We want your feedback!
After I posted a “Dance Glance” that asked this question, I received responses on twitter, facebook, and email. They came from dance writers, dancers, artistic directors, and publicists. Here is an edited version of the comments. What surprised me most is the the Financial Times usually won't even print a review of a gala (if it's just excerpts). I thank everyone for a lively debate.
Graham Watts, @GWDanceWriter: I completely agree with your view about fundraising galas not being reviewable—charity galas even more so... I personally always view them as a night off from writing.
Anna Gatti, @annamariagatti: I don't agree: they sell tickets for ballet performance, and that can be reviewed...In Alina [Cojocaru]'s gala case it's true, but not always dancers are dancing for free. In Italy dancers were famous for organizing charity to avoid taxes.
Kathy Adams, @JumpingBeen: I do not think galas should be reviewed. It is a glimpse at the season, so is good for critics to attend but not review.
Laura Dodge, @dodgedance: 'Tis nice tho, is it not, to have a write-up (not review) for those who were unable to attend?
Eric Taub, @manhattnik: If ABT's selling tickets to the public, it's fair game for being reviewed. A donors-only event would be a different story. Honestly, if a company wanted to ask that its gala not be reviewed, I wouldn't have a problem with that, either.
Beth Megill, @BethMegill: Gala performances should be covered but not reviewed. It is about creating support and awareness in the community.
Phil Chan: Depends on what you think the critic's role is.
@DaveTriesBallet: It's nice to read a 'rundown' of a gala if you can't make it in person, but I don't think critics should 'review'.
Laura Cappelle, @bellafigural: Interesting. Some publications simply won't run gala reviews. The Financial Times doesn't like them, for instance.
Karen Backstein, @KarenatashaB: I'd say it depends upon the circumstances. If it's just warhorse pdd plus starry guests, maybe not. But if it's the premiere of a well-rehearsed new ballet, like NYCB’s Ocean’s Kingdom, maybe so.
Carla Escoda of Ballet to the People: I dislike going to galas, not just because the bits of dance are too short and taken out of context. I find galas distasteful precisely because of the fundraising aspect. Donors are there to show off their expensive fashions and jewelry to each other; most of the time they aren't really paying attention to what's going on onstage, so why bother making dancers work?
Ballet companies need to find another way to entertain and thank their donors without expending all this time, effort, and money. Inviting donors to attend studio rehearsals or company class, to observe outreach efforts, to sit in on meetings where choreographers discuss their ideas, to take their favorite dancers to lunch, to fund the filming of a dance in studio and then observe the filming process and get to give input into post-production...there are so many other creative ways to engage people with deep pockets.
Larissa Saveliev of YAGP: Ballet companies have to have galas here in the U.S. because there is so little government funding. In other countries the ballet companies do not have to rely on galas for income. It’s a completely different system.
Jeff Nelson: I think that maybe it's the "tone" of writing that should shift when writing about a gala. It could be more fun, along the lines of Entertainment Tonight rather than The New York Times. Funny, a little snarky (although not mean!) more Liz Smith than Clive Barnes. Put those donors in print, I say. They'll love it, and the bottom line will show. Take a few pics, you know, "Ellen and Portia wow in Versace at Met Gala." I know that critics are supposed to be separate from the organizations they review, but what could it hurt, once a year, to have a little fun, and give some positive pr for the arts, which sorely need it?
P.S. I was actually mentioned in one of Liz Smith's columns, right after the great Elizabeth Taylor! I still have my copy. I should frame it.
Michael Mao of Michael Mao Dance: There was the time when Lucia Chase at ABT staged an Opening Night with Nureyev, Baryshnikov, Makarova, van Hamel, Ivan Nagy, and the news was allowed to leak that Alicia Alonso was going to appear for the first time in the U.S. since Castro. There were so many fouettés and turns à la seconde that nothing impressed. Then, without fanfare, the curtain opened and there was Alonso doing the White Swan, partnered by Jorge Esquivel, as if she could see. With all the Don Qs, Corsaires, and Black Swans before, this quiet and transcendent duet stood out. Sometimes the galas take bits and pieces from dances which don't speak eloquently being excerpted. That would be a time to report and not criticize the choreography. Structure is important in art, and viewing a portion of something is merely seeing a portion of it, not the whole, but since the advent of short attention span and browsing on the internet, things which are eye candy have been celebrated.