CriticalDance Forum

Budget Cuts and Layoffs
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Author:  ksneds [ Wed Dec 28, 2011 1:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Budget Cuts and Layoffs

The Politiken has a series of articles on the budget cuts and layoffs that the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen is facing. The theatre will have to lay off 100 employees including 35 performing articles. With four major performing groups (ballet, opera, orchestra, drama) that comes out to about 7-10 dancers.

According to the article, Hübbe will determine which dancers are laid off, and will inform the dancers in mid January (which is when I believe they return from winter break). It's a sad state of affairs, but not an unexpected one given the poor audience numbers at performances and the plummeting European economic state.

Apparently some of the losses will offset by dancers who are reaching the formal pension age - Thomas Flindt Jeppesen, Jean Lucien Massot and Lesley Culver will all be 40 this year or in 2012 and another dancer in 2013, plus a bunch in 2014. However, clearly some dancers will have to be let go, more if they have to make additional cuts to hire any of the current large crop of apprentices.

My guess will be that given the losses will be absorbed primarily in the corps, especially the women - given that there are fewer men. Also, I have never really understood the ins and outs of contractual issues with non-EU dancers, but I would suspect non-Danish and especially non-EU dancers will be more at risk. Non-EU dancers, in particular, presumably have less protection in terms of job stability and are more expensive due to visas and residence permits. Plus, there has been an influx of non-EU dancers lately, so the younger dancers are more likely to be non-EU. In addition, with the start of the boarding school, there seems to be a significant rise in the number of Danish students progressing through the school and becoming apprentices - thus less of a need to hire outside Denmark and the EU.

This issue is touched on in another Politiken article which suggests that the dancers are less than thrilled with how things have been handled. One of the dancers quoted is Josee Howard Bowman, who has danced with the company for many years and is a British citizen (as far as I know). She expresses concern about not being able to stay in Denmark with her husband (principal dancer Andrew Bowman) and two children. I totally feel for her concern about potentially losing her job at the age of 37, but question whether she's at any risk of not being able to stay in Denmark. It would seem unlikely that Bowman would lose his position, so she'd be entitled to stay on as a spouse. Furthermore, as a British citizen, she would be entitled to live and work in Denmark without a visa (though she'd have to secure a residence permit), and I can't see the government refusing a permit given her husband's work, her potential for finding another job (she's done brilliant work with a Pilates program for wounded veterans), having two Danish born children, her EU country passport and her long history in Denmark.

It does suck to be in an unstable position, but unfortunately that's the real world now. It's better to be 20 or 30 something and looking for a job rather than 50 or 60 something. And yes, the timing sucks because the dancers who are laid off won't know before many of the auditions for other companies. However, it seems that if a company wants a dancer, they can often hire outside of auditions.
I suspect that Hübbe is pretty much caught between a rock and a hard place here - the management is probably giving him a strict timetable - which I suspect is dictated by the contractual right for the dancers to get x number of months notice of layoff and by the budget year (which general ends around tax time, i.e. March-May). And I can't imagine Hübbe is anything close to happy about having to make layoffs. As is rightly pointed out in the article, it hurts his ability to put on large productions and makes him the bad guy (meanwhile the government types who actually decide on the budget cuts are many layers removed from the pain of the layoffs).

If I were the dancers, I'd be darn upset, but focus on reality and encourage the company and the union to promote opportunities to learn about budgeting and investing, and on continuing education. More than ever, dancers need to cultivate skills beyond performing - teaching, writing, directing, choreography, Pilates, music, modeling, whatever you are talented in... so that they aren't left hanging when performing opportunities dry up. Unfortunately, the days of guaranteed pensions (as small as they might be) are no longer a sure thing. And ensure that there are chances to further their education - promote the establishment of programs like those in the US where dancers can take a course or two at a local university. It's not easy by any means, but many people earn a degree or a grad degree whilst working.

Also, this might be a wake up call to younger dancers who are considering foreign jobs to thoroughly educate themselves about visas regulations and how, as non citizens, they will be affected in terms of pensions and layoffs. A job in Europe might be a great thing if there aren't appropriate options in the US or Canada, but you may have less stability if there are layoffs. I know how it feels as I lived on student and work visas for almost 7 years before getting permanent residence in Canada. It's awful having to deal with the instability, stupid nonsensical and ever-changing regulations and the frustrating limitations, but it's a choice you make. Now, it is much harder in Denmark where dual citizenship is not an option, which leaves non-EU foreign dancers to either be forever second-class residents or have to give up their own citizenship to take on Danish citizenship.

As to the school - I'd be surprised if has much of an effect. The competition for company spots has always been fierce amongst professional school students, no matter the ballet school, and most students don't end up in professional careers, or at least in long term professional careers. Schools like SAB have never had any issues with finding top quality students despite the instability in dance jobs in the US. I think the RDB School will be fine as long as they continue to provide good quality education and ensure that students are able to effectively transition back into the regular school stream if ballet does not pan out. My understanding is that the level of education at the school is quite good now, with small classes sizes, though the older company dancers did go through the school when the academic school was quite weak.

That said, it drives me bonkers that the Danes don't appreciate what they have. The RDB has brilliant dancers, a terrific repertory, tickets starting at VERY reasonable prices, tons of opportunities to get to know the company (which would cost you a pretty penny in donations at most US companies) and three great, easily accessible theatres. I know ballet is not everyone's cup of tea, but it shouldn't be an issue to fill the seats most nights - there are more than a few of us stuck in ballet oases who would love to have such opportunities. Come on Danes - peel yourselves away from your TVs and stop fussing about how immigrants are harming your culture and actually get out and support your culture! ... vigtet-os/ ... eater-ned/ ... -en-bombe/

Author:  ksneds [ Thu Dec 29, 2011 11:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Budget Cuts and Layoffs

More on the unfolding situation.. ... -fyringer/

Some of the dancers' suggestions are quite excellent - especially the one about getting sponsors for dancers. Considering that one man donated the money for the entire Operaen, I should think there would be people or businesses who would be interested and able to sponsor part or all of a dancers' salary. Normally individual sponsorships (like at ABT) give me a bit of an icky feeling, but I think they would work much better in Denmark where those with money aren't as likely to want the limelight & attention as those in places like NY.

Things will be difficult no matter what... and I dread any announcements of lay offs. Though I haven't seen the company in several years, most of the dancers are more than just names to me. They are people with quirks, personalities and their own unique balletic abilities - and I can't imagine the company without any one of them.

I wish the best to all... the performers and those in the unenviable position of having to make the hard decisions...


Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Jan 04, 2012 1:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Budget Cuts and Layoffs

An article in the Copenhagen Post regardng the budget cuts and layoffs.

Copenhagen Post

Author:  ksneds [ Fri Jan 06, 2012 8:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Budget Cuts and Layoffs

The Royal Theatre issued a press release today which suggests that they have managed to reduce the number of jobs which will have to be cut. Initially they were saying 100, now the number quoted is 83. How exactly this will play out for the ballet is unknown, but hopefully it will mean jobs saved...

Edited to note that I may have misinterpreted... other forums put the number now as 50, with 38 spots being lost due to attrition (i.e. retirements or departures already announced)

Author:  ksneds [ Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Budget Cuts and Layoffs

The RDB dancers are not taking this lying down... they handed out leaflets before their first performance in Paris... ... eu-spidser

Author:  ksneds [ Sun Jan 08, 2012 11:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Budget Cuts and Layoffs

The story continues to make news: ... ne&_ft_c=m

Comments on other forums, which I am not clear whether they reflect points made in articles or personal views, suggest that Nikolaj Hübbe has been quiet about the whole thing and that the management has not made attempts to find savings other than by cutting personnel.

Firstly, I would suggest that having signed a 5 year deal doesn't suggest anything about the security of Hübbe's job. I suspect until very recently that most of the dancers assumed that they were in no danger, and I've never heard of a contract in any democratic society that doesn't have some out. And I'm guessing that Hübbe is not part of a union

Two, Hübbe is currently over in Paris with the company - how much fuss does one expect him to be making when he's dealing with a company on tour?. It's also risky to assume that so-called public silence means that Hübbe is not actively campaigning for the company behind closed doors. While I respect the dancers for taking their fight public, in Hübbe's position, his power might be best wielded out of the public eye. He may well be negotiating with big names to try and save jobs, but those negotiations will only work if they're not splashed across the front pages of every newspaper.

In that same vein, I'm a bit curious as to how everyone knows that the theatre management hasn't tried to find savings elsewhere? Maybe they haven't, but maybe that kind of thing happens behind closed doors. For instance, perhaps the idea of sponsorship for artists has been brought up, but it was clear that finding sponsors wouldn't be feasible, or sponsorships for artists would just suck private monies away from other aspects of the theatre. Or that it's not legit when it comes to artists who are civil servants.

Also, the idea of getting rid of the canteen suggested elsewhere is interesting, but sounds like a suggestion made by someone with little experience in the theatre. I could see possibly raising prices from the current discounted prices, but while the theatre (Gamle Scene not Operaen) is in the 'middle' of the city, it's not realistic to expect artists and all the other workers to be able to get their own meals. Firstly, there aren't actually really that many feasible, healthy options within short walking distance - many are fast-foody, a lot in that area are aimed at tourists, and danish businesses tend to have fairly short opening hours (and are often totally shut on all but a few Sundays). Which means local take out places are rather expensive, not necessarily open when meals are needed, and may not serve items that work for a dancer or singer's diet. (Locally I can think of the 7-11, a bagel place, the cafeteria area in the Magasin (which is VERY expensive comparatively), tourist takeouts on the Stroget and the hotdog stand).

In addition, dancers often have a very short time to grab something to eat. Even when they have more time, a) going out on the street in most weather would require changing into street clothes, b) their breaks may be when stores are closed or there are really long lines and c) they may need to use part of that 'free' time to see the physio or warm up or change into costumes. Nevermind if a dancer is trying to rest and/or get in focus before a performance. In addition leaving the theatre may not be feasible when a performer needs to be listening to the 'stage monitor' - i.e. during intermission, if they are covering for a performance, when they are only performing in a later act etc.

One also has to remember that the cafeteria also serves the students in the boarding school & day school (for at least some meals), and they are definitely on a tighter schedule and some young enough that the school would not want them having to fend for their own meals on a regular basis. It's also the only feasible location for children who are performing in ballets/operas to get meals when they are performing.

Having eaten many a meal in that cafeteria, I know that it's not some fancy, uneeded perk. It's a small facility that provides a limited variety of simple, fairly healthy meals in convenient, non-public location for busy performers and theatre employees. (Meal options generally include a couple of of hot dishes, salad bar, sandwiches, soup, granola bars/deserts and beverages).

Author:  Cassandra [ Tue Jan 10, 2012 7:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Budget Cuts and Layoffs

As far as I'm aware large opera houses worldwide all have staff canteens, not just for dancers but stage hands and admin staff too, I imagine it would cause an uproar if this one were to close.

Author:  checkwriter [ Fri Jan 13, 2012 11:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Budget Cuts and Layoffs

Well the last I checked, the job of a theater is to put on shows, not to serve meatballs for lunch. Of course, in a perfect world, you have a canteen to feed the workers. But when things get tough, the focus should be on the performances. While discounted food is a nice perk, losing that is something that would spread the burden across everybody. And besides, Joe and the Juice is right across the street.

Author:  ksneds [ Sat Jan 14, 2012 3:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Budget Cuts and Layoffs

I think it would make perfect sense to raise the canteen prices and/or reduce the selection, but it probably would cost more than it would save to close the canteen. There were have to be a not insignificant cost in severance and EI for the canteen workers who would undoubtedly have to be laid off, and there would have to be some sort of arrangements made for the day & boarding school children (who I believe eat at least some of their meals there). ... sere-vaek/

The names of the dancers who are leaving have been published. Seven dancers will not be offered new contacts, and four are either retiring or taking an early retirement package. Jette Buchwald, Jean-Lucien Massot and Thomas Flindt Jeppesen are all retiring, and Cecilie Lassen, who has been injured much of the last year, has taken what, from the article's description, appears to be an early retirement package.

Giorgia Minella, Mathilde Søe, Ditte Teildorf, Constantine Baecher, Ellen Green and Lesley Culver have been let go. Principal dancer Andrew Bowman has also not been offered a new contract, though the article suggests that that the meeting with Hübbe started (or was intended) to be a negotiation session, but it ended with Bowman's departure. There are no other details.

Culver, a soloist, was a year away from retirement age, and I remember fondly watching her in rehearsals and performances of a ballet by Anna Lærkesen. Søe and Teidorf are long time corps dancers at ~30 and 34, and Green, who was an apprentice with the NYCB is also ~ 30. Minella who came to RDB from Rome by way of the Hamburg Ballett School, is about 27 and had seemed to be making a niche for herself in small solos and character-dance roles. She had a delightful flair, and seemed to thrive in the Bournonville and Neumeier roles, as well as the more contemporary rep. I suspect she has simply fallen out of favor in the current Hübbe era - there seems to be no attempt to hide the fact that the choice of the laid off dancers was left to Hübbe and reflects his tastes. Constatine Baecher is 27-28 and was trained at the Walnut Hill School and the Hamburg Ballett School. My favorite memory of him is as the Friar in Neumeier's 'Romeo and Juliet' - it was the youngest I've ever seen that role cast in any production, and Baecher brought to the role a youthfulness that suggested that this Friar was young enough to remember being young and free, and to be a bit sad at forsaking his chance at earthly love. Baecher has helped to found a small, pick-up ballet company for which he has choreographed and a yearly choreographic competition. I hope this, though unfortunate, change will give him time to develop the Cross Connections Ballet and work on his choreography.

Bowman is very much the ballet prince, though his career has been interrupted by injuries. My visits to Copenhagen tended to correspond to his periods of injury (or paternity leave), but I was fortunate enough to see him Etudes among other ballets. During his time with the RDB, he taught conditioning classes for the male aspirants and his wife, corps dancer Josee Howard, is still with the company. So I wonder if the company might not offer him some kind of contract at the school. I will always remember him for his good nature and for being a doting father to his & Josee's adorable kids. I hope he & Josee find a situation that will be happy for them both and be best for the family.

Lassen was rising fast for a while, but has battled injuries. She was wonderful in many roles, and I wish I could have seen her as Teresina in Napoli. She's quite striking and seems to have established herself as a model. I wish her all the best

I do wonder if Hübbe might have been inclined to make the dancer cuts rather than find other way to save money in large part because of the aspirant situation. The school has blossomed in recent years, and the company has a (record?) 13 aspirants, including two third year aspirants and 7 (!) men. Hübbe may have wanted to ensure that he would have space to take on some of the aspirants, both to ensure that talents aren't scooped up by other companies and to keep new talent flowing into the company. He also may need to have some $$ to hire outside or promote to fill in some male principal slots until the new talent comes of age (like John Axel Fransson).
Whether there are 14 or 24 dancers hitting retirement age in the next 5 years, I think the company has gotten into somewhat of an age imbalance due to a combination of lean years in the school, the unsettled period of constant directorial change, and the pension age. There was a period when the company was lucky to get 2 or 3 aspirants, and almost all were women. So there was an extended period of directorial instability which caused a lot of departures, followed by a period of extensive foreign hiring. In addition, because of the pension at 40, dancers used to be much more likely than their North American peers to stay all the way until pension age even if they were never promoted.

But in the last five years, the number of aspirants has risen dramatically, dancers seem to be less wedded to hanging on until 40 to get their pension (especially the large cadre of foreign dancers who came and went like Kupinski, Michanek, Wei,Van Patten and Kish), and there were relatively few departures. Thus, you have a bunch of older dancers who have risen through the ranks or have stayed on as solid corps dancers, and then a huge number of younger, rising corps dancers. But far fewer in between.
And I think showing that the school can support the company - and thus provide jobs for Danes and not be dependent on foreigners - is probably a big thing for the Royal Theatre, both in promoting the ballet to the nation and justifying the existence of the school.

Eve Kistrup provides an eloquent review of the situation and the layoffs: ... a-job.html

(Kistrup suggests that 24 dancers will reach retirement age in the next 5 years - I can only count about 14 or 15, with some I'm not sure of because the exact time when dancers retire depends on when they turn 40 during the year and when they joined the company. For instance, Thomas Lund and Mads Blangstrup were both born in 1974, but Blangstrup's birthday is a good 6 months earlier, thus he was eligible to be an aspirant and thus join the company a year earlier. Thus, I assume he would be entitled to retire a year earlier as well.)

Author:  ksneds [ Sun Jan 15, 2012 11:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Budget Cuts and Layoffs

I've gone back to my past reviews and picked out some of my reviews of the departing dancers:

Andrew Bowman

A Folk Tale (March 2004): "Wednesday's male cast was superb, with Bowman's beautifully finished double tours to fifth"

Napoli (March 2004): "Andrew Bowman showed off great power and double tours easily rotated back into neat fifth position."

La Ventana (May 2005): "Bowman tall and solid, but dances with a sleek smoothness and attention to detail, obvious in the care he took in making sure his double tours landed cleanly in fifth."

Polacca (May 2006): "On opening night, Andrew Bowman’s dancing was imbued with rich lushness, and there was unforced power in the jumps and turns. "

Swan Lake (December 2006): "For me, Bowman is the most satisfying of the Siegfrieds. I've always felt his stage presence is mature beyond his 28 years, and he has the good looks, passionate acting skills, fine technique, partnering know-how and most importantly the knowledge of how to put it all together. When he knelt down 'crying' in front of the queen after realizing he'd lost Odette by swearing the oath to Odile, I could almost feel his pain. "

Lesley Culver

Polacca (May 2006): "... Culver... clearly has invested great thought into the emotion of the role, and coloured her interpretation with a very human poignancy."

Author:  Cassandra [ Mon Jan 16, 2012 7:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Budget Cuts and Layoffs

Can I also add how very sorry I am to hear of the departure of Andrew Bowman. Kate's past reviews were all spot on he really was a superb dancer. I will miss him very much.

Author:  Tahor [ Mon Jan 16, 2012 6:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Budget Cuts and Layoffs

I am also very upset to hear the news about Andrew Bowman - a true Prince. A dancer of great beauty. Surely he is too young to need to stop dancing yet? No need to talk of him taking a teaching job at the school, lets hope another European company snaps him up and we can still enjoy his dancing for another few years.

Hubbe should have done everything possible not to have let this happen - you don't let dancers of Andrew's quality go, no matter what the budget situation.

Author:  Effie [ Tue Jan 17, 2012 6:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Budget Cuts and Layoffs

I too am desperately upset to hear the news about Andrew Bowman - a fine dancer, a great personality. I cannot believe that Mr Hubbe could let this happen.

Author:  checkwriter [ Tue Jan 17, 2012 8:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Budget Cuts and Layoffs

Well in all likelihood, Mr. Hubbe wanted this to happen. Who else would have made the decision? It's highly unlikely upper theater management would point to any particular dancer and say 'remove dancer X.' They would leave that to the AD.

Author:  checkwriter [ Tue Jan 17, 2012 12:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Budget Cuts and Layoffs

The newspaper "Politiken" has an editorial cartoon today comparing the relative lack of furor over the recent dismissal of 1500 Danish workers by wind generation company Vestas with the coverage of the theater dismissals.

The Vestas worker on the left is saying (according to Google Translate) "Something bad" or, I assume, the equivalent of "A bad thing happened." The theater employees on the right do not require translation.

While the cartoon of course misses the point that a skilled laborer has a better chance of securing new work in Denmark than does a talented ballet dancer, it does make the point that some people may be getting tired of the uproar, particularly in the context of the many other job losses going on in Denmark now.

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