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The Buzz, 2-23: The Rockwell Files, 2
Give me Nudity, or Give me Death!

By Dance Insider Readers
with Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2005 The Dance Insider

To monitor the errors being disseminated by the new New York Times chief dance critic, John Rockwell, the Buzz has opened the floor to your contributions to The Rockwell Files. Got a Rockwellism? E-mail the Buzz at paul@danceinsider.com. Please include your first and last name. Dance artists wishing to contribute can request that their names be withheld, as long as we know who you are and your comments aren't libelous. Herewith some recent reader comments, occasionally followed by amplification from Paul Ben-Itzak.


A reader writes:

(Rockwell) says in his review of Toronto Dance Theatre: "Much publicity has accrued about the work's nudity, how the dancers had to learn to feel comfortable in the altogether, and such like. 'Tease' comes to mind because there is precious little nudity ..."

Well, I think he outs himself here as a leering hetero whose primary enjoyment of dance comes from gawking at T & A. And it must fit within his parameters of beauty. For there was actually quite a lot of nudity in the piece, but male. All poor John got to drool over was one bush and maybe two sets of titties. The one extended topless female solo was done by a flatsy.

The male homoerotic content of this piece was high. My companion was particularly enraptured by one clothed male duet. There were three geriatric poofs in the row in front of me, one with a freshly hennaed comb-over, whose eager sad heads pecked back and forth at the firm young male butts like hungry pigeons.

Oh I say it was very droll.

Perhaps John would be better suited as the chief dance critic of the Las Vegas Sun?

PBI amplifies: Really, it wasn't my plan to amplify; I'd prefer to totally turn the floor over to others. But then I made the mistake of looking at the review in question, which contains at least one more doozy: "Mr. House," Rockwell writes, referring to the choreographer, Christopher House, "who became artistic director of the Toronto company in 1994 and whose previous work has often been praised, is given to intellectual explications of his inspirations, in the European manner." Huh. Well John, from my European manner here in Paris, allow me provide a little more explication: I found these verbal reflections by choreographers on their corporeal art a little off-putting too, at first, especially when my French was elementary. Yes, it's annoying when what the choreographer writes cannot be detected in what he or she creates onstage. But there is an, er, explication: Europeans see dance as part of the greater literature. And maybe the choreographers don't want to leave the explications entirely to the critics.

Fat Chance

Another reader writes:

I'm so glad you started this topic. (Rockwell's) "dance reviews" have really been strange. Of the Flamenco Festival gala, (this is really my memory of the review, since I didn't save it) he reported mostly on the structure of the concert, not on the dance, then proceeded to call the wonderful Rocio Molina "roly poly." I really consider that offensive. The girl is an amazing talent and this is another example on his tendency to fixate on the superficial.

PBI adds: Equally heinous in this review was Rockwell's statement, "But whether the four-element idea focused what the dancers do normally into something higher and better seems doubtful," the implication being that flamenco stands in need of being elevated to "something higher."

Come Back, Anna

And another reader comments:

I must say, after reading (former Times chief dance critic Anna) Kisselgoff's recent piece on the "gorgeous" new French import to New York City Ballet, Sofiane Sylve, I nearly wept with nostalgia for Anna's historical grasp of ballet in the daily pages of the Times. That sort of erudition informs the art, and helps keep us all in mind of the great legacy of ballet. It also honors the creativity and contribution of the dancers themselves. Rockwell, I'm afraid, didn't go to the same school. More of his superficial, and obviously sexist, commentary is clearly...less.

Got a Rockwellism? E-mail the Buzz at paul@danceinsider.com.


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