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Royal Danish Ballet kicks out John Neumeier


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The Copenhagen Ballet terminated the collaboration with choreographer John Neumeier after dancers criticized "racist stereotypes" in his "Othello" version and demanded changes. Their director Nikolaj Hübbe then put Neumeier's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" on the program where at the general rehearsal there seem to have been discussions between Neumeier and the dancers about "Othello". According to the newspaper "Politiken", the trouble were so loud that Hübbe was summoned. He explained to Neumeier that he shouldn't insult the dancers, but him, because he was the only one who took "Othello" out of the program. Then he showed him the door. According to ballet critic Alexander Meinertz, Hübbe "detonated a suicide bomb" by terminating the collaboration, because Neumeier's works always sell perfectly at Copenhagen. They dance many of his works, he has often been to Copenhagen.

Neumeier uses a sort of black tribal dancer who dances through the bad dreams of some of the figures to show what ugly cliché exists about Africans and how very different Othello is from that stereotype. Obviously the dancers did not understand his metaphor or did not want to understand it. 

 

An article in Danish - please use Google Translate

https://www.berlingske.dk/aok/samarbejde-mellem-den-kongelige-ballet-og-stjernekoreograf-afbrudt-paa

 

An article in German

https://www.fr.de/kultur/theater/was-othello-nicht-tanzen-soll-91931918.html

Edited by Angela
forgot three words
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Yikes. So....is that end of Neumeier’s Romeo and Juliet at RDB then .....just to add here that there is a lovely version of Romeo and Juliet created for RDB by Frederick Ashton that exists. 🙂 Beautiful charming choreography as one would expect of Ashton (of course), and totally uncontroversial- you could take kids aged 5 or great grandparents aged 95 to see it. Nikolaj might like to reinstate it, if the row with Neumeier doesn’t get resolved. Bit odd though- Neumeier’s ballets have been danced at RDB for decades! 

Edited by Emeralds
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On 22/11/2022 at 17:00, Angela said:

The Copenhagen Ballet terminated the collaboration with choreographer John Neumeier after dancers criticized "racist stereotypes" in his "Othello" version and demanded changes. Their director Nikolaj Hübbe then put Neumeier's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" on the program where at the general rehearsal there seem to have been discussions between Neumeier and the dancers about "Othello". According to the newspaper "Politiken", the trouble were so loud that Hübbe was summoned. He explained to Neumeier that he shouldn't insult the dancers, but him, because he was the only one who took "Othello" out of the program. Then he showed him the door. According to ballet critic Alexander Meinertz, Hübbe "detonated a suicide bomb" by terminating the collaboration, because Neumeier's works always sell perfectly at Copenhagen. They dance many of his works, he has often been to Copenhagen.

Neumeier uses a sort of black tribal dancer who dances through the bad dreams of some of the figures to show what ugly cliché exists about Africans and how very different Othello is from that stereotype. Obviously the dancers did not understand his metaphor or did not want to understand it. 

 

An article in Danish - please use Google Translate

https://www.berlingske.dk/aok/samarbejde-mellem-den-kongelige-ballet-og-stjernekoreograf-afbrudt-paa

 

An article in German

https://www.fr.de/kultur/theater/was-othello-nicht-tanzen-soll-91931918.html

Yet another example of how pathetic things are becoming.  People choose to be offended because it’s a lot easier than thinking.  Well it’s Copenhagen’s loss.  

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7 hours ago, Emeralds said:

Yikes. So....is that end of Neumeier’s Romeo and Juliet at RDB then .....just to add here that there is a lovely version of Romeo and Juliet created for RDB by Frederick Ashton that exists. 🙂 Beautiful charming choreography as one would expect of Ashton (of course), and totally uncontroversial- you could take kids aged 5 or great grandparents aged 95 to see it. Nikolaj might like to reinstate it, if the row with Neumeier doesn’t get resolved. Bit odd though- Neumeier’s ballets have been danced at RDB for decades! 

Doesn’t Peter Schaufuss own Ashton’s production? Might that affect RDB’s ability to mount it again?

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28 minutes ago, SheilaC said:

Doesn’t Peter Schaufuss own Ashton’s production? Might that affect RDB’s ability to mount it again?

 

I believe he inherited the production when Sir Frederick Ashton died.  He did mount a version of it for his own company some years ago but I wasn't able to see it.

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1 hour ago, Jan McNulty said:

I believe he inherited the production when Sir Frederick Ashton died.  He did mount a version of it for his own company some years ago but I wasn't able to see it.

 

 Yes, Peter Schaufuss Ballet showed Ashton's Romeo and Juliet at The Coliseum in 2011 with Ivan Vasiliev & Natalia Osipova.
ashton romeo and juliet osipova vasiliev coliseum

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11 hours ago, SheilaC said:

Doesn’t Peter Schaufuss own Ashton’s production? Might that affect RDB’s ability to mount it again?

Yes, Ashton bequeathed the rights to Schaufuss, possibly because Schaufuss had been the one to ask to revive it (after it hadn’t been performed for while) for London Festival Ballet (subsequently named ENB) while he was LFB’s artistic director, with Ashton overseeing the staging and renewed attention being giv, and not just because both Schaufuss’s mother and father had been Ashton’s original Juliet and Mercutio respectively.

 

I guess they would just have a discussion and talk through the costs of the rights and whether they would have it just for one run or a few seasons - I am sure that from a sentimental point of view, Schaufuss would love the work to be performed on the Royal Danish Theatre stage again, so if the fees and artistic decisions are right, I can’t see that Schaufuss would refuse, and indeed, RDB would benefit from his input as repetiteur, as he danced the role of Romeo in it himself and was coached by Ashton. 

 

I would also like to see the row resolved, talked through and some understanding on both sides reached, and for the relationship with Neumeier to be healed and restored. I know Hubbe has not danced Neumeier’s works as often as other RDB dancers have and may well feel it is “no loss” and that he has taken the right decision (if difficult one) in cancelling Neumeier’s ballet, but it does feel as though there’s been a lot of rash words said in the heat of the moment  and how The other thing is, perhaps when a work is halted or “indefinitely postponed”, it shouldn’t be replaced with another work by the same choreographer? Not the most diplomatic thing to do. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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22 hours ago, Sim said:

Yet another example of how pathetic things are becoming.  People choose to be offended because it’s a lot easier than thinking.  Well it’s Copenhagen’s loss.  


I actually find your use of “pathetic” a tad offensive…

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Luke Schaufuss is a Principal at Sarasota Ballet.

https://www.sarasotaballet.org/luke-schaufuss
 

He was to have danced Romeo in the March 2020 Ashton R&J in Sarasota, which was postponed due to COVID. (Not sure if/when it may be rescheduled.)  I’m wondering if Sarasota has the production for a while? It may not be so easy to return it back to RDB. Just guessing.

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Here is an excerpt of the scene with the tribal dance and the "blackbodying", which is actually a "greybodying" to show that the figure is not real, but a haunting stereotype. When Othello and Desdemona first meet, he has a vision of Botticelli's Primavera of her, and she sees this African tribal dancer - until they get to know each other as real persons. That's how Neumeier works, by having shadow figures, doubles, Alter Egos, it's his way to tell a story, to give the figures depth and a psychological background. "Othello" is one of Neumeier's most modern pieces, with loud cries by the soldiers, flashbacks, parallel scenes, and a very, very sadistic Iago.

 

 

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17 hours ago, Jeannette said:

Luke Schaufuss is a Principal at Sarasota Ballet.

https://www.sarasotaballet.org/luke-schaufuss
 

He was to have danced Romeo in the March 2020 Ashton R&J in Sarasota, which was postponed due to COVID. (Not sure if/when it may be rescheduled.)  I’m wondering if Sarasota has the production for a while? It may not be so easy to return it back to RDB. Just guessing.

I suppose it depends on what the Sarasota contract contains-whether it’s exclusive rights to the production or just the right to stage it. I’ve seen MacMillan’s Manon being performed on three continents in the same season (London, Toronto, various Australian cities) and Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland being staged by several companies in the same year, with the same designs by Bob Crowley as well, and Balanchine’s Nutcracker is now danced by several different companies at the same time over Christmas). That is lovely news, to hear that Iain Webb acquired it for Sarasota Ballet along with their treasure trove of other Ashton gems. 

 

The saga over what was discussed or argued is more complicated than what can be relayed in magazine, newspaper or social media articles with limited space, I suspect. Both Neumeier and Hubbe are not unreasonable or bigoted people, as far as I know, and both run companies with international cohorts of dancers. Hubbe is protective of his dancers, Neumeier is keen to get his views understood. Whether or not the company performs one ballet or one tour is less important than the drastic severing of an artistic partnership that has been fruitful for decades. I hope it can be worked out. 

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I totally agree. The reasons for this situation are complex, and deeply felt by two strong and respected people. It is highly regrettable, but these concerns need to be approached with sensitivity and trust. These concerns are real, whatever opinions people may have. Using words like “pathetic” do not help.

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It sounds complex, and after all it is better to see a production before pronouncing on it but - having watched the video clip above, I can certainly see why concerns have been raised, even though I am sure the piece was made with good intentions.

 

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1 hour ago, Vanartus said:

I totally agree. The reasons for this situation are complex, and deeply felt by two strong and respected people. It is highly regrettable, but these concerns need to be approached with sensitivity and trust. These concerns are real, whatever opinions people may have. Using words like “pathetic” do not help.

Does not help. If you are going to take a swipe at me (and the 11 others who agreed with my post) please use correct grammar. 

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