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Snowflake - no, not another Nutcracker review


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As a longtime BCF follower I have, recently, become concerned about what I perceive to be a small, but significant, change in the general tone of remarks made in some of the more recent threads.

 

I appreciate that IT posting has become 'instant' and this is something we all have to live with but I do wonder if some of the posts to which I refer below have been 'posted in haste' and without full consideration. 

 

Recent examples include criticism of particular dancers and their costumes, and of ballet companies and their internal procedures (notwithstanding press articles and blogs). In one thread, critical personal remarks appear to have been made by forum members of other forum members. 

 

I am not (at least I hope I’m not) in current idiom a 'snowflake'. I read and welcome constructive criticism and informed opinions. Almost all BCF posters are better informed than me, and far more knowledgeable, about ballet but I was brought up on the premise that, 'if you can’t say something nice, it’s better to say nothing', and, whilst generally welcoming constructive criticism, I have begun to wonder if some of the more recent postings have become unnecessarily critical in both content and of persons.

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Sorry the current idiom has lost me.  What is a snowflake other than a flake of snow?

 

I believe in the right of people to publish their opinions but I also believe that there are ways of expressing them.  I sometimes think (and I am not just thinking of this forum) that people do not realise just how brusquely their posts can come across.  The problem with the internet is that you cannot see the person who is writing the comment's facial expression or body language so things that may be meant light heartedly can come across as just plain nasty.

 

I think it is quite acceptable to say that you think a dancer is miscast in a role.  There have been occasions when I have thought the same myself.  I also think it is acceptable to say that a costume is unflattering (and I have seen many) but there are ways of saying these things and ways of saying these things that to others may seem harsh and unnecessary.

 

I would point out that there are dancers and their relatives and friends who, if not members, read the forum and it cannot be pleasant to read personal remarks.

 

We have an acceptable use policy that all members have signed up to and if that is breached then action is taken, but if it is not breached then no action will be taken.  If a member has cause for concern about a post then report it - it's easy enough to do using the report button.

 

BTW I have been accused of being too fluffy on occasion because I tend only to post my thoughts of things I have liked.

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I can't honestly say that I've detected a change in the general tone of comments recently, but I very much agree with Jan's post above. It's much easier to misinterpret electronic posts (or emails) than if it was an oral conversation, and it's also easier to put in writing things you might not say in person. (There's a phenomenon known as 'cyber disinhibition'!). Either way, I always try to re-read my posts before posting them to make sure that nothing could be misinterpreted or is expressed in too unbalanced a way (though I'm sure that still happens sometimes). But I also wouldn't want members to feel that can only post positive comments - I want the rich tapestry of opinion and often learn from it even if I don't agree.

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I have a feeling that the word "snowflake" has been used to describe a very much younger generation ...say 18- 25 year olds who supposedly cannot take too much criticism and are very easily offended and who are very politically correct etc .and not that tolerant of anyone who does not uphold their own particular views...and this has supposedly lead to some people being banned to speak at Universities because their views are too strong or outdated even. I believe even Germaine Greer has been one of those banned.

so this Generation has been called the "snowflake" generation.

I personally have no idea whether any of this is true in reality ....but only gathered from what I have read on occasions over the last year.

 

I tend to hate big generalisations personally and suspect that young people today are not all that different from the young of the 60's and 70's when I could  legitimatically call myself young!! 

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the OED just added this definition a couple of weeks ago:

  orig. and chiefly U.S. (usually derogatory and potentially offensive). Originally: a person, esp. a child, regarded as having a unique personality and potential. Later: a person mockingly characterized as overly sensitive or easily offended, esp. one said to consider himself or herself entitled to special treatment or consideration.Alluding in earliest use to the notion that no two snowflakes are identical, later to their pristine or fragile condition.

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9 hours ago, Jan McNulty said:

Sorry the current idiom has lost me.  What is a snowflake other than a flake of snow?

 

I believe in the right of people to publish their opinions but I also believe that there are ways of expressing them.  I sometimes think (and I am not just thinking of this forum) that people do not realise just how brusquely their posts can come across.  The problem with the internet is that you cannot see the person who is writing the comment's facial expression or body language so things that may be meant light heartedly can come across as just plain nasty.

 

I think it is quite acceptable to say that you think a dancer is miscast in a role.  There have been occasions when I have thought the same myself.  I also think it is acceptable to say that a costume is unflattering (and I have seen many) but there are ways of saying these things and ways of saying these things that to others may seem harsh and unnecessary.

 

I would point out that there are dancers and their relatives and friends who, if not members, read the forum and it cannot be pleasant to read personal remarks.

 

We have an acceptable use policy that all members have signed up to and if that is breached then action is taken, but if it is not breached then no action will be taken.  If a member has cause for concern about a post then report it - it's easy enough to do using the report button.

 

BTW I have been accused of being too fluffy on occasion because I tend only to post my thoughts of things I have liked.

I always enjoy reading your reports Janet, especially because you get to see companies such as BRB and NB that I cannot easily get to.

 

I don't think I'd be accused of being "fluffy" but I am occasionally concerned that anything that is not just what is liked (I don't include you in this) seems to lead to potential acrimony. 

 

I learn a lot from reading the reports of people much better informed than I, and find that by such reading (as well as other books, websites discussing dance), my own critical antennae become better educated, in fact more appreciative, but also more acute, leading to a heightened enjoyment.

 

I'd be sad that any "snowflake" mentality were to dissipate that and that we were, to mix metaphors (or something) to end up in some sort of Caucus Race where everybody wins and everybody has prizes.

 

I don't think that anybody interested enough in Classical Ballet to follow this forum has anything but the highest regard for the talent and discipline of those who have made it a career and enlarge, enliven and educate our perceptions bringing so much pleasure, but I would be sorry if the observational / critical (as opposed to judgemental) faculty were to be shut off. I've probably not put this very well, but I hope most people will understand what I am trying to write.

 

 

 

people's opinions,

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I love the variety of views - I’m more a reader than poster. I think of the forum like a news stand. 

 

Youve got the dance mags. People who know their stuff, have probably danced and give great technical insights. I really learn about ballet. 

 

Youve then got the Guardian. Great insightful reviews that I understand and inspire me (or not) to see a show. 

 

Finally the Daily Mail. I know it’s gossip and sometimes baseless rumour. I shouldn’t read and enjoy but can’t help myself. It’s a guilty pleasure. 

 

I hope we can keep all this colour but under the careful eye of the moderators. (Thanks to them). 

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I agree with RobR that there have been rather a lot of grumpy posts recently - though it's got better since, I noticed a higher than usual number of dust-ups at the weekend.  (I don't exempt myself - on reflection, one or two of my posts were probably a bit curt.)

 

I think what might help - I'll be giving it a go anyway - is to avoid responding in the second person when unhappy with what someone else has posted.  Our parliament may not always be a model of good manners, but I think the practice of referring to those you're arguing against in the third person is a good one and can take the sting out of things.

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19 hours ago, RobR said:

As a longtime BCF follower I have, recently, become concerned about what I perceive to be a small, but significant, change in the general tone of remarks made in some of the more recent threads.

 

I appreciate that IT posting has become 'instant' and this is something we all have to live with but I do wonder if some of the posts to which I refer below have been 'posted in haste' and without full consideration. 

 

Recent examples include criticism of particular dancers and their costumes, and of ballet companies and their internal procedures (notwithstanding press articles and blogs). In one thread, critical personal remarks appear to have been made by forum members of other forum members. 

 

I am not (at least I hope I’m not) in current idiom a 'snowflake'. I read and welcome constructive criticism and informed opinions. Almost all BCF posters are better informed than me, and far more knowledgeable, about ballet but I was brought up on the premise that, 'if you can’t say something nice, it’s better to say nothing', and, whilst generally welcoming constructive criticism, I have begun to wonder if some of the more recent postings have become unnecessarily critical in both content and of persons.

Well, well.  When you read on a discussion forum that 'if you can't say something nice, it's better to say nothing,' there's only one action to take:

 

Exit stage left - followed by a bear!

 

Happy ballet everyone.

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20 hours ago, RobR said:

'if you can’t say something nice, it’s better to say nothing', and, whilst generally welcoming constructive criticism, I have begun to wonder if some of the more recent postings have become unnecessarily critical in both content and of persons.

 

32 minutes ago, penelopesimpson said:

Well, well.  When you read on a discussion forum that 'if you can't say something nice, it's better to say nothing,' there's only one action to take:

 

Exit stage left - followed by a bear!

 

Happy ballet everyone.

 

I'm not sure what falls into the category of "unnecessarily critical" ? I do try not to be rude but this is supposed to be a discussion forum not a fan club so if you can't say anything negative what's the point of contributing ? It feels to me as though it is becoming more difficult on this forum to criticise performances. 

 

Just to take one example, and it wasn't me who said it, the poster(s) on the Giselle thread who pointed out that Matthew Ball almost stumbled in one of his variations, was criticised for saying so. I mean dancers are praised if they dance well, they are praised if they act well  so why not say it how it is when it doesn't go as well ? How else can someone who didn't see the performance know what was good and what wasn't so good ? Are we supposed to deduce from what's not said - which is what some of my posts are being reduced to lately. 

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I don't know if there's some misunderstanding of what RobR has said here: he says that "constructive criticism" is welcome.  It's perfectly possible to criticise in a nice way.

 

I think it was the reminder of Ball's slip in Sleeping Beauty that people were unhappy with, not the mention of the slight stumble in Giselle, and the implication that these two separate misfortunes add up to a bigger technical shortcoming. IMO a single slight stumble in a big role is akin to a horn player cracking a note: it's unfortunate and everyone might notice it, but there's an acceptance that it can't be held against the performer.

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1 hour ago, penelopesimpson said:

Well, well.  When you read on a discussion forum that 'if you can't say something nice, it's better to say nothing,' there's only one action to take:

 

Exit stage left - followed by a bear!

 

Happy ballet everyone.

 

That was one comment in one post, with which a number of others have politely disagreed. If a poster wishes only to post positive comments, that's their prerogative; it clearly doesn't apply to everyone else. So I'm not sure why it's being read as some sort of policy. I think that just as we should have some balance in how we post, we should also have some balance in how we read.

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I have always found it fascinating, in my many years of ballet-going, to see how very differently ballets and dancers are perceived.  In the days before social media, when all we had to read were the critics, I often wondered whether some of them had been at the same performance.  The wildly varying reviews used to bewilder me, but then I realised early on that we all have our different ways of looking at and feeling things.  One person will love, say, the decor in someone's house and his/her friend will hate it.  Same with anything, and we all need to respect each other's views.

 

The last thing that we as moderators want (and we have said this many times) is for this to become a fan site.  That's why we call it a forum.  I am all for everyone being able to say exactly what they think....and in this snowflake world that is becoming less and less possible or tolerated.  So please everyone, keep your impressions coming, both positive and negative;  as long as you all respect each other, and keep within our AUP, all opinions are very welcome here.  And please give each other some slack;  as was pointed out above, what is said in writing can sound very different from how it is meant to sound.  Finally, remember that we are all equally passionate about the art form, and this will lead to deep and differing opinions all round.  

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24 minutes ago, Lizbie1 said:

I don't know if there's some misunderstanding of what RobR has said here: he says that "constructive criticism" is welcome.  It's perfectly possible to criticise in a nice way.

 

I think it was the reminder of Ball's slip in Sleeping Beauty that people were unhappy with, not the mention of the slight stumble in Giselle, and the implication that these two separate misfortunes add up to a bigger technical shortcoming. IMO a single slight stumble in a big role is akin to a horn player cracking a note: it's unfortunate and everyone might notice it, but there's an acceptance that it can't be held against the performer.

 

Perfectly put, Lizbie1.  That is exactly what I objected to, and I said so at the time - politely, I hope!

 

Personally, I try to follow two rules when posting:  

 

1. Remember that this forum is visible to anyone with internet access; not just members.  I do think that people sometimes forget that, and type as though they're in a private chatroom.

 

2. I try not to type anything I wouldn't say to someone's face.  As part of this, I try to keep criticism constructive.  As the parent of a dancing teenager, I am aware of how much good can be gained from constructive criticism and corrections, and how much damage can be done by destructive comments and failing to remember that dancers are actual people (often quite young people) with feelings.    

 

Another point has just come to mind which is that sometimes I think people are critical of dancers for things which are not in their remit - casting, costumes etc.  Being a dancer must be a bit like being a Waiter; in the front line so sometimes take the flack for the Chef's cooking.  

 

Anyway; I don't expect everyone or even anyone to abide by these; they work for me.  

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''Another point has just come to mind which is that sometimes I think people are critical of dancers for things which are not in their remit - casting, costumes etc.  Being a dancer must be a bit like being a Waiter; in the front line so sometimes take the flack for the Chef's cooking.'

 

May I point out that this forum is called Ballet Forum, NOT dancer's forum.  My criticism of costumes was (I should have thought blindingly obvious)  not directed at Matthew Ball or Laura Morera - anymore than those people who were disparaging of Steven Macrae's trousers in the first production thought that he had designed and stitched them himself.

 

It does seem that people want to take offence at the simplest things.  I did not think Matthew's costume fitted him or did him any favours.  Clearly that is a comment on general production values - just as there is a whole thread about audience behaviour and we have had threads about construction work at ROH - I look at a ballet in the round and have reviewed particulars that attracted my notice.  

 

It is clearly time to take a posting holiday but I am not going to let myself be misquoted in this silly way.  Forgive, but I do think this whole thing about criticism has become totally ridiculous.  Ballet and the dancers who give us fans so much pleasure, are not poor little wilting flowers who need to be protected against life.  If everything is always absolutely hunky-dory, then wouldn't this forum be better re-established as a fan club?  I did not personally point out Matthew Ball's fall because I never saw it but couldn't believe how the poor poster who did was jumped all over.  IMHO, this is just as much a form of bullying as is this over-protectiveness of ballet.

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Yes Anna C I do think I'm guilty of forgetting it's a public forum sometimes and that I'm in some sort of private chat room!! Maybe because been here a few years and recognise quite a few posters names and now have even met some of them that I do post as if talking to friends...... even though I suspect some people may dislike my posts because they are not critical enough!! This year I'm fairly sure  I've only been critical of ENB's Nutcracker for example ....and that was more the production than the dancers. 

I find it very difficult to be too critical of individual dancers because I admire them so much generally speaking ....not in a fanatical way but just know how difficult classical dancing is from trying to do it myself.....and I am guilty of not saying  anything sometimes if have not been so happy with performances ......which isn't that often anyway.

For example I did notice Matthew's VERY minor either slip or slight over balance on a landing ....not quite sure which ....but didn't think to mention this because to me seemed irrelevant in view of the whole performance and what he as an artist was trying to put across ...mostly pretty successfully. I'm always grateful ( for them) that they don't actually fall over and injure themselves.

 

Many years ago now( sorry I'm getting to the age where I seem to be writing that more) I was at a performance of Giselle when Monica Mason in the role of Myrthe actually broke her ankle! She obviously just landed a bit awkwardly .....are you going to blame her for a technical error on landing!!! I don't think so somehow.....so slight stumbles here and there to me at any rate are NOT a sign of bad technique. 

 

 

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Well a friend of mine who loves ballet as much as me and doesn't post here thinks I went too far last week talking about my partner being disgruntled with the wardrobe space ....she thinks this is just too personal....and maybe it is .....hence the forgetting in a public forum etc!

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59 minutes ago, LinMM said:

Yes Anna C I do think I'm guilty of forgetting it's a public forum sometimes and that I'm in some sort of private chat room!! Maybe because been here a few years and recognise quite a few posters names and now have even met some of them that I do post as if talking to friends...... even though I suspect some people may dislike my posts because they are not critical enough!! This year I'm fairly sure  I've only been critical of ENB's Nutcracker for example ....and that was more the production than the dancers. 

I find it very difficult to be too critical of individual dancers because I admire them so much generally speaking ....not in a fanatical way but just know how difficult classical dancing is from trying to do it myself.....and I am guilty of not saying  anything sometimes if have not been so happy with performances ......which isn't that often anyway.

For example I did notice Matthew's VERY minor either slip or slight over balance on a landing ....not quite sure which ....but didn't think to mention this because to me seemed irrelevant in view of the whole performance and what he as an artist was trying to put across ...mostly pretty successfully. I'm always grateful ( for them) that they don't actually fall over and injure themselves.

 

Many years ago now( sorry I'm getting to the age where I seem to be writing that more) I was at a performance of Giselle when Monica Mason in the role of Myrthe actually broke her ankle! She obviously just landed a bit awkwardly .....are you going to blame her for a technical error on landing!!! I don't think so somehow.....so slight stumbles here and there to me at any rate are NOT a sign of bad technique. 

 

 

Is pointing out a slip, blaming anyone?  This is exactly what I mean about censoring anything that is not wholly adoring.  If you look at the Giselle thread, you will see that any time a poster even borders on the critical, they feel it necessary to virtually abase themself first.  

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3 minutes ago, Lizbie1 said:

 

Serious question: if it isn't, then what is it?

It is sunny here today.  Is that anyone’s fault?  No, it is a fact.

At Winter’s Tale tonight I will be wearing a pair of ear-rings that my companion says don’t suit me and he will doubtless remind me.  That is an observation.

I do not know why a dancer slips.  Presumably the stage might be slippy/they might momentarily lose concentration or have a physical weakness.  Whatever, it is surely just that - a minor slip.  Nobody points it out and says ‘oh, there’s that clumsy dancer not picking his feet up.’

in the last run of Mayerling, I think it was either Romany Padjak or Mayara Magri whose skirt got caught up and only excellent work between her and Ed Watson averted a fall.  It was much commented on as an incident that happened but nobody was casting blame.

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23 minutes ago, Lizbie1 said:

 

Serious question: if it isn't, then what is it?

 

A statement of fact.  Indeed, one of the least subjective things one can express while commenting on a performance.

 

I could just as easily say that when I went to the first night of Iolanthe the other night at ENO, Andrew Shore forgot his first line.  This is a fact.  The fact that I also love Andrew Shore and thought his performance was generally wonderful doesn't stop it being true.

 

Context is everything, I think.  There are ways of making factual statements about obvious errors/accidents (which happen all the time in live performance) without it being derogatory to the artist concerned.

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16 minutes ago, penelopesimpson said:

in the last run of Mayerling, I think it was either Romany Padjak or Mayara Magri whose skirt got caught up and only excellent work between her and Ed Watson averted a fall.  It was much commented on as an incident that happened but nobody was casting blame.

Yes, it was Romany Pajdak.  *Everybody* commented on it.  None of the comments came across in the slightest as casting blame upon the dancer, that I can recall.

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As Lizbie says, my objection to the mentions of Matthew Ball's stumble in Giselle AND his slip in Sleeping Beauty was not only that the two were completely unrelated, but also the implication that these two incidents reflect badly on his technique and therefore that he's not as "good" as other dancers and didn't deserve to partner a Principal.   It's my right to disagree with these opinions just as it's the right of the posters to express them. 

 

 

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5 minutes ago, RuthE said:

Yes, it was Romany Pajdak.  *Everybody* commented on it.  None of the comments came across in the slightest as casting blame upon the dancer, that I can recall.

 

To be honest, I don't remember any other RB dancer being judged or criticised for falling - apart from Matthew Ball.

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2 minutes ago, RuthE said:

Context is everything, I think.  There are ways of making factual statements about obvious errors/accidents (which happen all the time in live performance) without it being derogatory to the artist concerned.

 

I think that this is the most important thing to remember.

 

I guess that, personally speaking, I'm not sure what purpose it serves to comment on this kind of thing if no criticism is implied, unless someone's saying "oh, by the way, this happened, but it was irrelevant".  If someone sent me an email with a typo in it, it would be a bit weird to point that typo out to people around me unless it were a funny one or I were...yes, implying criticism!

 

In the case of Romany Pajdak in Mayerling, I think there was criticism implied, except it was of the wardrobe department.

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