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 Post subject: Standing Ovation
PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2005 9:12 pm 
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Thanks for writing.


Last edited by touche on Wed May 24, 2006 7:07 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2005 9:27 pm 
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Andre Yew wrote:
This begs the question: are some public opinions more important than others? For example, if the private donor disagrees with a non-donating audience member, who wins? How about 1 private donor against 2 non-donating audience members? 4? 50? 100? Don't we ultimately get into a situation like what's described on the NYCB thread in this forum, where some people feel entitled to influence the company because they're giving a lot of money?


Um, these are good questions that never get asked in a board meeting... except by brave souls... Does everyone agree the feeling of entitlement by major donors is alive and well in the arts? And they also sometimes pick personnel and have companies perform at their convenience? You can't blame companies though -- they need to know who butters their bread. It's not so bad when there are multiple donors to balance each other out. Having just a single major donor (or two who are a couple) on the other hand...

When my mom was a major patron of a non-profit organization (non-arts), she cut them off when she realized they became too dependent on her. They had to cut the budget and lay off staff but they have since regrown and developed into a leading organization in their field. It was a hard lesson (and very painful for my mom) but they never forgot it.

Andre Yew wrote:
That's another reason why I prefer the sausage factory model --- I don't want to know how it's done as long as what comes out tastes (in the case of sausages) or looks (in the case of ballets) good, and is sustainable. But for this to really happen, we need among other things honest audience feedback along with honest critical feedback of what happens on stage. It'd be interesting if audience members could walk out or boo freely, or if companies offered money-back guarantees on tickets.


Honest feedback is not always easy to get. It can run both ways. Some people are huge cheerleaders of their local companies. Some may be envious. An artist I admire told me once she likes the fact I'm not a cheerleader -- that I tell her to her face when something's not right. Half the time she would agree; the other half she would probe until she could figure out why I thought that way. But this is a rarity! Most people are very nervous about feedback -- even if well-intentioned, negative feedback can be devastating.

Also, there needs to be context, don't you think? There's nothing worse than your past success when it comes to audience expectations. When a musician releases a smash hit, the expectations are enormous for the next single or album. And to maintain the ever higher level of expectation, ever more effort, ever more funding, and more resources are needed! An artist just starting out can't be viewed the same as a star performer and vice-versa. For a public that don't understand where the artist is in their career, the feedback could be meaningless.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2005 11:20 pm 
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Welcome back, touche! Nice to see you again. I've been away too, including doing lots of travelling to see dance and meet dance people on both coasts.

touche wrote:
How could they receive a standing ovation at a huge black tie affair full of highly intelligent scholarly individuals; then a torturously bad review from a "possible GED high school drop out".


LOL! For our non-US readers, GED stands for "General Educational Development" and is perhaps equivalent to the "O-Levels" in the Commonwealth system.

Actually, I've seen more than my fair share of bad performances receiving standing ovations. In fact, look no further than LA. There is a topic somewhere that every performance in LA seems to get a standing ovation, even by people who should know better. Andre?

touche wrote:
My original point remains the same...reviewers need to be artistically and educationally qualified. The audience does not.


It would definitely help to know what they're talking about but it depends on the publication and who it serves. For example, I would be bored to death to read a travel article written by a geography professor. Or an article on the weather written by a physicist. Similarly, I tune out most dance reviews containing too many ballet terms.

The best-ever selling travel book was "A Year in Provence," written by Peter Mayle. He was an ad executive.

touche wrote:
Funny that the audience that night was the most animated I have ever seen in my history of going to dance performances. Talking and talking with eyes fully open and hands waving and pointing. How could that possibly get a poor review that was so shallow. It could not if it had been done by a thinking individual who was trained to look deeper.


I have to respectfully disagree. The night I went to was not as animated as that. Friday night audiences are typically more animated (younger professionals) than weekend audiences (families and older patrons) but for some reason in the SF East Bay, the reverse is true. Nonetheless, the point is that on the night of the review, it wasn't as exciting. So it is very conceivable that the reviewer was not shallow but perhaps more in-sync with that night's audience (especially since another writer who wrote a more positive review also agreed with many points in the Chron review, as I recall. The other reviewer just happened to pick different points to write about).


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2005 11:57 pm 
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Location: The Bronx is up; the Battery's down
Azlan wrote:
LOL! For our non-US readers, GED stands for "General Educational Development" and is perhaps equivalent to the "O-Levels" in the Commonwealth system.


...And "the Bay Area" refers to the area around San Francisco, California*, where the local newspaper is the Chronicle.


* Unless you're from Florida, where "the Bay Area" is the area around Tampa and Saint Petersburg, or Masssachusetts, where "the Bay Area" is the area around Boston, or Texas, where "the Bay Area" is the area around Houston/Galveston, or....

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


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2005 12:43 am 
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I missed one point in Andre's post:

Andre Yew wrote:
That's another reason why I prefer the sausage factory model --- I don't want to know how it's done as long as what comes out tastes (in the case of sausages) or looks (in the case of ballets) good, and is sustainable.


The lack of public empathy for the workings of arts non-profits is prevalent, leading to the reason those who run arts non-profits come to believe they own the organizations. In the spirit of the definition, those who run a public charitable corporation serves the public and any work they produce is meant to benefit the public first, as long as they receive public funds. Even if an organization receives 100% of funding from a private donor, the organization is still responsible to the public if tax exempt status is claimed as it is income loss by the public (however, any organization with a majority of funding from one source or a collection of sources that are related, such as a group of friends, stands to lose their tax exempt status, especially if the donors are also involved in aspects of managing the company. My jaw dropped when I learned the president of a Board uttered the words, "This is my company.").

Now, to tie it back to earlier points of this discussion, any company receiving public funding or claiming tax exempt status has no choice but to receive reviews by any press and comments from any public member whether positive or negative. In fact, discouraging it might constitute an ethical violation. Grin and bear it, as they say...

But then again, lack of public empathy leads to lack of accountability.


Last edited by Azlan on Wed Dec 28, 2005 1:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2005 1:00 am 
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Azlan wrote:
Welcome back, touche! Nice to see you again.

I have to respectfully disagree. The night I went to was not as animated as that. Friday night audiences are typically more animated


Thank you for the welcome back. One quick note in rebuttal...the way I judge real genius is if something is memorable. I once had a friend who was at that time studying to become a photo journalist. I remember telling her that the way I knew if a photograph was really, really good, is if I remembered later. She was and is a remarkable photographer, and she went on to win many awards in her field and worked for all the major newspapers including the Chronicle. Her name is Kat Wade. I still remember many of her photographs as if I studied them for a lifetime. I feel lucky to own one or two. I feel the same about any work of art.
If I remember it later...that is the true test of greatness. I remember Nikolais version of Petruska better than any ballet story I have seen in ages. It had a philosophy that stood out with questions and answers. I remember that ballet weekly, daily, monthly, who can say; but I remember it often. Ballet is ephemeral and often only lasts in the viewers imagination.

I also know that in the case of Neo Camerata that they deserved a standing ovation. I was one of those standing, hooting and hollering. I rushed into the benefit party to meet them.
They were not the only wondrous artist there. John Vitz was also beyond phenomenal. I own his newly minted CD as well. Neo Camerata however, as a band was visually stunning as well as musically outrageous. They are classically trained and give a modern twist to it. Fantastic band.

We live in a marvelous age of history where modern genius abounds and can be touched in the bay area so easily. Perhaps we need to remember how lucky we are and not become blase about the fantastic talent we attract to this area. I do think that if this particular version of Petruska were performed in France that the reaction would have been much different. Even if they thumbed their noses that would certainly mean it will be a hit. The French are used to symbolism in their art, and a bad review most certainly can cause the French audience to go see it for themselves. A bad review in a gigantic American paper like the SF Chronicle could devastate a small company. If you have read the diary of Nijinsky it was after the reviewers and indeed the French audience panning "Afternoon of a Faun" that Nijinsky fell apart. He had a fragile artistic personality, and this reaction was one factor in the final devastation of his artistic career.

The reviewers are forgotten, however the audience reaction and the ballet continue to live on in perpetuity. I personally think that that Petruska was too deep for the reviewer(s) on that day... and I have to believe that whomever did a bad review on the band must have had a hangover. When you look at the bio of the current top reviewers in the bay area you will find out that they have very little education or background in the arts.


Last edited by touche on Wed Dec 28, 2005 12:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2005 1:22 am 
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LOL, touche! I was wondering how soon you would reply!

Don't get me wrong -- I agree that it'd be nice for reviewers to have some qualifications or at least have their qualifications put in context. Some publications, especially periodicals and program notes, list the backgrounds of their contributors right after the article.

The point I'm trying to make here is that there could be more than one legitimate opinion. While I have said before that I enjoyed "Petrushka," no one I've met yet -- including in the company itself -- has expressed it as the choreographer's or the company's best work. So perhaps there is room for more than one opinion of the work other than "great"? And that the people who wrote the reviews had a couple of those alternate opinions?


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 Post subject: Thats wonderful
PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2005 12:15 pm 
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[quote="Azlan"] I agree that it'd be nice for reviewers to have some qualifications or at least have their qualifications put in context. Some publications, especially periodicals and program notes, list the backgrounds of their contributors right after the article.
quote]

I absolute agree that if three people see something there will always be a difference of opinion. I also think that perhaps if you had seen it twice, you might have questioned your first opinion (good or bad). I find that when I see a ballet for a 2nd or 3rd time that many times, I just begin to "get it". It takes a while to see the things that begin to appear at a 2nd viewing of any work of art. I have glanced a many a painting over and over; however, it is never until I actually stop and analyze it from various perspectives that I begin to understand a piece of work.

Essentially, I think that reviewer(s) simply have a burden to the audience and the artist community to know a piece of work before they trash it.

Thats all. Luckily we have video tape, and history can always decide.
I just think that it is sad that that particular ballet may never see the light of day again as a live performance in the the SF Bay Area due to this particular review. I would love to see it again.

Anyway, enough of that. You sound like a fun person; and it would be a lively debate if we ever crossed paths at a party. Have a great New Year.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2005 7:14 pm 
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Oh, hey, touche, I hope you stick around.

On the subject of denial, I finally found the quote I was looking for from Twyla Tharp's new book, "The Creative Habit," which I find both revealing and amusing. She wrote about a work that was receiving mixed reviews and audience feedback in a pre-Broadway run. Some people liked it and some people disliked it, a situation that was not acceptable to her:

Quote:
For one of the few times of my life, I sat in the theater each night and paid as much attention to the audience as I did to the performers onstage. What I saw was simple and clear: They were miserable and confused after Act One, but standing and cheering at the end of Act Two. Act Two was working. Act One was not.

One night I went outside and crossed the street to the restaurant where some of the audience goes during intermission. I overhead one waiter tell a couple, "Don't worry. The second act is much better." When the waiters in town know the problem and you don't do something about it, that's denial.

It wasn't possible to make major changes before the opening night in Chicago, and the resulting reviews were not kind, to say the least. The critics praised the dancers and they loved Act Two, but they thought Act One was confusing. They used words that have never been attached to my work before, words like "mess" and "risible." The show was in trouble.

My old friend Jennifer Tipton had flown in from New York for the opening. We had breakfast the next morning with the reviews in front of us. A Broadway veteran of thirty years, she didn't try to console me. She said, "You know they're right."

I nodded my head. "Yes, I know." This was, as the cliches have it, the first step toward a solution. Denial was no longer an option.


Tharp went on to solve a major portion of the problems with three weeks to go prior to the Broadway opening. To read how she did it, read her book (there's a whole chapter on denial!):

The Creative Habit : Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp


Last edited by Azlan on Wed Dec 28, 2005 7:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2005 7:31 pm 
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Also, as far as negative feedback goes, the arts is lucky in that it doesn't get as much as others do. Can you imagine how much flak a coach of a professional sports team gets?

Way back in college, when I was roped into coaching a local intra-varsity soccer team, everyone second guessed me, never mind the fact I turned a losing team (bottom of league, with zero wins midway through) into championship contenders (100% record for the rest of the season, with only a couple of subtle changes to the team I might add). The harshest criticism came from the people closest to me. I now have a healthy respect for professional coaches when every Joe and Jane calls into a talk show with passionate suggestions for a team!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2005 3:12 am 
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Quote:
Azlan wrote:
LOL! For our non-US readers, GED stands for "General Educational Development" and is perhaps equivalent to the "O-Levels" in the Commonwealth system.


I believe that GED actually stands for "General Equivalency Diploma", and is a very basic high school diploma which is generally offered to those in alternative schools or who have come back to secondary education at a later time. It suggests a very basic competency and is not a diploma you would normally get from high school.

O-Levels don't exist anymore - they've been replaced with GCSEs (in England and Wales - Scotland has a different system). But I'd agree that a GED is equivalent to passing (though perhaps not excelling at) the minimum number of GCSEs.

Kate


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2005 11:17 pm 
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ksneds wrote:
O-Levels don't exist anymore - they've been replaced with GCSEs (in England and Wales - Scotland has a different system).


I'm showing my age...


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 Post subject: Chronicle Reviewer Apparently Knows More than the Audience.
PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2006 11:39 pm 
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It is really sad that the Chronicle reviewer continues to write bad or poor reviews when the audience is chanting bravo's, as they did for Earthquake.


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