Friday, November 17, 2006

Too gay at the ballet?

I think few who attended the Boston Ballet’s Gala back in October will ever forget the searing solo from Edward Stierle’s Lacrymosa (set to music from Mozart’s Requiem) performed by Jared Redick. From its opening image (Redick in a twisted headstand), this was clearly a cri de coeur from the “inverted,” and its subsequent tortuous vocabulary (at one point, Redick rose en pointe without the benefit of toe shoes) made its subject obvious: personal suffering, most likely from AIDS, the disease which felled the brilliant Stierle a few years after he composed the piece. Certainly the audience “got it” – or at the very least perceived the utterly personal, and seemingly total, commitment from Redick to a piece constructed around physical pain. But to the Boston Phoenix’s resident arts mandarin, Jeffrey Gantz, Lacrymosa was no more than “studied melodrama, the orchestra’s no-nonsense tempo notwithstanding.”

To which I can only say: the fucking tempo notwithstanding??? At first I thought that comment had to be self-parody - Gantz’s work on dance is always chock-a-block with pedantic rapture over key changes and tempi, and he tends to slobber over ballerinas while giving danseurs short shrift. I’ve even heard whispers that he’s homophobic, and I have to say there’s something to back that up in his writing, however oxymoronic "homophobic balletomane" may sound; Gantz does often sniff at Mark Morris (who himself sometimes snickers at the heterosexual angst of ballet), and he recently described Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake as “a gay Harlequin romance.” And don’t I recall (I couldn’t find it on the web) some snarky comment from either Gantz or Marcia Siegel about the supposedly androgynous women who dance for Morris? Okay, not proof positive, I admit – but it goes to pattern, your honor. I’d be more forgiving if Gantz were a more talented dance critic, instead of merely an academically-informed one. This year alone, he steered readers toward the Boston Ballet’s clumsy Les Noces (he even praised the corps in that one – ouch!) and actually dissed the Royal Ballet’s Manon, which was, simply put, the most virtuosic display of dancing seen in Beantown in years. Gantz even went off the rails elsewhere in his review of the gala; he snorted at Heather Myers’s One Constant ("a middling Jorma Elo knock-off"), which actually proved an intriguing find (Myers is herself a Boston Ballet dancer). Please keep making dances, Ms. Myers, and Boston Ballet, please keep producing her – if only to make up for ignoring Viktor Plotnikov! In short: Boston Ballet – more, please; Jeffrey Gantz – less, much less!

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