Just last week, we wrote about directorial changes at Staatsballett Berlin, in Germany. Current artistic director Nacho Duato will leave in 2019, when his contract is up. He came on board in 2014 but his relationship with the company has been something of a mismatched union. Recently, Sasha Waltz, a well-known dance-theater choreographer and director, and Johannes Öhman, the current director of the Royal Swedish Ballet, were announced as the new co-directors of Staatsballett Berlin. They will take over when Duato's contract ends.
The Staatsballett dancers are not happy about these changes, if the Change.org petition on the company website is any indication. In it, they express respect for Sasha Waltz's work, but concern over her expertise in ballet rather than dance-theater. The dancers call for a single artistic director with a unified vision for the classical ballet company's future, rather than a co-directorship, saying: "We, the dancers of the Staatsballett Berlin, reject the appointment of Sasha Waltz and Johnannes Öhman." They go on to write: "The appointment of the artistic direction of the Staatsballett Berlin by Sacha Waltz even in part would seriously damage the image of the Staatsballett as a worldwide renowned classical ballet company, not only from the point of view of the public but also and especially from the view of classically trained professional dancers and choreographers."
Dancers are also taking to social media to spread the word. Principal dancer and international star Iana Salenko posted the following on her personal Instagram account:
Dear friends and supporters of the Staatsballett - we are asking you to help us by signing a petition to help us get our voices heard. ? In my opinion, I respect Sasha Walz very much as a figure in the dance community, but as the decision was released to us(@staatsballettberlin via newspaper, and 3 years in advance, we are hurt that we, the dancers, could be treated merely like chess pieces to win favor in a political election. Not to mention that we are the biggest *CLASSICAL* ballet company in Germany, and it simply does not fit our classical training and tradition to have a modern dance choreographer as our next director. Which is not to say anything of the skill that it takes in her field to get to where she is now. ? Please sign the petition and repost this photo with the hashtag #savethestaatsBALLETT. A lucky reposter from Berlin will win 2 tickets to see Multiplicity on the 24.09.16, and if you are from outside of Berlin, you will win a personal gift from me, a pair of my unworn pointe shoes, sewn&darned, in perfect condition. A big thank you from all of us at Staatsballett-Berlin. (www.tinyurl.com/staatsballett) And Link i Post on My First Page ... Thank You ?
A photo posted by Iana Salenko (@iana_salenko) on
The dancers also point out that it's odd for a new directorship to be announced three years in advance, and that the news coincides with upcoming elections. German arts funding and politics are integrated in a way that's quite different from the United States, and it appears that the dancers believe Waltz's appointment might be for the sake of popularity or political gain, rather than artistic merit.