The following is a delightful extract from the ‘comment' section of The Dancing Times from April 1960 on an incident at the premiere of Frederick Ashton's La Fille mal Gardée on 28 January 1960 at The Royal Opera House. Lise was danced by Nadia Nerina and Colas by David Blair.
“But you shouldn't be clapping dear. You're a critic.” So said a member of the dance profession to a friend who was applauding lustily throughout the curtain calls at the premiere of La Fille mal Gardée. The critic was so surprised that she nearly fell out of the Grand Tier, but apparently the remark was made in all seriousness.
Is there really a widespread belief that critics shouldn't clap? And if so, can it possibly be justified?
A critic differs from the other people in an audience only in so far as he is charged with the responsibility, after the performance, of committing his views to paper. If he sits there in gloomy, omniscient silence he is surely out of touch with the audience, failing to respond in a natural manner to the impact of a performance. If any sense of theatre and love of dancing remains with a critic after his hundredth Swan Lake, he will be excited by a good performance, even if he grumbled all the way to the theatre about having to watch the ballet yet again. The capacity for enjoyment must always be there; if it dries up or withers away the critic is a critic no longer just a bored old commentator. And how could anyone withhold applause from Nerina and Blair at the end of their ribbon pas de deux in La Fille mal Gardée?
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.
Just who was the critical person criticizing a critic for showing enthusiasm? I have read criticism (or “review” or “commentary” ) written by dried-up old prunes, and far too much stuff that reads a promo.
Were there any critics/reviewers/commentators at the premiere of “La Fille” who were not enthusiastic? Poor them!