Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why Alastair Macaulay's Nutcracker Review Failed

It's impossible to know everything about every art form that enriches our culture. We all have blind spots, and filling those in for us is where a critic can be most useful.

Alastair Macaulay failed in this role when, in his now much discussed review, he said this about Jenifer Ringer and Jared Angle's performances in the New York City Ballet's Nutcracker:
Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, looked as if she'd eaten one sugar plum too many; and Jared Angle, as the Cavalier, seems to have been sampling half the Sweet realm. They're among the few City Ballet principals who dance like adults, but without adult depth or complexity. 
Because Macaulay didn't explain to us how Ringer's and Angle's weight related to the superficiality of the dancing, we can only conclude that he was taking a cheap shot at dancers he just didn't like. (Ringer went on the Today Show to defend herself.) Macaulay missed an opportunity to explain the connection between body image and movement in ballet (as opposed to other forms of dance, for example).

I certainly would welcome that deeper critical discussion; I suspect most reasonably intelligent people curious about dance would. But, having read Macaulay's follow-up defense of his review, I doubt he has the capacity to give us this anyway. Best just to move on. (See, anyone can sucker punch.)