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Esprit de corps

BRAVO to dance critic Lewis Segal for literally biting the hand that has fed him. For much too long, ballet has been the standard by which all other commercial dance has been judged. Long ago, composers began reinventing opera into operetta and then musical theater. But the howling dance purists refused to have their beloved “ballet” tinkered and tampered with. George Balanchine rose to prominence by being fed up with the cliches Segal so eloquently wrote about: “Happy slaves, lustful Muslims, murderous Hindus ... it simply buttresses a sense of white Euro-privilege by dramatizing how colorfully nasty things are elsewhere.”

From the [even then] dusty Russian classic ballet cliches, Balanchine chose to take the classic form into a new century. Even onto (heaven forbid!) Broadway. Agnes de Mille, Eugene Loring and Jerome Robbins found their voice in Americana. The once-adventurous Maurice Bejart and Roland Petit have become elderly shadows of themselves. But the major dance companies continue giving us dying swans, nutcrackers and fluttering snow queens.

I suggest that we who are tired of being gassed by the past support the new-and-daring dance makers out there: among them Matthew Bourne, Akram Khan and -- as Segal so rightly singled out -- Julio Bocca.

I recently went to Russia where the Kirov’s choreography and performances were as dusty as the drapes. Within the next three weeks, I have tickets for Bourne’s “Edward Scissorhands” and the “Acrobatic Swan Lake” from China. ABT, which regularly appears in Japan, is no longer getting my financial support.

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Or why not “Monsters of Hip-Hop”? Experience the incredible ability of the human body. And its soul.

Thanks for the wake-up call.

LARRY BILLMAN

Tokyo

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I do not appreciate a tired, unimaginative critic’s disparaging remarks about an art form he has grown to hate.

DOUG BUCKMASTER

Cambria

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AS a classically trained dancer, I was incredibly bored by the choreography of the classics. All the professional company dancers I knew were sick at heart when the usual classic was trotted out for the season. The ballet situation of today reminds me of when, several years ago, I sat through the famous classical mime performance of Marcel Marceau at the Hollywood Bowl. So aged, he was carried out between the shoulders of two assistants. As he performed his most lauded and popular pieces, the collective thought of the audience was as palpable and thick as a bad Thai meal: “Why am I sitting here watching this? Well, I guess I should -- he’s famous and all, but, God, I’m really, really, really, really bored.”

Ballet has now outlived its useful cultural appeal. Don’t hate it, just let it go, die out and persuade them to replace it with the fantastic, inspirational, psychical, athletic modern troupes that are in this country performing for pennies.

SUSAN HANNON

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Studio City

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OH, Lewis, Lewis, Lewis, after reading your reviews (or trying to fathom them) for many years, I am surprised that you kept your list at only five things you hate about ballet. Perhaps you should try reviewing something else -- anything else.

Ballet is the basis for other dance forms, a necessary foundation from which dance grows. I would be happy to watch a world-class ballet company do a barre onstage. I love the purity of it and when I watch the traditional ballets, I am looking at the pristine beauty of technique. I do see it evolving -- we now have normal-looking ballerinas, not the emaciated wraiths you describe, and so what if the classics change with time? Isn’t that to be expected from an art form that is difficult to document other than by being handed down from one generation to the next? I would prefer that you would be supportive of ballet and encourage audiences to enjoy and appreciate it.

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MARSHA PASAROW SCHIFF

Los Angeles

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IT was disheartening to read Lewis Segal’s pompous, broad-brushed condemnation of the art form [“Five Things I Hate About Ballet,” Aug. 6]. Ballet struggles hard enough to survive in a superficial mass-consumer culture. Nothing positive is achieved when great newspapers like the Los Angeles Times give print space to vicious critics who can do no more than rant about what they hate. The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius once said, “No one has ever seen the bust of a critic.” Times staff writers such as Segal will ensure that that tradition continues.

EVAN POWELL

Las Vegas


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