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The Buzz, 2-22: Local Yokel
The unbearable lightness of Alastair Macaulay

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2010 Paul Ben-Itzak

I don't read the New York Times any more -- what little credibility it had left was blown to smithereens when its shoddy reporting enabled an illegal war that has cost up to one million civilian and thousands of American military lives -- so I only just learned of Eva Yaa Asantewaa's heavyweight summing up of the latest summary summation by Times 'critic' Alastair Macaulay, the new featherweight champion of dance criticism. I won't recapitulate all Asantewaa's points -- just follow the link to the original -- but will add two, both of which reinforce what seems to me her uber-theme: how little the best-paid dance critic in New York applies himself to the job.

Macaulay calls his piece "Choreographic climate change: A decade's worth of dance, dancers, and choreographers," but in reality it might have been called "A decade's worth of mainstream dance, white dancers and choreographers in New York and Covent Garden." Notwithstanding some generic praise which neither surprises nor enlightens anyone who's seen any dance in any of these forms over the past decade, Macaulay does not mention by name any non-white artists besides -- stop the presses! -- Savion Glover and Madhavi Mughal. As incredibly, no European choreographers (outside of NY ballet regulars Christopher Wheeldon and Alexei Ratmansky) are cited.

Pina Bausch? Doesn't matter. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker? Never heard of her. Sasha Waltz? Ditto. Maguy Marin -- who continues to change not only the boundaries of the art but the way we look at it it -- didn't register. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui -- only the most important choreographer to emerge in Europe over the last decade -- who he? Peeping Tom? Not a peep. Israel Galvin -- by the account of many, changing the art of Flamenco while re-enforcing its traditions -- not worth noting.

It's not just that Macaulay is provincial. It's not just that he's ballet-centric. It's not just his idiotic and ignorant statements, such as "Dance is the art with no history," and how dangerous they are when disseminated in a mainstream publication where many of his readers will believe them and consequently not treat dance seriously. It's that he is so, so light-weight. So un-thinking. So intellectually lazy.

The bigger problem reflected here, and as Asantewaa nails it, is that "the New York Times doesn't care about dance. If it did, it would give dance a senior critic with diligence, breath of kowledge, curiosity, serious chops and respect for artists.

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