Monday, December 20, 2010

"I'm no sugar plum fatty"

As you can see, I love ballet, and so when something relating to this art form gets into the news, it grabs my attention. I was taken aback though to read the headline:  "I'm no sugar plum fatty" . The article by Miranda Bryant of the Evening Standard prompted me to wonder: "What qualifies a person to be a ballet/theatre/art critic? More specifically in regard to this article: what are Mr. Macauley's qualifications? 

Do editors require the critics to have formal qualification before they consider their critiques for publication? Is so, what are those qualifications? Are they limited to journalistic qualifications, or do they need specific training in the field they pretend to know so much about? Take Mr. Macaulay, for instance. Has he ever attended dance class? Was he an accomplished dancer himself, or like so many of us, an armchair expert? Try as I might, I could not establish whether or not Mr. Macaulay has had dance training or not. Perhaps someone could enlighten me.

Coming to the nub of the issue though, we need to ask was the critic justified in criticising the dancer's figure - leaving aside for the moment whether or not his evaluation of her figure was realistic, should he as a professional journalist be commenting on her weight at all, or should he restrict his comments to her skill (or lack of it) as a dancer?

If you look at the attached photo of Jenifer, I'm sure most of us would be hard pressed to say that she is carrying any excess weight, and so his jibe, though it might have seemed quite ironic, and a little bit funny when he wrote it, was, in the opinion of this writer and ballet fan, downright unfair.  

We all like to boo Craig Revell-Horwood with his "Awful" and a "Disaster" and his quibbling over small technical aspects of the dances by the celebrities on Strictly Come Dancing. But, at the end of the day, we know that Craig is himself a dancer and he knows what he is talking about, but what gives Mr. McCaulay the platform to rubbish another's performance? I might sit at home and criticise a rugby player or soccer player and express my opinion loudly. However I would not have the gall to write an article for the local newspaper, and expect to be paid for something I could not do half as well. 

Perhaps I have wronged the man and he has been ballet trained. If that is the case, he should restrict his comments to actually critiquing the ballet and not feel it gives him the right to make personal comments about a persons physical appearance.
I personally consider myself a balletomane, that is a person with an interest in ballet and one of the things at the top of my list of favourite things to do is to watch a ballet. How nice it would be to go down to the West End and watch all the performances and then actually make money, rather than spend it, by writing about it for a newspaper. Unfortunately I am not sufficiently knowledgeable to be a critic. 

Mr Macaulay has refused to apologise for his words saying that a dancer's body is an integral part of his/her art. I did not see the performance, but if Jenifer could fly through the air as she is depicted in the photograph, I would say her dancing ability was not hampered at all. As she said, had she been thinner she would not be able to do the things she does. She must know, having experienced the agony of an eating disorder. 

I find myself agreeing with the writer on an article for the Calgary Herald who said: 

Macaulay should be ashamed of himself. He cannot possibly be unaware of the prevalence of eating disorders, and not just among dancers. Studies have found that girls as young as eight are focused on dieting.
Let's not allow Macaulay to do such a disservice to the cause. His comments should be pegged for what they represent -- an anachronistic attitude toward women's bodies that has no place in the cultivation of healthy self-image among women.

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