Editor's Note: The Courage to Improve

Published in the December 2011/January 2012 issue.

Irina Kolpakova and Paloma Herrera. Photo by Jim Lafferty.

Criticism can be challenging. Even the most dedicated dancer will struggle with a thoughtless critique. But the key to developing your talent is opening yourself up to what others offer—good or bad.

Several stories in this issue look at dancers who have taken criticism to heart, and used it to deepen their understanding as artists. Our cover ballerina, Alina Somova, made her international reputation as a miraculous technician. Undaunted by critics who singled out her facility as mere bravura, she now is striving to improve her acting. Read about her new resolve in “The Soul of a Star.” And the three principals whom we interview in “Stars Behind the Stars”—Paloma Herrera, Sarah Lamb and Natalia Magnicaballi—turn regularly to their coaches for frank assessments of how to improve. While it takes patience and sometimes courage to explore how to be a better artist, doing so is a mark of true professionalism.

However, the old adage “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” has never been truer than when it comes to The New York Times chief dance critic Alastair Macaulay. A year ago he wrote that New York City Ballet’s Jenifer Ringer looked “as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many.” His review brought Macaulay more notoriety than he expected. We wanted to find out whether he feels there are any limits to what a reviewer can say. Read his fascinating interview with Kate Lydon in “Confessions of a Dance Critic.”

While critics sometimes may focus on the flaws, this is the issue where we get to lavish praise and admiration on the 2011 standout performances—the dancers and productions that we feel reached new heights this year. It’s also the issue that features our guide to summer programs. We have hundreds of ballet intensives for you to consider. Pick one that will demand a lot of you—maybe even push you beyond what you thought you could do. Don’t be afraid of the feedback you’ll get. Welcome or not, being able to use it to your advantage is the secret of any kind of success.



Paloma Herrera on coach Irina Kolpakova:

“She doesn’t want me to be somebody else, but to be the best that I can be. She finds my strengths and weaknesses, and we work on them together. She has changed me as an artist.”