Controversial Berlin ballet chiefs quit months into job

2 min

Frankfurt am Main (AFP)

The joint directors of Berlin's renowned state ballet company announced their shock resignation at the end of 2020 on Wednesday, having only just taken up their posts last August.

"Sasha Waltz and Johannes Ohmann announce that they will end their joint directorship of the Staatsballett Berlin at the end of 2020," the pair said in a statement.

Waltz and Ohmann were resisted fiercely by both dancers and fans.

Opponents argued at the time their background in modern dance theatre made them unsuited to lead the Berliner Staatsballett.

In a petition, they called it an "insult" to the group "like appointing a tennis coach to lead a football team".

On Wednesday, the pair said they had "bridged the gap between classical ballet and contemporary dance" with an "unusually broad repertoire" for the company that brought in "very positive attendance figures".

"We understood the job as a historically important task, of leading the Staatsballett as an institution into the 21st century and to bind tradition and innovation together equally as its two strengths," they added.

Now Ohmann plans to return to his native Stockholm, where he will lead the Swedish capital's famous Dansens Hus.

That prompted Waltz to return to her home turf of choreography "because she does not wish to continue the joint project alone" in Berlin.

In their statement, the pair also pointed out that dance journalists last year named the Staatsballett "Ensemble of the Year".

City-state Berlin's culture chief Klaus Lederer said in a statement he could "understand" Waltz and Ohmann's decision.

"But of course I'm sad about it, they really shook Berlin's dance scene awake," Lederer said.

"We will continue following this path with new leadership that will enthuse the company just as much."