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Author Topic:   Ballett Frankfurt Crisis
Stuart Sweeney
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posted May 28, 2002 19:16     Click Here to See the Profile for Stuart Sweeney   Click Here to Email Stuart Sweeney     Edit/Delete Message
We have heard from a dance correspondent in Frankfurt who has been in touch with the Company. There is a crisis, but the Company have asked that we do not post the e-mail that was circulated and appeared on criticaldance in two places.

My understanding is that against the background of an arts funding crisis in Frankfurt, various discussions are taking place that include the future of Ballett Frankfurt and TAT, an avant-garde performance venue in Frankfurt, which also has William Forsythe as Director.

If, like me, you believe that Forsythe and Ballett Frankfurt are producing some of the most exciting and innovative dance to be seen currently anywhere in the world, then do send an e-mail to support the Company to

celestine.hennermann@stadt-frankfurt.de

or faxed to +49 69 212 37 177.

I give below some points that you might like to consider for such a letter, but do mix and match with your own thoughts to produce a distinctive letter.

To Frau Petra Roth,
Mayor of the City of Frankfurt

- Over the past 15 years, Ballett Frankfurt has produced innovative work of the highest quality. While the leading ballet companies around the world perform some of the simpler pieces by William Forsythe, the repertoire of Ballett Frankfurt is unique.

- The dancers that Forsythe has brought together are judged by many to form one of the finest ensembles performing worldwide.

- The visits of the company to the [UK/US/France] are seen as one of the high spots in the dance year.

- The improvisatory dance creation methodologies, which Forsythe has developed in Frankfurt, are now applied by leading choreographers around the world and are taught in major dance schools, using his software package, ‘Improvisation Technologies’.

- Ballett Frankfurt is recognised as a centre of dance excellence worldwide and, by association, has greatly enhanced the reputation of Frankfurt in the arts sector.

- I sincerely hope that this outstanding company will continue to be whole-heartedly supported by Frankfurt for the benefit of the City, Germany and the world.

Other websites and media feel free to copy any part of this

********************************

Later: For those coming to this new and wanting a quick overview, there is an excellent summary of the situation by Brendan McCarthy on ballet.co.

Read it and GET WRITING.

[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited June 02, 2002).]

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Stuart Sweeney
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posted May 29, 2002 08:28     Click Here to See the Profile for Stuart Sweeney   Click Here to Email Stuart Sweeney     Edit/Delete Message
There is now a website page where you can quickly support Ballett Frankfurt in this crisis:
http://www.sign.de/forsythe/aktion.html

Don't delay!

[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited May 29, 2002).]

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mehunt
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posted May 29, 2002 10:45     Click Here to See the Profile for mehunt   Click Here to Email mehunt     Edit/Delete Message
Thanks so much Stuart. It seems quite unbelievable to me that support would be cut for such an obviously unique and fascinating company. What can they be thinking??

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Marie
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posted May 29, 2002 11:12     Click Here to See the Profile for Marie   Click Here to Email Marie     Edit/Delete Message
I think they should consider moving the company to Montreal...

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Francis Timlin
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posted May 29, 2002 16:18     Click Here to See the Profile for Francis Timlin   Click Here to Email Francis Timlin     Edit/Delete Message
Refer to the Frankfurter Allgemeine piece in the following thread:

http://www.criticaldance.com/ubb/Forum4/HTML/001306.html


for further background on what appears to be happening not only in Frankfurt but all across Germany. The Frankfurt situation appears to have very little to do with art and a great deal to do with politics. It is important to remember that this is a company that has come under increasing fire in recent years for employing a great number of foreigners (Americans) on German tax dollars. With the current fiscal crisis filtering through arts groups, it is not particularly surprising that the funding for such a company would attract the scrutiny of budget cutters. I would further surmise that there is a strong political upside (from the local angle, where the votes count) to giving the heave-ho to a foreign-dominated company that perplexes (and, occasionally, affronts) the local establishment and promising to replace it with a "classical" company (with the definition of classical left to the imagination of the public) that will provide a better return on the euro for the employment of German artists.

[Please note: this is not to be construed as a defense, nor is it reflective of my personal opinion on the situation; rather, it is an attempt at an explication of one form of Realpolitik.]

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Freya
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posted May 29, 2002 22:08     Click Here to See the Profile for Freya     Edit/Delete Message
Forsythe makes a surprise exit (Filed: 30/05/2002)

Frankfurt's decision to get rid of the leading avant-garde ballet choreographer will have worldwide repercussions, says Ismene Brown

In a shock move that will rebound around the artistic world, the leading avant-garde ballet choreographer William Forsythe has been told by the German city of Frankfurt that it intends to close down his company, the internationally renowned Ballett Frankfurt.


Click here for the Daily Telegraph article by Ismene Brown

[Edited to tidy up URL]

[This message has been edited by Azlan (edited May 29, 2002).]

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Stuart Sweeney
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posted May 30, 2002 01:07     Click Here to See the Profile for Stuart Sweeney   Click Here to Email Stuart Sweeney     Edit/Delete Message
One of our readers has submitted a translation of an article from the Hessischer Rundfunk website. For those who have fluent German, here is the link to the original article.


Forsythe Ballet apparently touch and go


The financial crisis of the City of Frankfurt has caught the ballet company
of choreographer William Forsythe. According to media reports from
Wednesday, politicians from the governing Römerbündnisses (town hall of
Frankfurt) from the Christian Democratic Union, Social Democratic Party,
Green Party and the Free Democratic Party are considering not renewing
Forsythe's contract, which runs out in 2004 and culture-politically setting
the course for another ballet company.

Greens: Frankfurt's cultural-political reputation is at risk

The Greens in the Hessian State Parliament reacted with consternation and
demanded Ministerpresident Roland Koch (CDU) to intervene. Forsythe's
departure would be a "declaration of bankruptcy" for the Frankfurt cultural
and educational policy criticized the politico-cultural Speakersarah Sorge in
Wiesbaden; the politico-cultural reputation of Frankfurt and the region is on
the line. It would be questionable, whether Frankfurt's application as
European Culture Capital 2010 should be taken seriously when "artistic
quality" is "revolted out" of the city.

Guest Companies as alternative?

The Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper reported that influential circles wanted
to reduce the theater budget and that, in addition, were weary of the ballet
director's "aesthetic." Guest ensembles were in discussion as an alternative
to the Forsythe ballet. The "Frankfurter Rundschau" wrote that in view of
the financial crisis the SPD was clearly "determined" to take the path to
guest engagement operations. The Social Democrats spoke of a "liberating
coup" with an eye to Forsythe, whose quality supposedly dimishes more and
more. The CDU was considering guest engagement operations, which could also
be organized by Forsythe, but in any case must also offer classical ballet.
Meanwhile, the Frankfurt Green party members clearly stand behind Forsythe.
"We would be crazy if we let Frosythe go," said cultural-political Speaker
Ann Anders.

The Frankfurt Cultural Department Head Hans-Bernhard Nordhoff (SPD) again
declined any comment Wednesday with an eye to the continuing discussion.
These discussions have gone on in Frankfurt for months. Resignation threats
from directors due to ever newer cutback decisions by the municipal
authorities have occurred regularly since fall. Also the nationally noted
theater TAT (Theater am Turm) is under discussion in the undertow of the
cutback pressure.

Forsythe presents himself calm

According to the FR, Forsythe, who has just recently been inundated with
awards again, knew nothing of the politician's plans. He pointed out that
his ballet company has the highest degree of cost coverage of all cultural
entities in the city. Forsythe wants to extend his contract, but showed
himself calm. "Frankfurt will have to live with its politics," he quoted to
the FR.

The cutback pressure which has lasted for months on the city theaters, among
them on forsythe's ballet and the nationally noted experimental theater, the
Frankfurt Opera and the Dramatic Theater, has lead to repeated threats of
resignation by the Intendant. Most recently the Tat theater landed under
pressure.

International theater world appalled

The international theater world no longer understands Frankfurt am Main.
Since the announcement of the plans, statements of solidarity from throughout
the world have been piling up at the city's ballet company. The fact that the
cultural politicians of Frankfurt obviously want to do without William
Forsythe, ballet director of world renown, has set off a wave of protest from
creative artists.

[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited May 30, 2002).]

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Stuart Sweeney
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posted May 30, 2002 03:40     Click Here to See the Profile for Stuart Sweeney   Click Here to Email Stuart Sweeney     Edit/Delete Message
So what do people think about this, given that to my eyes it is the biggest dance bombshell to hit criticaldance since we started 2.5 years ago?

It has been interesting to read some of the views of ballet fans in the UK, some of whom have said things like, 'Just think of all those Frankfurt Christmases without 'The Nutcracker'. And of course there are one or two voices saying 'should have been strangled at birth'.

Does Forsythe matter?

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Emma Pegler
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posted May 30, 2002 09:53     Click Here to See the Profile for Emma Pegler   Click Here to Email Emma Pegler     Edit/Delete Message
I am pretty speechless personally. I cannot believe that a company, and by association, a city, is so well-known, admired and highly considered, is to lose this director and so its identity. Quite incredible. Every time I see a Forsythe work whether or not performed by the company itself, I hear people eulogising in the bar afterwards about their discovery. There are no givens or certainties in this life, that's for sure.

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salzberg
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posted May 30, 2002 10:21     Click Here to See the Profile for salzberg   Click Here to Email salzberg     Edit/Delete Message
Well, does any choreographer matter?

The answer, of course, is "yes".

The fact that the city is considering dropping its affiliation with a company that has brought it wordwide acclaim and replacing it with guest artists from other cities is inexplicable; I can only conclude that German politicians are as shortsighted as their American counterparts.


------------------
Jeffrey E. Salzberg, Lighting Designer
"Shang-a-lang, feel the sturm und drang in the air!"
Online portfolio: http://www.jeffsalzberg.com


[This message has been edited by salzberg (edited May 30, 2002).]

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Basheva
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posted May 30, 2002 10:39     Click Here to See the Profile for Basheva   Click Here to Email Basheva     Edit/Delete Message
.......it's also not very long sighted.

It's more like blind sighted.

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OdileGB
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posted May 30, 2002 10:48     Click Here to See the Profile for OdileGB     Edit/Delete Message
I am afraid that Francis is right in that all of this has very little to do with art and all with politics and public finances.
Public arts funding is being cut throughout Germany. Now it seems like Ballett Frankfurt is going to be the most famous casualty.

I cannot give you any numbers but traditionally the arts have been very heavily subsidised in Germany. Artistic Directors of opera houses, ballet companies, theatres,... have enjoyed immense artistic freedom. There were no outcries when new productions of whatever played to empty houses. So no need really to put on 'Nutcracker' at Christmas to ensure ticket sales. It seems that this way of financing art has become a luxuary German cities can no longer afford.

I guess under these circumstances with cities and communities suffering from financial problems the arts are bound to suffer too, being sidelined in favour of 'more important' things.

There are probably not many dance lovers among the politicians making up Frankfurt City Council and I can easily imagine how it might seem to them like a smart idea to pull the plug on what they not really percive to be a German ballet company. Assuming that the Ballett Frankfurt website is up to date the company has currently 37 dancers, 18 from overseas (USA, Canada, Australia, Japan,...), 17 from all over Europe and all of 2 Germans. To a politician it might seem like a good idea to tell potential voters: '... see, we spend your tax money on important stuff instead of investing it in jobs for foreign dancers...'

I doubt that the quality of Forsyth's work and his worldwide reputation were at the centre of the conideration.

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Stuart Sweeney
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posted May 30, 2002 11:00     Click Here to See the Profile for Stuart Sweeney   Click Here to Email Stuart Sweeney     Edit/Delete Message
Thanks Odile, your German perspective is valuable. Do you think that this financial problem derives from the cost of unification?

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OdileGB
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posted May 30, 2002 11:12     Click Here to See the Profile for OdileGB     Edit/Delete Message
Yes, the cost of unification is a major factor.

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mehunt
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posted May 30, 2002 11:37     Click Here to See the Profile for mehunt   Click Here to Email mehunt     Edit/Delete Message
I can see that someone might carp about the fact that so many of the dancers are not German, however, it seems so petty and unreasonable a quibble when a large part of the cultural identity and prestige of that city is tied up in the company they feel is "foreign". That's like saying that all of ABT's dancers have to be American.

I would also imagine that the Frankfurt Ballet can easily demonstrate that it brings tourist dollars, as well as international renown to a city that would otherwise be largely known for its banks.

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Emma Pegler
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posted May 30, 2002 11:45     Click Here to See the Profile for Emma Pegler   Click Here to Email Emma Pegler     Edit/Delete Message
Odile's comments are interesting. So did the decision makers not think of soliciting private sponsorship too. If they had asked for the financial support to keep the company going, I would imagine a number of German enterprises would have stepped in, if only for the publicity value of stepping in. Of course it's not only about money is it? That would be admitting that it was a lack of funds because of a lack of funds, rather than somehow allowing the suspicion to take route that axing the company would free up funds and creating the inference that the company is a drain.

Frankfurt is in part famous because of this company. All my business colleagues, however little they know about the arts in general, have heard of the company and the choreographer and recognise the connection between a strong and avant-garde company that is internationally recognised and acclaimed, with the strong financial centre which is Frankfurt. Frankfurt was admired for its company - the city that actually HAD this great company and choreographer - setting the tone for modern ballet, moving us into the 21st century and beyond. And now?

If as people suggest there is a hint of "too many foreigners and not enough nationals", this is further evidence of a worrying trend in Continental Europe. Whilst the UK is encouraged to "get with it" and drop its nationalism to form a more integral part of Europe as embodied in the European Community (ie the way forward is to join forces), we also note individual parts of the EU showing very individualistic approaches to affairs. Think of the first round of the French elections and the shock wave created when the vote seemed to be calling for 'France for the French'. That's as much anti-ethnic minorities as much anti-Europe.

And to think we saw Germany as the vanguard of the experimental and the avant-garde and lamented that there was so little to compare in the UK. Let's hope this trend is not catching. If it can happen to Forsythe and BF, it can happen to Pina Bausch. Interestingly, when I read the wealth of material on the failure of Scottish Ballet to renew Robert North's contract as Artistic Director, I thought that a unique situation.

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Stuart Sweeney
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posted May 30, 2002 12:00     Click Here to See the Profile for Stuart Sweeney   Click Here to Email Stuart Sweeney     Edit/Delete Message
Germany is in general a very outward looking country. Statistical analysis and anecdotal comments indicate that the German newspapers and TV broadcasts have far more international news than their UK counterparts or US newspapers. In addition we should remember that an English architect was commissioned for the restoration of the Reichstag in Berlin, one of the most important projects for a generation.

To be fair, German folk music and dance are not wonderful (i hope you'll forgive me petra). So there is a huge appetite in Germany for overseas artists from tango to Cape Verdi music and from Bulgarian choirs to African dance.

And we should rememeber that I am not aware of a City in the UK that would have backed Forsythe and his large-scale avant-garde work the way that Frankfurt has for 15 years.

So, while i am shocked at the narrow thinking that seems to apply in Frankfurt at present, I would not want to generalise to Germany as a whole.

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Malcolm Tay
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posted May 30, 2002 15:16     Click Here to See the Profile for Malcolm Tay   Click Here to Email Malcolm Tay     Edit/Delete Message
quote:
And to think we saw Germany as the vanguard of the experimental and the avant-garde and lamented that there was so little to compare in the UK. Let's hope this trend is not catching. If it can happen to Forsythe and BF, it can happen to Pina Bausch.

Just out of curiousity... could the same thing possibly happen to the Stuttgart Ballet as well? I can't imagine Reid Anderson being booted out...

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Francis Timlin
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posted May 30, 2002 16:08     Click Here to See the Profile for Francis Timlin   Click Here to Email Francis Timlin     Edit/Delete Message
Of course it could happen to Stuttgart and for some of the same reasons it is happening in Frankfurt. Reid Anderson is a Canadian who, within recent memory, was AD of Ballet British Columbia and National Ballet of Canada. He resigned NBoC in part due to funding cuts which are still having deleterious effects on that company.

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Azlan
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posted May 30, 2002 21:50     Click Here to See the Profile for Azlan   Click Here to Email Azlan     Edit/Delete Message
A friend sent me this along with a rough translation (perhaps LMCtech can do a more accurate translation after she returns home, given that she is a certified German-English translator):

Click here for the Frankfurter Allgemeine article dated 31st May

The English translation:

quote:
Dicke Luft im Frankfurter TAT

Thick air in the Frankfurt TAT (Theater am Turm)

The gunpowder was already beeing piled up in secret for some time. Now the fuse will soon be lit and the Tower will fly into the air, presumably with a violent bang. Said Tower is not in this case -- not even as a second priority -- named "Theater am Turm," but instead has a personal name: William Forsythe. Since 1984, from Gielen's time on, the 52-year old American choreographer has run the Ballett der Stätdsiche Bühnen Frankfurt, and since 1990 he has carried the title Intendant (General Manager) for his independent department. When the famous TAT, the Theater at the Tower, lost its home at the Eschenheimer Turm and "crept in" with the City Theaters, Forsythe also took on this job. When Gustav Mahler became in the words from the "circle" the "departed," gave up the direction of the Vienna Court Opera, he had been at the post for 1 years. Since then, ten has been the magic number for Intendant's running time. Artistic exhaustion sets in thereafter, the afflicted aesthetically running in place, the audience retreating. By this rule, William Forsythe has then been eight years too long in Frankfurt -- and this though only because Frankfurt's cultural politician's don't know Gustav mahler and generally like oversleeping. Now, though, enough: Forsythe must, should, leave. they do not want to extend his contract, which runs out in 2004. And since the city politics is getting going so nicely, the TAT's days will also soon be numbered.

Frankfurt, as a rule, does not negotiate when it comes to the arts -- or when it does, then rashly and stupidly. Forsythe's artistic renown does not need to be discussed here. As a choreographer and dance aesthete, Forsythe is counted among the most prominent personalities in worldwide. His internationally constituted Frankfurt troupe performs on the technically highest level. For eighteen years, the reputation of the ballet ensemble also brought fame to the city of Frankfurt, a fame that, due to innumerable personal and institutional mishandlings in other artistic areas, the city does not at all deserve. The reasons which now -- but first in the wings in so-called "influential circles" -- are being collected against Forsythe, include not only just the unfounded: Forsythe's dance aesthetic is exhausted, he repeats himself; but also his ballet company supposedly does not present enough performances in Frankfurt, guests more frequently and often on long tours outside of Germany. Besides that supposedly the audience's aclcaim leaves something to be desired, and in consideration of all these factors and facts the company is supposed to be too expensive, especially now since the city finds itself in financial distress. The Forsythe-opponents are also already having thoughts about alternatives: Forsythe could be given a guest engagement contract, like for 30 performances. A dance festival with lots of troupes from elswehere could be
arranged, and so forth. That would in any case be cheaper and would also have more variety. Such recommendation spring from typical warehouse thinking: dance art from the drugstore shelf. Individual aesthetic demands are liquidated. Frankfurt should not at this time allow itself such an artistic damage to its reputation, also because the city's standing as an arts center is not the best right now. To abandon the TAT would be bad enough; abandoning Forsythe could set off harmful commentary. It should be required that Forsythe is addressed fairly and usefully: how all sides imagine the productive continued work. There remains the frightening question: can anyone at all in the city imagine something productive that gets past bureaucratic acorn hiding?

hd.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 31.05.2002, Nr. 123 / Seite 49


[This message has been edited by Azlan (edited May 30, 2002).]

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Stuart Sweeney
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posted May 30, 2002 22:48     Click Here to See the Profile for Stuart Sweeney   Click Here to Email Stuart Sweeney     Edit/Delete Message
A reader has e-mailed me with this contribution.

******************************

These are excerpts from Ann Midgette's article "Forsythe in Frankfurt: A
Documentation in Three Movements, which appears in Senta Driver's book
_William Forsythe_ (Choreography and Dance, 2000, Vol. 5 part 3, pp. 13-23,
Overseas Publishers Association):


The ballet...has kept itself on a strict low-cost regimen, one reason a
kind of spareness and austerity comes through in some of his work. "I
smelled this coming," says Forsythe of the current financial crisis. "In
1984 I said things are not going to be more opulent in the future." As a
result, he tried to keep scaled down. The total production costs for
Artifact (1984) were 5,000 Marks ($2,778); "We sort of kept that as a
paradigm. We've been trying to work with as little as possible."(. . .)

Forsythe's relation with the Stätdische Bühnen came to an open rift in
January, 1998 when he uncovered financial information that led him to the
conclusion that his company had been "used as workhorses to help fill in
holes in the budget of the whole house."

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Stuart Sweeney
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posted May 30, 2002 23:01     Click Here to See the Profile for Stuart Sweeney   Click Here to Email Stuart Sweeney     Edit/Delete Message
Curtain may go down on Ballet Frankfurt
By Valerie Lawson in The Sydney Morning Herald


The future of one of the world's most acclaimed dance companies is in doubt due to political infighting on the council of the city of Frankfurt.

The city supports Ballet Frankfurt, whose artistic director is the extremely influential American choreographer, William Forsythe.

This week, Forsythe sent an email around the world to say the politicians of the city of Frankfurt were about to close the Ballet Frankfurt.

"They want to have classical story ballets. I'm so dumbfounded I don't know what to think or feel. Spread the word please and have people send letters if possible. It's very important."

click for more

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Stuart Sweeney
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posted May 31, 2002 02:29     Click Here to See the Profile for Stuart Sweeney   Click Here to Email Stuart Sweeney     Edit/Delete Message
Two more articles on the crisis:

Frankfurt Ballet fights closure amid claims of dirty tricks and smears
By Nadine Meisner in The Independent


William Forsythe, classical ballet's most innovative and sought-after choreographer, has sent out a worldwide appeal to save his acclaimed Frankfurt Ballet from closure.

Forsythe learnt from well-placed supporters that the demise of the company was to be announced at a press conference next week, which prompted his SOS. After the news conference was abruptly cancelled without explanation, he has been summoned to a meeting with the Frankfurt culture minister on Monday morning.

"But," says Forsythe, whose contract is due for renewal in November, "he refuses to tell me whether I'm to be fired or rehired."

click for more

*******************************************

Leader of Frankfurt Ballet Losing His Post
By ALAN RIDING in The New York Times


ARIS, May 30 — William Forsythe, the acclaimed New York-born choreographer who has headed the Frankfurt Ballet since 1984, said today that he had learned that Frankfurt's city government had decided not to renew his contract in 2004 and might be planning to replace his experimental dance company with a classical ballet troupe.

"Frankfurt has taken a turn for the worse," he said in a telephone interview from Frankfurt. "A few people with a lot of money inside and outside politics are trying to impose their personal taste on the entire cultural landscape. There has also been a smear campaign against me carried out insidiously by anonymous politicians saying I was burned out."

On Wednesday a Frankfurt newspaper reported that the city planned to announce the demise of the Frankfurt Ballet on Monday. Mr. Forsythe said he had received confirmation of the news from a politician from the Green Party and noted that since the city is governed by a four-party coalition, "no one can protect me without endangering the coalition."

click for more

************************************

Particularly telling is the comment from The Independent:

quote:
Forsythe sees the campaign as stemming from a political agenda designed to eject "incorrect art" and please the conservative tastes of influential sponsors and patrons. "They want ballet as part of the fine-dining experience, something like Swan Lake that won't disturb their dinner conversation or give them indigestion."

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Tom Skelton
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posted May 31, 2002 02:35     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom Skelton     Edit/Delete Message
quote:
Forsythe sees the campaign as stemming from a political agenda designed to eject "incorrect art"

Hmmm. What's that smell? It smells like books burning....

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OdileGB
Member
posted May 31, 2002 03:26     Click Here to See the Profile for OdileGB     Edit/Delete Message
Tom, could we please discuss this calmly without throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
The wast majority of Germans would not even dream of allowing to happen what you are implying EVER AGAIN.

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