If you had a dollar for every cup of coffee spilt over an Alastair Macaulay review, you could put a down payment on a Brooklyn studio. The British-born Macaulay became The New York Times' chief dance critic in 2007. Since then his reviews, often personal in tone, filled with reminiscences as well as dance history, have generated their share of controversy—and buzz. Even his favorite dancers, like David Hallberg, are not immune from criticism. And few current dancemakers are deemed worthy of his choreographic pantheon, where Balanchine, Ashton and Cunningham reign supreme.

But despite his quirks, Macaulay has drawn fresh attention—and many would argue fresh audiences—to dance. Some companies have found that a positive review feeds ticket sales on tour; others that a negative one chills box-office sales overnight. His passionate critiques, pro or con, appeal to readers who have come of age in the unvarnished world of social media.

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