Monday, March 10, 2014

Monte Carlo 2014: Critics Versus Judges, Part II ... And Some Thoughts of My Own About the Festival


For an explanation of how to read the following, please scroll down to my first post. 

                 A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION

Vinicio Canastrelli Togni -  24 Liberty Horses, 6 ponies
ALB:  10  – The one [act] most worthy of a second viewing ... circling the ring in concentric circles in opposition experience one is unlikely to encounter again any time soon.
ARR   8 –  Organization is marvelous, but how much better to see them running naturally than walking on hind legs or jumping all hooves off the ground.
SP:  4

Faltyny Family - Unicycles with Slack Wire [one of three of their acts I am looking at here)
ARR;   8 –  Amazing balance skills.
ALB:   6 – A fairly routine act except for ...[a]  woman balanced on a slack wire held between the two men on giraffe  unicycles.
SP: 2                

David Burlet - Comedy Plate Spinning
ARR:   7 – Has built his nippy act round a comedy of errors .... His timing is spot on.
ALB:   5  – Strangely devoid of the kind of hysterical humor that usually characterizes such an act.

Daring Jones Duo - Static Trapeze
ARR:  8 – Fast paced, beautifully costumed and choreographed ... with no safety measures, they nip through a series of casting and catching, drops and feet-to-feet catches set to jazz age music.
ALB:  6   – They received little attention ... music did not support the final trick, which left them with a flat ending.

Joe Gartner Family - Children with Indian Elephants, first routine:
ARR:   6 – Eight very young children ...the third New Generation Circus festival [upcoming] would have suited them better.  However, they all show great maturity.
ALB:   4 – Very youngest members ... attempting to be vaulted [onto an elephant] ...the ring was crowded to the point of chaos.

Joe Gartner Family - Second routine with Elephants Tableaux, second routine
ALB:   8 – A blindfolded elephant ...elephants wore futuristic head gear and created several interesting group poses.  No bull hooks were used by anyone, anywhere in the act.   
ARR:   6 – The close relationship between humans and animals is obvious.”
MCJ:  (overall grade for their appearances) BRONZE
SP: 2
                      MARKED DISAGREEMENT    

Hans Klok - Illusions
ARR:   8  – One of the night’s most entertaining spots ...the master of speed-substitution stunts showbiz, so slick, so quick, ... you can’t help but buy into his shtick.
ALB:   5  – One illusion after another in an overly familiar style heavy on the s and m ... almost every one of his illusions was based on the same escape and replacement technique.
Anastasia Makeeva - Double Aerial Loop Cloud swing
ARR:   8  – Most stylish act of the night ... she executes any number of flexible posses, again with no lunge... hearts stop when she slides serenely into the splits, supported only by one foot in either loop.
ALB:   5 –  Less impressive than her [eight female dancers) introduction.
SP: 2     

Conchi Munoz and Gary Jahn - SEA Lions
ARR:   8  – With very commands from the trainers, these experts slickers do most everything from from balancing beach balls to walking on their flippers, and are warmly received.
ALB:   5 – An act that held little surprise, and like some other acts, seemed to have no real ending.

                   SUMMING UP

From Lz Arratoon, concluding her review:

“This year the jury, headed by Princess Stephanie, was spot on with the Gold Clown awards, which went to the wildly popular Desire of Flight and the Sokolov Troupe..”

From Ernest Albrecht, judging the festival against the others he has attended over the past 13 years:
“The lineup of acts was not only the slimmest in terms of number of acts, but also the quality.


                        SOME FINAL THOUGHTS OF MY OWN:

* My great respect for this festival remains intact.  Judging and critiquing will always and must be subjective, thus a range of reactions to any given act.  For example, considering the Gold Clown that Bello Nock received a few years ago, comparing that to the Silver Clown that Barry Lubin received at another festival for his Grandma, had I been judging, the results might well have been the direct opposite. But I was not there on respective nights when the two performed.

* My own subjective scoring:  Even the ordinal number I gave to each of the reviews is subjective; that is, I tried to be as honest as I could in picturing in my mind the act and how I felt about it based completely upon what the critic wrote.  YOU might well read the same review and score the act differently.   

* Favoritism?  Probably now and then, but I doubt to a great extent. That is, referencing the above, perhaps you could argue that on occasion, an artist deserved a little less or a little more than he or she received. And there are those lingering rumors of the personal affairs and relationships of Princess Stephanie, on occasion allegedly favoring a certain act, as in a good looking male performer.  But I do not have the incentive to research the personal life of Princess Stephanie; I do much admire the work she does, overall.  And, no, I have no inside connections; in fact, when I tried corresponding with Princess Stephanie in recent years, she did not answer my letters.  So there.

* Bad Judging Backfires: There appears to be none this year, not like last year when the Giang Bros. of Vietnam,  many felt, were stunningly slighted by the judges, failing to receive the recognition they deserved.  

* Bribes or Fixes?  I see no smoking guns here. Only were we to be truly stunned by blatantly illogical judging might we have reason to raise the issue.  But circus is NOT ice skating, is NOT cinema or pop music. Is NOT sports entertainment.  Where is the motivation to bribe a judge or fix an event when these awards bring no great monetary benefit?  I mean, can somebody tell me that the artist who takes home a Gold Clown can look forward to lush contract offers from all those millionaire circus owners out there, or swanky automobile sponsorships?  I think not.

* Mechanics: I am very impressed with how the circus community and those who write about it have found a discrete and clear way of referencing the use of mechanics ("lunge" is the term most often used nowadays) without feeling a need to rant.  At the same time, references to these life lines show a proper respect for the performers who do not employ them, thus helping, I believe, to encourage and preserve the brilliance and integrity of authentic circus art.

* Clowning: Based on its miserable failure to make anybody laugh at this meet,  once again, it seems that clowning is the most difficult of all circus acts to bring off successfully.  Don Stacey, in his review of the festival published in Circus Report,  is as critical of the two Russian clowns as were  Arratoon and Albrecht: Not funny.

* Animals!   Thank you, Princess Stephanie, for your unstinting support of animals acts in the circus.  At this festival, they practically stole the show, judging by the number of special prizes handed out to animal trainers.

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