(30) Alastair Macaulay, NYT Chief Dance Critic on Balanchine’s ‘Serenade’

Posted by on 01.23.2017

Today we have the distinct pleasure of welcoming New York Times Chief Dance Critic, Alastair Macaulay. Alastair has been the Chief Dance critic with the Times since 2007.  Before that time, he worked as the Chief Theater Critic of the Financial Times in London, was the Chief Dance Critic for The Literary Supplement, the founding editor of the British Quarterly Dance Theater Journal, and a guest dance critic for The New Yorker.   For the past 30 years Alastair has been researching George Balanchine’s ’Serenade’ and has recently complied his work into a Symposium  at the New York Public Library entitled “Balanchine’s Serenade: An Evening of Films, Commentary, and Memories.”

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  1. What a fascinating, enlightening episode. One of the most poignant quotes was from the one dancer who said that in her time, Serenade wasn’t that great. To his credit, Mr. B kept tinkering with it and (arguably) making it better. And he was open to suggestions from people like Ashton, thus making a crucial difference in the costumes. So interesting to hear about all the iterations that the piece went through – adding movements, splitting characters and choreography, all the different costume changes, and on and on. There’s a broader question, I think, about creators and their works – what is the ultimate version? Does that even exist? There are so many different versions of Serenade that artistic directors need to do their research and make informed decisions as to which version they will perform. Contrast this with another creator, George Lucas, and another work – the Star Wars movies. George Lucas is famous for continually tinkering with the Star Wars movies as new technology has become available, and claiming that ‘this is what he intended all along’ – while fans have decried his work as actually weakening the movies. So you have Mr. B on the one hand, tinkering with Serenade and making it better, and you have George Lucas on the other hand, tinkering with Star Wars and (arguably) making it worse.

    • Bryan-

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. We agree! We would LOVE to know which version is the ultimate. Without a way to know, it’s best to think that the current version is the perfect one. We hope you enjoy the podcast and continue to check out more of our content. For more, check out conversationsondancepod.com

      • As for Balanchine, whom I worked for for many years as a principal dancer and choreographer, and now stages his ballets for the world’s major companies, the last version is the ultimate version.

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