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Ballet Talk for Dancers

The Critics: Bashing critics

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Kevin, I think Barnes has been supportive of Balanchine's choreography from the beginning. And, of course, when a critic supports an artist whom we respect, or who is generally respected, the "lapdog" label is never thrown. I'm just being a Devil's Advocate here, but would anyone call Arlene Croce the company's lapdog? Sometimes a critic continually praises an artist because they genuinely admire him. And in the case of Balanchine, obviously many would argue there were grounds for that admiration.

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I was really quite surprised to read Clive Barnes' piece yesterday. In my opinion, he was very dismissive of Ms. Homans (as opposed to "the editor") in much more of a personal way than I would think would be considered "professional". I also found it rather interesting that he (Dance Mag.) waited to fire this one across the bow until November! Homan's article was back in May. The timing of this seems to make it even odder - to me.

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BW, on the timing, I doubt there's anything sinister about it. There's a three-month lag time, for starters. Or it could be timed to the beginning of the season. Or Barnes had written several columns in advance to cover the summer. Lots of reasons.

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Alexandra, I figured there was quite a bit of lag time...perhaps that's a good thing sometimes? Unlike the Internet posting board, waiting for a magazine to go to print does give one some time to reflect. :)


I can understand Mr. Barnes feelings - he's been close to NYCB and ballet in general for many years...I guess to me it seemed odd to bother printing it now. Guess that's the flip side of the Internet (and the newspaper) - you need a lot less lead time. ;)

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On the downside, it's frustrating to write something and wait three months -- or in one noted publication, three years! -- and have it come out :)


Official notice that I'll withdraw from this thread now -- I've tried to explain reasonings and possibilities but I don't want to argue with anyone, nor make someone hesitant to post. So if anyone wants to question Barnes' bashing Homans, or critics bashing critics (or the reverse, of course), please jump in :)

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Guest Ed Waffle
Originally posted by Calliope

My gripe was that the Times isn't the only paper to have printed similar pieces.  The Observer had a far more controversial one ....


I wish "The Observer" all the best--New York City needs more newspapers--but "The New York Times" makes something news simply by publishing it. The reach of its cultural coverage extends far beyond its local delivery area (as does its editorial page) so Barnes was going after a target that not only the dance insiders would know about but also a much larger audience would as well.

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My November Dance Magazine finally came today. I usually find Clive Barnes' back-of-the-book pieces fun to read, but this was really unfair toward Jennifer Homans.


I thought this comment nonsensical: "She complains for instance, that Martins has not called upon the full experience of other Balanchine dancers, forgetting perhaps that teaching and coaching cannot be by committee, as choices must be made and practicalities considered."


To call in Violette Verdy, Patricia McBride, and Suzanne Farrell to coach Jewels, as Edward Villella did for Miami City Ballet is not to teach by committee. It is to recognize the uniqueness of dancers on whom roles were made by Balanchine and who, better than any company director, can perpetuate his heritage for future generations.


I did appreciate Barnes' characterization of the current state of NY Times arts coverage as "roguish, voguish." But I don't think the Homans piece fell into that category. She said nothing that others hadn't been thinking and saying for years.


In the interests of full disclosure, I confess to being Suzanne Farrell's lapdog.

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Guest Calliope

I too wondered abou the timing of the article. Being cynical ;) , I'd guess it was that it coincides with NYCB's winter season opening in November.

As someone of the younger generation, who reads the Times for the News and the Post for what's really going on, there are a lot of people who don't know Barnes' history and just look at the piece as someone who's "unprofessional" (given that he writes for the Post).

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Now THAT might make an interesting letter to the editor, Calliope. I think Dance Mag thinks of Barnes as The Most Important Dance Critic in America :) But they always want to reach the young......

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Guest Ed Waffle
Originally posted by Calliope

As someone of the younger generation, who reads the Times for the News and the Post for what's really going on


I had heard that "Hustler" magazine was purchased in New York City in order to hide copies of "The New York Post" being read surreptitiously in public places.

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Very funny you guys! :D I always thought people only bought the Post for sports news and page "6" gossip! ;)


It's OK Farrell Fan, we know you're Suzanne's self-proclaimed lapdog and we accept you as you are. :) ;)

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Guest Calliope

Well, laugh all you want, but for all the Post's "gossip" they're pretty on target with some of their business gossip. They've "announced" layoffs and CEO departures before they've been announced.


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Critics bashing other critics, even on the same newspaper, is nothing new! Gautier had his detractors in Paris, even George Bernard Shaw, who was a music critic for the Times (London), took on other staff writers on the subject of ballet. He was as pro-ballet as they were, but had a more aggressive, progressive view of the art. He even suggested that professional male dancers were at such a premium that they should be exempted from the WWII draft and their work considered Essential War Labour! Seriously!:)

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I'm with Calliope on the Post. I always thought the Post, on its own terms, was a good paper, although it has seen better days, and I have carried the Sunday edition (can't get the daily one out here) on the street without any particular self-consciousness.


However, I'd add that younger people who don't know Barnes' "history" might do well to learn something about it. :)

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