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Angela

Berlin State Ballet is looking for a new director yet again

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They just started their joint direction in August 219, and now both Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman will leave Berlin State Ballet at the end of 2020, as they just announced.  

Öhman has accepted the position of Artistic and Managing Director at the Dansenhus in his hometown Stockholm. Sasha Waltz then decided to leave also and concentrate fully on her artistic work as a choreographer. Öhman started as director in 2018, after Nacho Duato had left prematurely, Waltz joined him in 2019 as co-director. At the moment, Berlin is shocked.

The list of possible successors might include Manuel Legris, who leaves Vienna in summer, or Adolphe Binder, who already directed the Ballet of the Komische Oper Berlin some decades ago.

 German Press release here

 

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Sad. Everything looked so promising after the premiere of Ratmansky’s La Bayadere in November 2018.

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15 hours ago, Jeannette said:

Sad. Everything looked so promising after the premiere of Ratmansky’s La Bayadere in November 2018.

I am sure that was planned far in advance of the appointment of Waltz and Ohman. These things take years.

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I am shocked and appalled. I feel so sorry for the dancers, after all the hassle and struggle in recent years season 2019/20 was so fresh with some contemporary pieces and also included great classical performances. The performances sold well. Oehman's and Waltz' statement is actually pretty ridiculous because it makes me scream " if everything is so great and perfect, then WHY DO YOU LEAVE"?! I read about a rift between them, but of course nobody will ever go public with the truth. So they let the company down, after a few months. And we haven't seen a single piece from Waltz yet (will be shown soon). I am angry, yes. And I wish all the best for the company. I keep my fingers crossed for a good outcome from this disaster. 

Edited by Sabine0308

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 I think that from what I have read elsewhere the point being made here is that the change at the top in a ballet company based in Germany has the potential to be far more disruptive than it is elsewhere in the world as the new director is free to replace every dancer in the company should he or she wish to do so. Of course something like Ratmansky's reconstruction may be years in the planning and may not always disappear overnight with a change of director, in the absence of repertory to replace it, but the fact remains that the artistic direction which a  German company takes can, and often does, alter almost overnight with a change of artistic director. If my understanding is correct and a change of artistic director often means not only a change of repertory and the type of dance works being performed but a complete change in dance personnel then a change of director can be very rapid and disruptive indeed. I should be happy to be proved wrong but I don't think that the Paquita reconstruction staged for Munich a couple of years ago survived the change of director. 

Edited by FLOSS

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Floss, you are right: In German theatres, a new AD can replace the dancers (singers, actors - but not musicians) for artistic reasons. This should give him the chance to work on his ideas with the artists he prefers. It often happens in the playhouses or with smaller dance companies in town theatres, if they change, for example, from modern ballet to contemporary dance theatre. But not with the big ballet companies, where rarely more than third of the dancers, mostly less are replaced or leave on their own will. There was change at Berlin when Öhman came, but if I remember correctly, he kept most of the principals and soloists. 

 

Zelensky did not keep Ratmansky's Paquita at Munich because he did not like the production. But at Berlin, for example, Duato had thrown out the reconstructed Nutcracker and replaced it by his own version - after he left, Öhman reinstated the reconstruction. Who knows if we will see Ratmansky's Paquita again one day (I heard that Boston Ballet wanted to buy the production). There is a change of repertoire when an new AD comes to a German ballet company, but not so huge, normally the new ADs keep most of the productions. There are exceptions, at Ballet on the Rhine for example, where Martin Schläpfer started from scratch with his own works after he succeeded Youri Vamos. On the other hand, Munich (from Liska to Zelensky) or Stuttgart (from Anderson to Detrich) had a very small change of repertoire.

 

The problem at Berlin (Duato to Öhman/Waltz) was that the dancers feared for the classical repertoire with contemporary choreographer Sasha Waltz as director, they thought it would be completely gone soon. That did not happen, Öhman just invited more very modern choreographers. The town of Berlin, I'm sure, will want to keep a classical ballet company, but of course with a modern vision. Whatever politicians think what that means.

 

Next to Adolphe Binder the name of Bettina Wagner-Bergelt was mentioned in some papers, now director at Tanztheater Wuppertal and before that Assistant Director at Bavarian State Ballet, where she left because she did not get along with Zelensky (as, it turns out, rather few people do). Christian Spuck was also mentioned, AD at Zurich Ballet. It is likely that Christiane Theobald, Assistant AD/Company Manager, might become some kind of interim solution because it should be difficult to find a competent director until the end of this year. 

 

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On 22/01/2020 at 10:45, Angela said:

Adolphe Binder, who already directed the Ballet of the Komische Oper Berlin some decades ago.

 

How was the situation with Adolphe Binder and Wuppertal resolved in the end? Wasn't the company ordered to give her her job back? I assume that if she's in the frame for Berlin they came to an alternative arrangement.

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The company made a statement today and I wholeheartedly support their request, no their demand, to be involved in the evaluation process for a new director this time. I keep my fingers crossed.

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2 hours ago, Lizbie1 said:

Wasn't the company ordered to give her her job back?

 

Yes, but only very recently, as it went through all courts to the Federal Court. She should be given her job back, but I guess it could be settled by a money payment, if Binder accepts. At the moment, she has no job.

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From the New York times:

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/25/arts/dance/staatsballett-berlin.amp.html&ved=0ahUKEwjP-L7n4J_nAhWNsKQKHe5hDi8QyM8BCFUwCQ&usg=AOvVaw0iED_PTjR6UVg_7u1nn8Y5&ampcf=1

 

The original press release in German doesn't say anything about Waltz staying longer than until the end of 2020 though, just mentioning further conceptual works, whatever that would mean with a new director...

Edited by Sabine0308

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I’m wondering what these changes might mean for the fate of Marcia Haydee’s Sleeping Beauty - originally on tap for this spring in Berlin, then cancelled (postponed?) and replaced with performances of the existing Swan Lake. 

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1 hour ago, Jeannette said:

I’m wondering what these changes might mean for the fate of Marcia Haydee’s Sleeping Beauty - originally on tap for this spring in Berlin, then cancelled (postponed?) and replaced with performances of the existing Swan Lake. 

The website still lists Sleeping Beauty as postponed, I keep my fingers crossed.

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1 hour ago, Sabine0308 said:

The website still lists Sleeping Beauty as postponed, I keep my fingers crossed.

Right...so maybe in the 20/21 season? I guess that it will depend on the wishes of the incoming AD and his/her budget. I, for one, am grateful for not only Bayadere having been kept/returned by Ohman but also the historically-designed Nutcracker (the Duato out). AND some of the newer soloists are magnificent, e.g., Evelina Godunova! 

 

I hope to keep up my Lufthansa frequent flier miles between Washington DC and Berlin. Great city in so many ways, not just ballet. 🇩🇪 

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I hope they continue to show both classical and contemporary performances. The Nutcracker is beautiful and truly a Christmas gift each season. It is also a good opportunity for the balletschool students to go onstage. I am not such a fan of Bayadere with so many gestures and pantomime, but the production is gorgeous and tradition must be kept. The contemporary pieces this season brought back many young people (in the audience) and I liked most of the pieces very much. I agree regarding Evelina Godunova, I also like Ksenya Ovsyanik. I wrote to the Berlin senator for culture, urging him to involve this time the dancers into the evaluation process for a new AD. 

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A little bit of news from Berlin: In a press conference this morning, Sasha Waltz stated that, differently than published in the press release by the company last week,  she is not really out at State Ballet - she needs time to think if she will leave also when Öhman leaves. If Waltz stays, she wants someone with "classical expertise" beside her, but she also thinks that you can't pull someone like that "out of the hat". So instead of looking for a new director to consolidate the company, the confidence of the dancers and the doubts of the Berlin audience, the politicians at Berlin will now wait patiently until Waltz decides what to do. Maybe someone with classical expertise will show up to take the hot seat beside her...  🍿

Öhman's new job at Stockholm is due to begin already in March 2020, so he seems to have two jobs from then on until December 2020.

 

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Do any of you over there have any preferences as to who you would like to run the Company. 
Is Manuel Legris ex Paris Opera Ballet ...I don’t know whether these days he is more on classical or contemporary side. 

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Please would Angela or Sabine be so kind as to explain the relationship between the German states and the ballet companies?

Who will make the decision about the new Director in Berlin?

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Capybara, this decision is totally up to the town of Berlin, not to the state of Germany. It's a system called "Kulturhoheit der Länder" (cultural sovereignty of the federal states) which gives the federal states like Northrhine-Westphalia or Bavaria total control of cultural matters, from education, universities to theatres, museums, libraries, broadcasting, television. The so called State Theatres are subsidised by the federal state or by the federal state and the town, smaller theatres are subsidised by the towns alone. Sometimes it is the culture secretary or minister who decides alone about the appointment of theatre directors, sometimes they convoke a panel or commission to decide, normally made up of experienced/retired theatre people or also critics. The state of Germany has no influence on these decisions, not even at Berlin. The huge town of Berlin is also a federal state, the decision about the next ballet director will be made by Klaus Lederer, the Senator for Culture and Europe (at Berlin or Hamburg, they have senators instead of secretaries). 

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The name-dropping has started in some newspapers. I just list the names that were mentioned:

Adolphe Binder, former dance director of the Comical Opera at Berlin, then Göteburg, then Wuppertal

Bettina Wagner-Bergelt, former Assistant Director at Munich Ballet, now at Wuppertal

Tamara Rojo (who won't be so ill-advised to leave her glorious company in London to come to Berlin)

Benjamin Millepied

Manuel Legris

Christian Spuck, director at Zurich

Paul Chalmer, former director at Leipzig Ballet

Thiago Bordin, former Hamburg dancer, sometimes choreographer

Filip Barankiewicz, director at Prague Ballet, former principal at Stuttgart Ballet

 

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Why don't they appoint one of the senior dancers like Kaniskin he has his fingers in many pies and might be good as assistant to Waltz? 

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Thank you, Angela, I expressed myself badly. I did not think it was the country of Germany but the individual states within it (and the cities) which subsidised the arts and you have kindly confirmed that. Your explanation is much appreciated.

But I'm not sure that I warm to the list of 'possibles' to take over in Berlin, except Manuel Legris who seems to have done a good job in VIenna.

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2 hours ago, Don Q Fan said:

Why don't they appoint one of the senior dancers like Kaniskin he has his fingers in many pies and might be good as assistant to Waltz? 

 

I'm not sure the new co-director wants to be a mere assistant to Waltz.  And I'm not sure if having his fingers in many pies is enough qualification to save this dead-end situation.

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4 hours ago, LinMM said:

Is Manuel Legris ex Paris Opera Ballet ...I don’t know whether these days he is more on classical or contemporary side. 

 

Yes he is, and he directed Vienna State Ballet for 10 years, very successfully. He is definitely on the classical side - way too classical for what the Berlin newspapers now imagine for their town, I fear.

José Carlos Martinez has no job at the moment - he did both, classical and contemporary, at the Compania Nacional de Danza in Spain. He comissioned that great "Carmen" by Johan Inger, for example. I think he could be what Berlin looks for...

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I find this  a bit strange Angela...  " way too classical for what the Berlin newspapers now imagine for their town I fear" 

Is there some sort of backlash against classical ballet as such in Berlin? 

 

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6 hours ago, LinMM said:

I find this  a bit strange Angela...  " way too classical for what the Berlin newspapers now imagine for their town I fear" 

Is there some sort of backlash against classical ballet as such in Berlin? 

 

If I may chime in as a Berliner...Berlin is flooded with very small independent dance companies. I don't know how they survive but they do, somehow. Overall, Ballet is not much acknowledged in the city, from officials, as far as I see it. But if Facebook is an indication for the majority of ballet lovers here, than they are more classical oriented. And no, there is no "backlash" against classical ballet, just the point that we want both classics and contemporary.  And this is exactly what I wish too. The current repertoire is a good mixture.

Edited by Sabine0308
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7 hours ago, LinMM said:

I find this  a bit strange Angela...  " way too classical for what the Berlin newspapers now imagine for their town I fear" 

Is there some sort of backlash against classical ballet as such in Berlin? 

 

 

There is a huge audience for classical ballet at Berlin, LinMM, and on the other hand an audience for very modern, contemporary dance or dance theatre. The newspapers played an important role in edging Vladimir Malakhov out in 2013/14 because in their opinion he invited not enough modern choreographers to the company, because he showed too many "old story ballets" like Esmeralda or Sylvia.  They wanted someone more modern and got Nacho Duato who made nobody happy, not the classical audience nor the contemporary audience. The prevailing opinion with the critics still is that Berlin needs a company which can do both, the classics and spectacular new works - which in the Berlin case means contemporary dance, not modern ballet in the style of Ratmansky, Wheeldon, Peck, van Manen, Schläpfer. Yes, they liked the Ratmansky Bayadere, but sometimes I'm afraid there is no appreciation at Berlin for what it means to have a classical repertoire, to have fine classical dancers, but that the only important thing for politicians and critics is the aspect of being new.

 

By the way: Eric Gauthier's smaller company from Stuttgart had a huge success two weeks ago when they were guesting at Berlin with a bill of modern ballet from Forsythe to Naharin. I'm sure Gauthier is a name they consider, too.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Angela said:

 

By the way: Eric Gauthier's smaller company from Stuttgart had a huge success two weeks ago when they were guesting at Berlin with a bill of modern ballet from Forsythe to Naharin. I'm sure Gauthier is a name they consider, too.

 

 

I love Gauthier but I can hardly imagine that he would accept the job. Not in case Waltz remains at the SBB for sure. He does not represent classical ballet. I quote him from 2 weeks, I paraphrase from memory: when I was 30 I thought 'no more white pants'😀😀 . So he founded his own company with huge success. I would love to have someone like him in Berlin, he is so cool and enthusiastic...has a wonderful way to connect with the audience.

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