Dear Mr. Macaulay,
I realize I may be breaching the fictive barrier that some sense of decorum places between the dancer and the dance critic, but your Nutcracker review and subsequent defense of your Nutcracker review troubled me. Since this new-fangled internet thing makes us all so much more accessible to one another (Hi NYCB press department!), I thought I might as well write to you with my concerns.
This summer you wondered what the future holds for ballet as an art of modern expression. Noting the heteronormativity of story ballets, replete as they are with regressive gender roles, you greeted their current resurgence with trepidation. I took refuge in your analysis. Being a young gay man dancing in a large classical ballet company who is deeply invested in issues of gender and sexuality, the fact that someone was finally subjecting this rapidly obsolescing art form to contemporary gender standards gave me hope for the future.
Months later you meet public outcry over snarky remarks you made about a ballerina’s weight in a review of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ with charges of reverse sexism? If you’re mystified by the lack of protest your criticism of male bodies has received, you're forgetting the centrality of the female form. Do you really need to be reminded that classical ballet, especially as Balanchine quotably promulgated it, emanates from Woman? The wealth of historical context with which you supply your readers on a regular basis suggests that you do not. No one really cares what you have to say about the men’s bodies because no one’s really watching them during the pas de deux anyway.
No one is challenging your right to zing; we expect you to say that we dance “without adult depth or complexity.” You’re a dance critic, it’s what you do, but saying that it looked like a ballerina had “eaten one sugar plum too many,” without explaining how her size hampered her dancing exposes the facile nature of your snark. You contribute to the objectification of the ballerina's body further by divorcing her appearance from her movement quality entirely. You can't ponder the representational struggles of contemporary story ballet in the summer and then fail to acknowledge your injurious participation in the construction of the ideal female form in the winter.
To top it all off, you felt the need to defend the review. Maybe you don’t really care about the future of ballet or ballet criticism. Perhaps you’re in it for the cheap shots and you’re ok with embarrassing yourself by defending your right to take them, loudly and publicly.