Macaulay on ABT, and More Same-Sex Ballroom Stuff on NYTimes Website

NYTimes’s website is rocking these days. First, NYTimes Chief Dance Critic Alastair Macaulay’s review of ABT’s opening night gala is now up. Read it here. Whoa, far more critical than anyone was of NYCB’s opening. I’m not trying to be thick, but I honestly don’t understand his paragraph on the excerpt from Othello, danced by Alessandra Ferri and Marcelo Gomes, and choreographed by Lar Lubovitch. This in particular is what I don’t get:

“This choreography pursued a hammy old dance-expressionist rule: ‘Never express an emotion to the left that you don’t also express to the right, preferably several times either way.'”

This is in the context of his contention that Ferri’s “willing victim” schtick didn’t really work and Gomes struggled with being “intense.” So, I don’t get it: is he saying Ferri did something wrong, Gomes did, they both screwed up together, or the choreography was nonsensical? And what does he mean by left and right — does he mean literally don’t do something one-sided or half-assed, or does he mean it in an art versus reason sense (don’t make an intellectual choice if you can’t back it up with the proper emotion), or in a political sense (Ferri’s willing victim and /or Gomes’s macho intensity were anachronistically and stupidly misogynistic for this day and age, making them disingenuous)? They’re all interesting points of view; I just want to understand! Oh wait, is he just saying either she needed to take it down a notch or he needed to take it up a notch? That makes sense, and is what I was saying as well (the second part, rather). Well, everyone just go see Othello and we’ll all figure Macaulay out together :)

Also, they have a video of the gala here with some rather amusing commentary by former Wonder Woman Linda Carter. The reporter concludes that many of the chi chi guests came out not to watch the dancing, but to hob-knob and boogie down themselves. Interesting.

And, finally, something my friend sent me regarding that same-sex ballroom dance competition held here two weekends ago that I blogged about earlier and was written up in the City section last weekend — the Times has a little video clip up of that too. It’s really quite interesting: they give a little history of the competition and talk about some of the reasons why people participate in same-sex ballroom dancing — it’s not always because the couples are homosexual; sometimes women just feel sexier leading rather than following, and it’s too hard to lead a male partner. Interesting. I never did get the hang of following! Here’s the video.

5 Comments

  1. I think, personally, that the ‘disclaimer’ about same-sex ballroom not necessarily being queer is, to some degree, a PR tactic. Ballroom is chock fulla gay men (I have no idea about the female side of it, my own background notwithstanding) but there’s a tremendous drive to keep the gayness quiet, as in figure skating.

  2. Really? That’s annoying. I can’t believe it’s still a big deal in today’s society. Although now that I’m thinking about it… I think it’s more accepted in the ballet world that there are lots of gay men but then from what I overhear and read sometimes it seems that that’s one reason why a lot of people won’t go. It’s really disturbing how homophobia can affect an entire art form.

  3. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on Othello once it comes around… I must say I didn’t enjoy it very much when I saw it live (SF Ballet did it a few years ago on the west coast), for the reasons that Macaulay hinted at in his review. The characterizations were overly simplistic, with Othello coming off as this mindless hulk that stalked around the stage to claim his territory: a waifish Desdemona that gets thrown around by all the men on stage. I just felt that in the original play, both characters had much more nuance and strength, though I know Lubovitch went farther back and used a source story for Shakespeare’s play.

    But then, when I saw the PBS broadcast a year or so later, I suddenly liked it a lot more; with the intermissions gone, the production moving along snippily at 90 minutes. Spread out over a whole evening, it was very thin. We’ll get ABT’s version here in LA after met season as well. So your comments on it will be very interesting to read!!

  4. Thanks interesting, Art. I’ll be seeing it next week and I’ll definitely blog about it! I have a ticket to see Marcelo in the lead, but I’d seen pieces of it during the Works & Process series they have at the Guggenheim here and in that I saw David Hallberg do the lead. He definitely didn’t come across as a mindless hulk — I don’t think David could ever be that way though even if he tried; he just doesn’t have that personality in him! I don’t really think Marcelo did either though in the snippet I saw of it on Monday, which I think is why Macaulay thought it was unbalanced. Who were the dancers in the version you saw — well, obviously SF Ballet didn’t have the same dancers I’ll see, but what about the PBS version? Now, I’m even more excited to see it! And, I’ll be looking forward to your review too when ABT goes out there after they’re done here!

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