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Do ballet fans ever change?


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I have read few articles by idiot critics that have angered me more than this one.

 

My first reaction was Pot, Kettle, Black as I have been told by dancers that in his day Mr Macaulay was himself a major stage door irritant.  His reference to the black-clad female fan is unforgiveable as the unhappy lady in question was clearly emotionally unstable and in drawing attention to her in his article he is cruelly mocking the afflicted.  SHAME ON YOU MACAULAY!!!

 

When it comes to partisanship I think the writer displays his own, as his resentment of the farewell accorded Nina Ananiashvili must have been a major irritant to someone who was rumoured to display an irrational dislike towards her.  The comments on partnerships are incomprehensible: how many times have we suffered a great ballerina saddled with an earthbound porteur?  Too damn many.  To see two equal stars together is a rare and special pleasure and I will out myself here and now and confess to having been a major fan of Fonteyn and Nureyev and an admirer of Sibley/Dowell and Farrell/Martins.

 

Macaulay’s incomprehension towards the ovation awarded Gediminas Taranda simply emphasizes his woeful ignorance of the politics of Russian Ballet at the time as this was Taranda’s first appearance in London.  He had been excluded from the earlier tour but his reputation had preceded him and the fans were ready to afford him the warmest welcome possible.

 

Is there a lunatic fringe?  Yes, in Russia things get very overheated.  Perhaps next time you watch a You Tube clip of a Russian dancer you should start reading the comments beneath – frightening a lot of them, but it does I suppose confirm that there are lunatics out there, but London and New York are the wrong places to look for them.

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Isn't it funny how we read things differently.  I read this article this morning and thought it was an affectionate look at ballet fans who are very serious about their art.  I re-read after reading your post MAB and still found it an affectionate look at ballet fans who are very serious about their art.

 

I am quite happy to be considered a lunatic - I know most of my non-ballet-obsessed friends think I am - in the context of this article.  In fact I have quite often commented to a group of equally ballet-watching-obsessed-fans that we are all mad - but boy do we got a lot of pleasure out of being that mad!

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Isn't it funny how we read things differently.  I read this article this morning and thought it was an affectionate look at ballet fans who are very serious about their art.  I re-read after reading your post MAB and still found it an affectionate look at ballet fans who are very serious about their art.

 

 

 

 

The review struck me that way as well, Janet.

 

Although I am sure that such behaviour is not limited to ballet fans.  I think opera fans can be a pretty passionate and partisan bunch, can't they?

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There were a couple of bits I felt were "snarky", yes (e.g. the comment about acting as though they owned the place), but not on the whole. I did feel uncomfortable with him identifying people so specifically and recognisably, though.

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Although I am sure that such behaviour is not limited to ballet fans.  I think opera fans can be a pretty passionate and partisan bunch, can't they?

 

I used to go to all the international skating championships in the 70s and the fans there could be pretty passionate too.  The Russian team had their own, terrifying well organised, claque which followed them everywhere.  I can still hear their ruthless chants which must have been really intimidating to the other competitors (not to mention the judges!).

 

Linda

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Janet, many thanks for finding the article and embedding it on this thread. It was a task beyond my technical capabilities, I'm afraid!

 

I was surprised at MAB's response. Like others, I thought it was a positive and sympathetic article about balletomania and its expression on the part of fans. Macaulay's final sentence where he referred to it warming his heart summed up his approach. Ballet seems to attract aficionados perhaps more than usually prone to excessive manifestations of their enthusiasm. I'm sure we can all think of similar examples known to us. I should also correct one point in MAB's response. He refers to "...the unhappy lady...clearly emotionally unstable...afflicted." Everyone who was a regular at Covent Garden in the sixties, seventies and eighties will know the person concerned either by name or by sight. They will be able to confirm that she wasn't unhappy (well, no more so than anyone else) and didn't appear to be particularly afflicted or unstable (unless you count a particularly strong devotion to the dancing of Anthony Dowell as evidence of either). What was eccentric was her conviction that her presence in the audience was essential in giving Dowell confidence to perform at his best. However, she was a very knowledgeable observer of ballet. If Dowell did not perform at his best, she readily acknowledged it. She might have bizarre reasons for this happening, but she never attempted to disguise the reality of the situation. In this she differed from many fans who attempt to explain away technical deficiencies as artistic choices.

There were several others who had similar (if not identical) obsessions about ballet: the ones who organised flower throws, the Nureyev fans (including the ones who followed him around from country to country), the Fonteyn fans (not identical to the Nureyev fans, though there was some overlap), the Beriosova fans and the Sibley fans (big overlap between those two groups) and the Park fans (little overlap with any other group). They all had their particular quirks and obsessions which manifested themselves if different ways. My impression is that this has lessened somewhat in recent years (though it certainly hasn't disappeared) I think, in part at least, to the decline in the regular audience, largely due to cost. There are fewer people going to performances at Covent Garden three or four times a week than there used to. Costs of travel and tickets make this very difficult (unless you're very rich) and the monotony of the programming doesn't help.

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My regular Royal Opera House days were the 80s and I remember the lady in black very well. She was a ballet legend at that time. I also remember Macaulay and how he used to latch on to regulars and then report their views as his own. Indeed, there were a number of letters in the Dancing Times complaining he was being given too much coverage. I find his escalation to the New York Times both baffling and irritating. He has never struck me as being a particularly objective writer.

 

I think the point I am coming to is that if you knew him and saw how he operated in those days you might well find that anything he writes may well contain points which will irk. I remember an article he wrote for the FT in about 1992 which was an utter diatribe against Sir Peter Wright and his productions. I was so livid I wrote a letter of complaint to the paper. The Arts Editor did reply saying he would discuss the natter with him.

 

I am sorry but I have never liked him and I tend to view all his writings with suspicion.

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I have read Alistair Macaulay's article twice and wonder what all the fuss is about.   

 

Much of what he said is true:

 

"Many of these dancegoers are gloriously opinionated, terrifyingly knowledgeable and rabidly partisan. A few talk as if they witnessed ballet milestones of the 19th century, behave as if they own the place, and dissect the difference between a Thursday and Friday night’s performance of a work as if it were a matter of earthshaking consequence."

 

But then so what. All sorts of people go to the ballet for all sorts of reasons. I am glad that they do because they help keep the companies and theatres in business.  I could not care less why they go and they are welcome to their opinions however eccentric some may think them to be.  

 

Anyway, every night's performance is different.  Some days you can experience something quite magical that did not happen the day before and may not happen the day afterwards.  The night I attended "Midsummer Night's Dream" at the West Yorkshire Playhouse last September that the normally reserved and very hardbitten North country audience felt compelled to rise to their feet.  Something special happened that night that I have only experienced on two other occasions in my life. Apparently it had not happened before in the run nor since.

 

"The woman beside him replied crustily: “I never look at Margot Fonteyn. I only watch Robert Helpmann.”

Again, so what.  Every star has his fans and some people go to a show just to see him. To some extent that is true of me.  I admire Sarah Kundi very much and I followed her from Northern Ballet to Ballet Black and MurleyDance where I have found other dancers to admire.  I continue to follow both companies even though Kundi has moved on again.  And I am still following Kundi to her next role with ENB in Romeo and Juliet in the round and I dare say that I may take easyJet to Spain to see her there.   Is that obsession?  I don't think so.  A good excise for a trip to London and maybe another to Spain.  I can afford it so why not.

 

"Are you wondering whether this craziness is a symptom of the decline of the West? "

 

The arts, including dance, appeal to our emotions. If they didn't move us they would not be good art.  Of course, people are going to get emotional and we express that emotion in different ways.   I express mine in my blog and the occasional post here.   Others brandish banners like "Sibley and Dowell for ever." Yet again why not?

 

As David Bintley reminded us in his contribution to the Ballet Season on BBC TV some weeks ago, the ballet like the other performing arts played a valuable part in sustaining national morale during the Second World War.  Fonteyn and Helpmann were not the only artists who carried on through air attacks,   I have seen a film of Dame Myra Hess at her piano as the bombs rained down around the National Gallery.  At the end of the cultural spectrum the girls at The Windmill never closed.    Everyone took risks at that time and some risks seemed more worth taking than others.

 

I am surprised that Mr Macaulay could squeeze an article out of audience reaction but I am also surprised at the reaction to his article,

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It is tongue in cheek and seems to me affectionate and not meant as serious criticism at all.  I had to chuckle at the point about some fans who focus on someone in the back row of the corps etc  -it is not unknown on ballet forum where someone always ignores all the main points and congratulates Sarah Boggins (who?) every time......

and several other types  we can all recognise among ourselves  ( and laugh I hope?) I have certainly been  teased about my keenness to see a particular dancer-but I just see it as enthusiasm for talent and I don't mind a bit of teasing from less ballet-minded friends.

 

However, I must say I think it is always in poor taste to  bandy terms such as madness, lunatic, etc.

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 I also remember Macaulay and how he used to latch on to regulars and then report their views as his own. Indeed, there were a number of letters in the Dancing Times complaining he was being given too much coverage. I find his escalation to the New York Times both baffling and irritating. He has never struck me as being a particularly objective writer.

I am sorry but I have never liked him and I tend to view all his writings with suspicion.

 

 

 

Thanks for jogging my memory, yes, you are right, he was accused of lurking at stage doors to pass on overheard comments as his own, though it was a dancer who told me that, not someone who had had their thoughts passed off as his own.

 

I find a lot of critics problematic, my pet hates are the ones that produce a generic review for something they didn't actually go to - remember you guys that in tiny venues we can see everyone in the house and for small performing groups there is a buzz if a known critic turns up.  It comes a surprise the next day when we read something from someone who wasn't there.

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He actually admitted to me that he had used a couple of remarks I made to him about Alessandra Ferri's first Mary Vetsera and he had repeated them to lots of people. I suppose that I was fortunate in this. Most of the people I knew he had quoted did not receive that courtesy.

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I remember reading a modern dance review that went on line (not this website) a day before the professional critic produced hers, and she had obviously borrowed so extensively from the first review that it was a clear case of plagiarism. And no doubt the critic was paid for rehashing what someone else had written; leaves a bad taste doesn't it?

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What's Sarah Kundi doing in R&J, Terpsichore?

 

I am not sure exactly. This is what she tweeted when I asked whether anyone knew what she was doing on 5 March:

 

@nipclaw You are ever so sweet Jane2764.png I will be dancing in ENB's R&J in May/June...! Then moving out to Madrid to join @VictorUllateEsc"

 

Are you a Kundi fan too by any chance?

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