Tim Couchman (Mr Couch) is a man, a ballet dancing man, he's pissed and he's not going to take it anymore. This particular ballet bloke is a little bit unhappy, to say the least, with the dancers at The Royal Ballet who, in his view, completely blew the performance of a work called "The Human Seasons" last week. Said piece was, to put it mildly, completely trashed by a critic (Hanna Weibye) writing for the Arts Desk website. For context, the piece was trashed by pretty much every other critic who saw it as well but let's move on.
There's an old saying in the wide world of politics; "never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel", meaning don't fight in public with the media. Here in TheLab™ we can't figure out what the online equivalent is for arguing with a dance critic but the advice holds up all the same.
Mr Couch stated in a comment, posted under the online review, that he is "the stager" of the work, the piece was choreographed, albeit not very well, by David Dawson. Presumably "stager" is a smug ballet term for rehearsal director but we digress. Within his comment, Mr Couch showed up and rambled on, sans paragraph breaks, about just how the dancers at The Royal Ballet are not, despite the critics protestations, "top class professionals" at all (no, seriously!);
"They retain the information, come to rehearsals prepared, they focus hard, and deliver the work consistently, without deflecting corrections and coaching advice. They do not bicker and moan about things they think are impossible before they've even tried them. A top-class professional puts the needs of the scene before the needs of the self, so that the scene's integrity is not corrupted - tight, sleek unison doesn't become loose, rough discord, a smooth canon doesn't end up a jagged jumble, and narrative build doesn't turn into ad-lib blah-blah."
Apparently, when a ballet choreographer tells you to "make a scene" it means get on stage and dance. In the contemporary world "making a scene" is usually whatever caper DV8 are getting up to in their latest show. At least they would be if their AD, Lloyd Newson, hadn't buggered off to Australia to have a nice lie down on a vintage fainting couch because he was feeling a bit put upon. But, once again, we digress. Leaving aside Mr Couch's hilarious Spock like assertion that the "needs of the scene outweigh the needs of the few......" or something, let's just take a second or two to mull over what he has done here.
Following a bad show Mr Couch wandered into the comment section of an arts website and called professional dancers from the Royal Ballet, to paraphrase; un-professional, whiny little bitches who just wouldn't listen to what he was telling them. Does that sound even remotely believable? Dancers, from the Royal Ballet, would risk their jobs and their careers by deliberately going on stage and doing a bad show because they thought the dance maker and his "stager" were both being an arse?
Anybody who knows dancers that have worked extensively in a rep company understands the following. Choreographers come and go, some you gel with and some you don't. Creating work is a collaborative process, even if the dance maker is a dictatorial jackass. At the end of the process you have a piece and if the process went well you have a good piece and if the process went badly... you still might have a good piece but, more often than not, you get something that is completely devoid of any character or charm.
It happens and there's not a great deal anybody can do about it. Ultimately, the dancers working that piece will go on stage and give it all they have, it's their job, it's what they do, the whiny protestations of pretentious "stagers" notwithstanding. Let us not forget that this is the The Royal Ballet we're talking about here. They don't let you in the company after a couple of community ballet classes and a 2-minute audition, they're not screwing around.
Judging by the timestamp on the comment, midnight on March 20th, we can surmise that Mr Couch was either A: stone cold sober and he's an idiot or B: falling down drunk and in dire need of assistance from a mental health professional. Slapping professional dancers around for a bad review, and it was a very bad review, is just not done. It's not entirely unprecedented for ballet folk to get their knickers in a twist and throw a strop like a 5-year-old who can't have his pudding but, in general, they try to keep it out of the public eye. Just suck up your failure as a "stager" and move on, perhaps into a different line of work, in the Alaskan fishing industry?
Not to put too fine a point on it but Mr Couch, as he will forever be known, has made a planet sized arse of himself. We leave you with that image, buttocks the size of Jupiter, think about that, all day!
The full comment rant is posted below for your amusement at the time of writing he has not denied writing it;
As the stager of The Human Seasons, I would like to say that the ballet you saw was not, in truth, The Human Seasons - it was, as you say 'a game stab at it'. And if you'd been privy to the staging process, your assumption that all the dancers are 'top-class professionals' might perhaps have been challenged. To me, personally, a top-class professional is someone who endeavours to present the art as authentically as possible.
They are open to understanding the techniques required to achieve an artist's particular style and vision, whether they like them or not. They are, in this case, open to falling, twisting, arching, tilting, throwing, sliding, etc. in contrast to being still, square, tense, upright, blocked and closed. A top-class professional makes the effort to learn the physicality, and musicality, properly and precisely. They observe, listen and practice, and they practice repeatedly until they master that which is strange and difficult.
They retain the information, come to rehearsals prepared, they focus hard, and deliver the work consistently, without deflecting corrections and coaching advice. They do not bicker and moan about things they think are impossible before they've even tried them. A top-class professional puts the needs of the scene before the needs of the self, so that the scene's integrity is not corrupted - tight, sleek unison doesn't become loose, rough discord, a smooth canon doesn't end up a jagged jumble, and narrative build doesn't turn into ad-lib blah-blah.
And a top-class professional (not to mention true artist) would never ever be satisfied with scraping though at the last minute, shrunken with shame, knowing they didn't really do their best. Only when ALL cast members behave as top-class professionals, can a work of art hope to reveal it's fragile truth. But when time is tight, when egos are inflated, when hearts are closed and minds are unfocused, all that can happen is the promulgation of lies. And the art is lost, and we will never know."