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Interview with Alastair Macaulay: Speaking of Dancing Oral History Project

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Interview with Alastair Macaulay: Speaking of Dancing Oral History Project
Macaulay, Alastair (Interviewee)
Seibert, Brian (Interviewer)
Bass, Anne H. (Funder)
Bernadi, François (Videographer)

Speaking of Dancing Oral History Project

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 2012
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: *MGZIDVD 5-7511
Croce, Arlene
Petipa, Marius, 1818-1910
Taylor, Paul, 1931-
Cunningham, Merce
Ashton, Frederick, Sir, 1904-1988
Balanchine, George
Brown, Trisha, 1936-
Robbins, Jerome
Seymour, Lynn, 1939-
Fonteyn, Margot, 1919-1991
Park, Merle
Farrell, Suzanne, 1945-
Makarova, Natalia, 1940-
Pinter, Harold, 1930-2008
Morris, Mark, 1963-
New York City Ballet
Swan lake (Choreographic work : Ivanov and Petipa)
Sleeping beauty (Choreographic work : Petipa)
Inlets (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Duets (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Sounddance (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Four temperaments (Choreographic work : Balanchine)
Romeo and Juliet (Choreographic work : MacMillan)
Manon (Choreographic work : MacMillan)
Daphnis and Chloe (Choreographic work : Ashton)
Dance criticism
Dramatic criticism
Ballet dancers
Sex in dance
Version identification: 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.
Funding: The recording of this interview was made possible by a gift from Anne H. Bass.
Content: A transcript (75 leaves) of this interview is available in the Dance Division. Call number *MGZMT 3-7511.
Physical Description
Extent: 2 videocassettes (DVCam, MiniDV) (120 min.) : sound, color ; 1/4 in.
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.
Type of Resource
Moving image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b19805948
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 546d76b0-e375-0130-35e5-3c075448cc4b
Rights Statement
This item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Item timeline of events

  • 2012: Created
  • 2013: Digitized
  • 2024: Found by you!
  • 2025

MLA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Alastair Macaulay" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 2012.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Alastair Macaulay" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed February 26, 2024.

APA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. (2012). Interview with Alastair Macaulay Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (moving image) Interview with Alastair Macaulay, (2012)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=February 26, 2024 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>

Interview with Alastair Macaulay