in the fervor of writing a review, must journalistic tyranny prevail to the point of possibly damaging an artist's professional and artistic credibility at large, and of perhaps threatening the livelihood he chooses to make through that art form. More importantly, how do these negative, and oft times irresponsible and frivolous, reviews diminish the creative expression? Can one create free of self-edit without the binding fear that one's creation will soon be hammered into dust by the ruling gods of the journalistic world? It is the risk an artist takes each time he puts himself in the line of fire. Often times, however, it seems a work is reviewed with such a technically analytical point of view that the purpose of its creation is lost. After all, in the final analysis, we sit with anticipation in that darkened theater to feel, to be inspired, to be entertained, and hopefully to be transported to another world, another experience, for a brief time.


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 Post subject: Dependa on how you saw the magician
PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2005 6:56 am 
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Azian,
I first want to say its great fun to have such a discussion in the open about any work of art. What better work to discuss than this new version of Petruska. It lends itself well to this type of forum, since appears to be so controversial. It seems to me that how you saw the magician; as a master of cerimonies, or some kind of director of the universe (darkness and/or light filled) --affected what an individual audience member might leave thinking about the piece.

The dance movement that I saw was incredibly inventive. The entire piece was so different. It was almost in the style of " performance art "; howver, "scripted performance art"; a possible contradiction in thought.

I am going to write a short paragraph about the evening under Diablo Ballets site later this week. I am still turning that ballet over and over in my mind and I saw it 2 going on 3 weeks ago. All the ballets were beautiful but this one was different. :wink:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2005 10:20 am 
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Location: Maryland USA
Welcome to CriticalDance Wade Elizabeth Devon. Thank you for your comments.
I agree that a critic is entitled to their opinion, and yes, critics do have power, that used unwisely can be extremely damaging to an artist's career. One bad review will probably not cause too much damage, but several similar reviews backed by the authority of an established publication could do irrepairable damage. That is why forums such as CriticalDance are great because they allow us to contest reviews by the 'establishment' and to give other points of view.
Again welcome and please continue to post your comments, we love to hear from you.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2005 2:12 pm 
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Location: San Ramon High School
Touche's comment "nonsensical, brainless twits" has forced me to disregard her completely. Reliance on such sophomoric name calling only solidifies her position among those she ridicules...hardly a tactic worthy of the artist she is attempting to champion.

However, the remaining posts are interesting, especially Azlan's opening entry. Many persons invest critics with an authority for which they are undeserving.
Countless artists have been derided by contemporaneous critics, only to rise phoenix-like from the ashes of misunderstanding. Examples that come to mind are Van Gogh and Puccini. If an artist's talent and oeurve are genuine, neither critics nor time can destroy them.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2005 8:04 pm 
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Quote:
3. The "twins" issue is most likely an honest mistake. There is no where in the official program notes or the press releases that note the Kabaniaev brothers as twins. Can you therefore fault anyone for not knowing that?


Puleeze. Ms. Howard has been reviewing the dance scene in the SF/Bay Area for years now. And from what I observe from a variety of performances I attend, hangs out at intermission with a number of "CD.comr's" .................... She mentioned the age difference a while back, it was discussed hear as well. Certainly somebody then make her aware of it???

Listen, soon her book will be published and she'll be reading reviews of her own work. I'm sure she's invested a lot of time and energy on creating it and now will feel what it's like to have a personal expression judged,criticized, reviewed. Perhaps her review writing style will change then. I personally am offeneded by what she wrote on her web blog.

Best,
T G S


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 Post subject: Dear Shallot
PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2005 12:23 pm 
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Re: Your comment about "twits"
You have touched on my point exactly.
Dance is best understood by the most sensitive, and scholarly of humanity. Recent reviews in general have portrayed it from the shallowest of perspectives. My original point was that Octavio Roca's reviews came from a highly educated man who understood dance. I have heard him speak unscripted in person, and found him to be extremely bright, educated, and entertaining.
He was knowledgeable and he had a lofty point of view which he earned. He discussed a piece from its inner meaning, mechanisms, and soul.

You know you can go to the Grand Canyon and see it from the top. From that vantage point it is beautiful. However if take the time to hike with a water canteen and a walking stick all the way to the bottom; you will find that it is an experience that peaks with a rushing river. The shortest journey is two days of stuggle, walking downhill in the deep, deep, sauna heat. The journey cries out magnificent meaning in every single step. Every rock cries out colors, stories, and deeper discoveries. You breathe the colors, the flowers, and the animal’s scents. One lifetime discussion could never explain a single stone in depth.

My comparison to the dance world is this:
You cannot look at dance from the top without breathing what you are seeing. You have to study the music, the colors, the scenery, the costumes, the dancer’s expressions and sweat. You have to research the choreographers mind, and the intended meaning spoken from each step. Even a barren stage can speak volumes. It’s not as simple as the reviewers are making it.

Hopefully you read Robert Heinlein’s "Stranger in a Strange Land” to get the intensity of understanding I am attempting to get the review community to grasp. If you haven't read the book I would encourage you to read it. It explains the how to reach the deepest level of understanding of any subject or person. The dance world does not use words to communicate. Heinlein invented his own word to explain this deeper understanding. Used throughout the book--you have to "grok it". You have to feel it, turn it around in you mind and look at it from every facet and angle to get the full conscious and subconscious intent of any dance. When you do that completely and with intention, and then still don't like a piece, then fine. It takes research and background to form a qualified opinion that a million news readers will see. Reviewers who reach millions with their opinions should be of higher caliber. They should have completed the journey with research and commitment. If they then do not like a piece then write about it, with comprehension and careful thought.

Quickly and in finality the suffering of Van Gogh and Puccini were mentioned in relation to their contribution to the art world.
Bizet’s Carmen was panned so seriously by the critics that it contributed to his death. Van Gogh killed himself from a combination of mental illness and the galleries refusal to show his works. Van Gogh died in poverty, Bizet died young. How many more paintings would we have seen, and how much more music is missing from artistic visions cut short.

Budding choreographers, and dance companies in particular need money, and support from donors and the ticket purchasers. It isn't for the cost of canvas, room and board, and paints that a dance is created. I would just ask the reviewers to be mindful of their comments in this regard. Anybody can have an opinion about a work. The most educated or the least educated. It is different when a reviewer reaches a readership of 1 million people. They need to come from a higher consciousness.
All I am thinking is that the discussion be raised from undereducated gossipy and occasionally hateful banter to a higher level. Otherwise dance companies may not get the funds and sell the tickets that they truly deserve to sell. Young and budding choreographers and dancers may survive but at what level of achievement without funds and support.
Thank you for your thoughts.



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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2005 9:33 pm 
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Location: SF Bay Area
From Rachel Howard's review:

Quote:
In recent years, he's [N Kabaniaev] made an audience-pleasing version of Massine's "La Boutique Fantasque" and taken an allegorical twist to "Carmen."


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 Post subject: You said it best
PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2005 1:57 am 
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Dear Wade Elizabeth Devon:
I think you said it best. A simple and beautiful expression of why we go to the theatre. I would like to see more inspirational reviews that revisit a theatre experience in depth, once a performance is over. Better reviews that don't demoralize an audience, rather give renewed pleasure in what we saw. Many times a dance will never be seen again. The review may be the only historical record that it was once alive on stage. Thank you for your beautiful comment.

Quote:
Can one create free of self-edit without the binding fear that one's creation will soon be hammered into dust by the ruling gods of the journalistic world? It is the risk an artist takes each time he puts himself in the line of fire. Often times, however, it seems a work is reviewed with such a technically analytical point of view that the purpose of its creation is lost. After all, in the final analysis, we sit with anticipation in that darkened theater to feel, to be inspired, to be entertained, and hopefully to be transported to another world, another experience, for a brief time.[/


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 Post subject: Re: Dear Shallot
PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2005 11:37 am 
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Location: San Ramon High School
"Dance is best understood by the most sensitive, and scholarly of humanity. " Such arrogance is appalling...honestly.


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