Monday, March 12, 2007
Monday 12th March a piece of writing appeared in the 'World' section of the New Zealand Herald (click on blog entry title to read) written by an evidently inelastic & discontent Bernadette Rae. The work 'Dark Tourists' was a contemporary dance work choreographed by Malia Johnston in collaboration with director Emma Willis. The writing was apparently posted as a review. But it was not a review, nor was it a critique in any sense of the word. It was a vitriolic piece of hate mail. The opening of this embarrassing act of pettiness consisted of a series of descriptions. When a reviewer wastes valuable text space musing on banalities I begin to wonder if they actually have anything of value to say at all. But the eleven paragraph review devoted four of those paragraphs to such descriptive gems as the objects placed in the space ("more coats hung on long wires"), the seating arrangement ("four or five long rows of chairs"), a one word description of the lighting state ("gloomy"), the time the work began ("half past seven"), and the space the work was set in ("an interesting one"...."there is probably a name for the upper boundary of a backstage space"). Its in sentences like that that the reviewer began to reveal an annoyingly useless self absorbed attitude and an inability to interpret, contextualise and illuminate. Dark Tourists had both striking flaws and potent strengths but it was a work that was clearly beyond Rae's capacity to reach outside of her own highly prioritised tastes. In stark contrast to the glowing review of the ballet on the same page also written by Bernadette, a bludgeoning statement was issued, "The most boring show on earth had begun." This kind of bloated self importance re-appeared when after an hour and half of performance time "we were none the wiser." Apparently Bernadette can think and speak for us all In a continued orbit around the rational Rae perpetuated the conceited tone of her attack. The dancers were insulted, "reduced to semi-spasticity" and the movement vocabulary was treated thus; "ugly, undisciplined, and achingly repetitive". Is the word 'ironic' in relation to this particular observation about 'repetitive' movement coming from a ballet aficionado appropriate? Or stupefyingly absurd? What struck me was not so much the suburban brutishness of the writing, but the fact that this was a commonplace and stylistically consistent communication from this particular individual. And it ended up in a mainstream publication that should know better. Instead of an intelligent critic we got a woman who made heavy handed observations without knowing very much about contemporary dance history at all. When she writes that Mia Blake performs "the longest walk in history" it showed that A: Rae has never seen a work by Pina Bausch, and B; that she just enjoys writing in an abrasive and condescending tone. When she noddded positively at two of Johnston's previous works, 'Miniatures' and 'Terrain' it was a little audacious to say the least. That reviewer had never seen Terrain, and had at best written a preview piece on "Miniatures' based on its press release. The last sentence of the review was a vile and self satisfied note to the writers own prejudicial whims ;"Good news is the season finished last night". Everyone is entitled to their opinion and that's all this piece of writing was; a low resolution opinion built on an alarmingly limited knowledge base. Ultimately Bernadette Rae made a highly unnecessary statement that added no value and revealed a disturbing lack of respect for anyone in that production. Kristian Larsen Derek Tearne's response to Dark Tourist Alexa Wilson's review
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