Statement of Responsibility:
Interviewer, Brian Seibert.
Interview with Alastair Macaulay conducted by Brian Seibert on July 19, 2012 at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in New York City, as part of the Speaking of Dancing Oral History Project.
Creation/production credits :
Video production and post-production, François Bernadi.
Interviewee, Alastair Macaulay.
Videotaped at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, July 19, 2012.
The recording of this interview was made possible by a gift from Anne H. Bass.
Alastair Macaulay, chief dance critic of the New York Times, is interviewed by Brian Seibert. Seibert begins the session by stating that the theme of the interview will be interpretation in dance. Macaulay gives a brief overview of how he became a dance critic and the course of his career in the field, then discusses the differences between theater criticism and dance criticism, using examples of choreographic images from Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty (based on choreography by Marius Petipa) to illustrate the challenges of describing dance. Macaulay speaks about the relationship between music and dance; how he developed critical skills in interpreting dance; Arlene Croce's essay "Swans," and its discussion of how movement creates meaning; and the challenges of reviewing a ballet after viewing it for the first time, using the example of Paul Taylor's Beloved renegade. On the subject of Merce Cunningham, Macaulay discusses Cunningham's ballets Inlets, Duets, and Sounddance. Responding to questions about ambiguity in dance and theater and choreographic works that challenge interpretation, Macaulay speaks about George Balanchine's The four temperaments; the choreography of Trisha Brown and Yvonne Rainer; and how personal sensibilities are involved in critical judgments. He next discusses how he addresses other types of dance besides ballet and modern dance, including tango and Indian dance; and how much knowledge critics should have of dance or theater works they review, with anecdotes about reviewing plays by Tom Stoppard and Harold Pinter. On the subject of the extent to which critics should consider biographical details of choreographers' lives, Macaulay speaks about Frederick Ashton's homosexuality as it relates to his depictions of sexuality in the ballets A month in the country, Romeo and Juliet, Daphnis and Chloe, and La fille mal gardée; and sexuality in the works of Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Cunningham and Mark Morris. He discusses readers' reactions to his writing for the New York Times; how dancers' interpretations change choreographic texts; Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet as performed by Margot Fonteyn, Merle Park, and Lynn Seymour; Suzanne Farrell's musicality and how her performances varied; the performing styles of Violette Verdy, Natalia Makarova, and Lynn Seymour; and the multiple casts in MacMillan's Manon. Finally, Macaulay discusses his changing views of Mark Morris's choreography.