It was more than business as usual in these year-end reflection columns from the New York Times? Anna Kisselgoff and the New York Observer?s Robert Gottlieb. Yesterday?s column is something of a send-off for Kisselgoff, the lead dance critic at the Times since 1977, who now hands her post to John Rockwell.

Her analysis of the state of the dance world won?t shock many:

?[E]veryone knows that the dance boom has ended. It fell victim to drastic cuts in government and private financing that curtailed touring and put some companies out of business. The creative impetus of that exciting time, especially in the 60’s and 70’s, also petered out. Douglas Dunne no longer lies on a crate for hours. Ms. Tharp no longer investigates the limits of perception, daring audiences to follow her dancers from room to room or up and down staircases in museums.?

Still, she insists, this is no cause for pessimism, especially when it comes to the state of New York City Ballet:

?Old-timers will tell you, rightly, that dancers value technique over artistry today. But this is not true in all cases, as seen in the sensational male dancing at Ballet Theater, and in the way Balanchine works are danced 23 weeks a year at New York City Ballet, the only company in the world that can attract a public for that long in one city. Professional Balanchine mourners: move on. Doomsayers of the dance world: stand by; any art form is greater than a single individual, be it choreographer or superstar. We are in an interlude waiting for the next boom. In the end is the beginning.?

But Gottlieb performs a similar survey and reaches very different conclusions, especially (big surprise here) when it comes to NYCB:

?All very well, but in our town, the heart of Balanchine country, things were not so bright. The year-long celebration at New York City Ballet was trumpeted aloud in a blare of public relations, but onstage things were ragged (to put it kindly). There were stunning performances, particularly of Liebeslieder Waltzer, which has come to be cherished as one of Balanchine?s greatest masterpieces?in the early days, people would walk out halfway through. But a company deficient in real ballerinas and looking generally disheartened can only live up to Balanchine sporadically. Some ballets just vanished under the weight of his demands?the sublime Divertimento No. 15, created on five of his finest dancers, could hardly look like itself in the hands (or feet) of the low-level casting it was asked to endure. Concerto Barocco and Apollo were travesties. In Nutcracker, the children looked more animated and disciplined than the corps. Two telling notes: The Kirov/Maryinsky?s Diana Vishneva was far more brilliant in Rubies than any of the three girls City Ballet served up; and the company actually had to co-opt Angel Corella from A.B.T. to dance the demanding male lead in Theme and Variations. Perhaps it could borrow Gillian Murphy or Michelle Wiles next? The final straw, of course, was the disgusting Boris Eifman biographical “tribute” to Balanchine, Musag?te. I can?t bring myself to discuss it again, but you?ll have a chance to avoid it at the State Theatre in the weeks to come.?

As for the death of the dance boom, he?s hard pressed to find signs of rebirth:

?Dance is everywhere, but it?s flattened out. Russia is scrambling to catch up; France is relentlessly nouvelle vague (and old hat); America is once again a melting pot?this time of dance styles, as ballet and modern and pop infiltrate each other?s realms. But when will a major talent come along to dominate and discipline this wild ride??

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