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 Post subject: Ballett Frankfurt Crisis - from August 2002
PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2002 3:19 am 
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Some shock news in from Ballett Frankfurt in a letter from William Forsythe:

Frankfurt, 27 August, 2002

Dear Friends, Respected Colleagues, Persons and Governors of the City of Frankfurt,

in light of recent developments, I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude for the encouragement I have received in every imaginable kind of gesture from here at home and every part of the world.

For the last 18 years, the City of Frankfurt has provided unwavering and generous support for the development of Ballett Frankfurt. I have gladly served as a cultural ambassador, attempting to demonstrate world-wide what this city’s deep commitment to the performing arts could accomplish. This commitment of the City of Frankfurt has enabled the evolution of my thought-work to a degree which would have been have difficult or even impossible to realize in a majority of metropolitan cultures in the world.

Over the course of the last several years, I have experienced a shift in my perception of the field in which I am operating. This has engendered a very specific professional intention which lacks adequate identity with my current position as director of a large municipal institution. As an artist I feel it would be inconsistent to pursue this personal and particular telos in such a setting, over a longer period of time.

The practice of introducing methods which delineate perceptual rules and boundaries is central to the domain of artistic practice. For the present, I feel strongly that my own methodological evolution would be best served if conducted in a context less integrated into a field of political practice that is, understandably, challenged by the task of establishing primary descriptive models of cultural policy that can be accurately represented by numbers. It is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to objectively translate or reduce intrinsic, multiple values as are typically embedded in art, into interest-maximizing numbers that explicate it’s relevance in political models of cultural well-being. Simply said, I wish to pursue a more independent organizational path. I must admit however, it is difficult to leave a body of work, my life’s work, behind.

I especially wish to extend to the citizens of Frankfurt my deepest and most heartfelt gratitude for their enduring and intense devotion to the long-term constructive development of that extraordinary entity, the audience of the Ballett Frankfurt. The work is first and foremost conceived for you who have determined the direction of this institution’s artistic goals. I thank you for your exceptional rigor and sensibility.

With greatest respect,

William Forsythe

<small>[ 08-27-2002, 07:22: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Ballett Frankfurt Crisis - from August 2002
PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2002 3:39 am 
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This seems to be the key passage from the letter:

Simply said, I wish to pursue a more independent organizational path. I must admit however, it is difficult to leave a body of work, my life’s work, behind.

A string of questions arise and when we hear more we will post them here asap.

For the time being here is the link to our previous coverage of the crisis at one of the most important dance companies in the world:

http://forum.criticaldance.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=4;t=001517

<small>[ 08-27-2002, 06:23: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Ballett Frankfurt Crisis - from August 2002
PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2002 4:50 am 
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Well, I for one, am grateful for that 'simple' sentence - deciphering the others left me mentally breathless.

I wonder what will become of that life's work. And, what he will do next.


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 Post subject: Re: Ballett Frankfurt Crisis - from August 2002
PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2002 4:55 am 
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Much as I admire Forsythe, the academic style of language used in the letter cannot be said to aid understanding.


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 Post subject: Re: Ballett Frankfurt Crisis - from August 2002
PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2002 5:20 am 
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The Company have clarified to me that Forsythe will work out his contract to the end of the 2003-4 season, but will not extend it beyond that time. No further statement will be made in the short term and Forsythe is not giving any interviews for the time being.

If you recall from the earlier stage of the crisis in May and June it was left that Forsythe and the City Authorities would enter into discussions for the future of the Company. One can only assume that in the context of the financial problems facing Frankfurt City Council it has not been possible to find a solution to the future of the Company that was acceptable to Forsythe.

A huge number of questions arise in my mind and yours too I'm sure, but we are clearly not going to get answers immediately. It is to Forsythe's credit that he has made his news public at the earliest possible moment, with two full seasons to go. A few trips to Frankfurt to see the Company over the next couple of years would be in order, methinks.

<small>[ 09-02-2002, 04:06: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Ballett Frankfurt Crisis - from August 2002
PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2002 6:42 am 
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Just when you think things are straightening out...


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 Post subject: Re: Ballett Frankfurt Crisis - from August 2002
PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2002 7:10 am 
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Even with a positive outcome in a past crisis, the confidence of a successful and talented artist or leader in his employers is undermined when he is not treated with respect by them. The powers-that-be dealt with Forysthe in an undignified way and only rescinded their decision to fold the Company when faced with pressure and embarrassment. The relationship they had enjoyed with their Director was likely damaged in that process.

<small>[ 08-27-2002, 09:11: Message edited by: Azlan ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Ballett Frankfurt Crisis - from August 2002
PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2002 10:18 am 
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My impression is that this was never really a financial issue to begin with.

There may be a common belief in the Frankfurt government that there can really be one significant dance company in Frankfurt; that is the tradition, after all. This "gotwon" attitude immediately sets up tensions within the powers that be as to what that ballet company should look like.

As is clear from the web site and discussions, Forsythe has taken Frankfurt Ballet in quite a non-traditional direction, more like an American modern dance company. Although it has been emphasized repeatedly that a significant number of Frankfurters have appreciated this type of vitality, it must also be assumed that there are also a number of Frankfurters who do not enjoy Forsythe's work and would rather see a traditional ballet company, like so many others.

I believe that this crisis happened when the traditionalists managed to gain political power in the key funding agency. They were probably already feeling slighted, given that their desire for a more traditional company had not been fulfilled for the last 15 years. In fact, this crisis may have roots 15 years ago; modernists may very well have steamrolled over the traditionalists' wishes in the 1980's. Forsythe may have even played an active role in this process. Whatever the case, the traditionalists apparently felt no compunction against steamrolling over the modernists in 2002.

Hence, the crisis and the proposal to replace Frankfurt Ballet with a traditional ballet company. The current dire financial times were probably used as an excuse; shut down the old company in tight times, then open a new company better to your liking when finances improve somewhat.

The International outcry certainly embarassed and shamed the Frankfurt officials. It probably did little to build bridges within the government between opposing camps with divergent visions for their ballet company. In other words, it probably did little of substance.

Forsythe probably got caught in the middle of this ugly political process. He probably felt hemmed in as various people in the government began to tell him, maybe even threaten him financially, with what to do artistically. He has continued to appeal to the fact that he has built good audiences as a reason that he should continue as he has in the past; this argument could easily fall on deaf ears in a government beaurocracy. Seeing the writing on the wall, Forsythe got disgusted and left.

I think this process has shown to me what I believed all along: whatever your funding source is, whether government or private, you must ultimately keep them "on board" in your artistic endeavor. No organization, not even a government, will continue funding art it cannot relate to.

What saddens me is the "gotwon" attitude. Why didn't anyone suggest that Frankfurt support two or more major dance companies with unique and divergent visions for their dance? Increasingly, this is the case in American cities; Boston manages to do it, probably with a lot less funding total than Frankfurt has. I realize that this would have resulted in a cut in Forsythe's budget. But it could have made peace, and could also have increased the dance options for Frankfurt's audience.


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 Post subject: Re: Ballett Frankfurt Crisis - from August 2002
PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2002 12:08 pm 
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I agree with Stuart and Basheva on the wordiness of Forsythe's letter but I can guess that he is using this language to cover up the plain speaking - you won't allow me to develop and experiment - you want me to stay standing and i cannot agree to that because I have miles more to achieve. Don't you think?


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 Post subject: Re: Ballett Frankfurt Crisis - from August 2002
PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2002 12:31 pm 
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Actually I considered that it might be an excellent parody on 'government-speak.' You know, 15 pages of rules on how to cut down on paper work and the rules.

At least I was hoping it was an excellent parody. Such a parody would emphasize the problem as he sees it.

<small>[ 08-27-2002, 14:33: Message edited by: Basheva ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Ballett Frankfurt Crisis - from August 2002
PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2002 12:03 am 
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I had a look through the German online press coverage in relation to Forsythe’s decision
not to stay on as Director of Ballett Frankfurt when his contract expires by season end 2004. Please find below the main points made in reports in Die Welt, Frankfurter Rundschau, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the news agencies dpa and ap.

Although Forsythe did not say so in his letter the common assumption is that his decision
was triggered by the announcement of Kulturdezernent Hans-Bernd Nordhoff that the
city subsidy of Ballett Frankfurt of currently 6.6 Million Euro would be cut by 80% for the 2004/2005 season.

This is part of a reduction of the city council’s culture budget from 67 to 53 Million Euro.
With the help of extreme cost cutting measures Frankfurt city council is trying to reduce a big deficit in it’s budget to below 400 Million Euro.

The subsidy for Theater am Turm TAT will be reduced by 1 Million with immediate effect and the theatre will be closed in 2004. The city is also stopping funding for the
Staedelschule, Frankfurt’s arts college with the argument that college and university funding was really up to the country Hessen. There also will be moderate cuts for the opera and the other local theatres and streamlining in the administration of some of Frankfurt’s museums.

The reactions from the theatre world in Germany all express in some way that Frankfurt
has managed to drive away the only artist of a truly world-wide reputation it had left which is a catastrophe for the city’s cultural image. Considering that the city still has
ambitions to become the Cultural Capital of Europe make the situation all the more
embarrassing.

According to dpa Nordhoff’s comment to Forsythe’s decision to leave was that he regretted Forsythe’s decision but respected the artist’s wish for a change. The director
of Ballett Frankfurt had written international ballet history during his 20 years of working in Frankfurt. Should he work with his own Forsythe Company from 2004 this company would be more than welcome in the city up to the current level of performances.

Die Welt also made some interesting points dealing with the problems in Frankfurt’s cultural funding in general. Martin Steinhoff the director of the opera is quoted as saying:
“Frankfurt’s culture has no substance because there is no confident audience with a serious interest in culture anymore.” The city cannot decide whether it want’ culture to be
cheap or as a means to improve Frankfurt’s image internationally.

Between 1970 and 1990 Frankfurt rebuild the Late Oper, build several new museums,
carried out building work on some existing theatres and cleverly invested in artistic
talent giving them time and room to grow. It was during that time Forsythe came to
Frankfurt enjoying full support by the well respected Kulturdezernent Hilmar Hoffmann.

Since 1990 when the city’s financial situation started to deteriorate the city has kept cutting the culture budget year after year. As a result of the latest round some institutions
might face closure if they cannot find funding elsewhere like from the country Hessen.

The main problem with attracting long-term private funding in Frankfurt is that the most
influential people there and the people with the money are not Frankfurters. They mostly work at the stock exchange or for the financial institutes, have come to the city because of their career and move on as their career progresses. Although they are generous and
interested in culture there is no incentive to make any long-term funding commitments
and they rather sponsor flashy events. The big financial institutes based in Frankfurt are global players and therefor choose to support causes guaranteeing world-wide publicity.
Deutsche Bank for example supports New York’s bid to host the Olympics 2012 although Frankfurt is ambitious to do that as well. Considering all this supporting causes
like Ballett Frankfurt and the Staedelschule might not seem so attractive although they are the city’s cultural crown jewels.


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 Post subject: Re: Ballett Frankfurt Crisis - from August 2002
PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2002 2:03 am 
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Many, many thanks Odile for taking the trouble to compile this fine overview of the German press reaction to the sad news from Forsythe.

If the reported City proposal that the funding should be cut by 80% are true, then this shows them in an extremely bad light for a variety of reasons. Firstly, all the earlier arguments given at the time of the first crisis apply: world leading company, unique rep, excellent publicity for Frankfurt, leading force in developing talents in dance and the related arts etc etc.

Secondly, the communique from Ballett Frankfurt earlier in the year said

Quote:
In a conversation with Frankfurts lord major Petra Roth, which was held in a constructive atmosphere, Ballett director William Forsythe, treasurer Horst Hemzal and cultural minister Dr. Nordhoff discussed the situation of Frankfurt´s municipal stages.

The general intention of the conversation was to find realistic solutions for Ballett Frankfurt with William Forsythe, also for the time period after 2004. With regard to the financial situation of the city, all possibilities are being considered.

Representatives of the municipal authorities made it clear that a further increase of the budget for the municipal stages must be excluded due to the city's extremely difficult financial situation. Strict discipline must be adhered to and the planned budget restrictions need to be kept. It was furthermore stated that the artistic rank of Ballett Frankfurt and William Forsythe is undisputed.
Albeit that this was issued by the Company it shows every sign of being an agreed text between the parties in the negotitions. If an 80% cut in buget is Nordhoff's idea of a 'realistic solution', then it certainly isn't mine. Similarly there is a vast difference between "..the municipal authorities made it clear that a further increase of the budget for the municipal stages must be excluded..." and an 80% cut. If this rumour, which has appeared in two reputable newspapers, is true then the City authorities appear to have acted in bad faith at the time of the first crisis discussions and I think Forsythe has been remarkably restrained in his letter, perhaps taking account of the long and successful relationship with the City up until now.

<small>[ 08-30-2002, 04:07: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Ballett Frankfurt Crisis - from August 2002
PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2002 2:35 am 
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Frankfurt Ballet Director Says He'll Leave in 2004
By ALAN RIDING for The NY Times

William Forsythe, the American choreographer who has led the Frankfurt Ballet since 1984, announced this week that he would leave the company when his contract expired in 2004.

Mr. Forsythe, 52, who has turned the Frankfurt Ballet into one of the most admired experimental dance companies in Europe, had been seeking guarantees of his artistic freedom from the city government in Frankfurt, which largely finances the troupe. He avoided pointing an accusatory finger at the municipal officials in announcing his decision.

Mr. Forsythe, a Joffrey Ballet School graduate, indicated through a company spokeswoman today that he would not elaborate for the moment. "It's too early to speak of his future plans," the spokeswoman said. "He doesn't want to talk about it right now. But he wants to change, not to work in these kinds of organizations."

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 Post subject: Re: Ballett Frankfurt Crisis - from August 2002
PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2002 4:00 am 
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I think the numbers speak for themselves as to the intent of the Frankfurt government.

Before budget cuts, the Ballet had just under 10% of a 67 million Euro budget. The overall budget was cut by 21%, or 14 million Euros. This cut was NOT distributed evenly across the programs. Rather, the Ballet, which was only 10% of the budget, was asked to absorb fully 40% of the budget cut, or 5.28 million Euros. The result is the near elimination of the organization, turning it into just 2.5% of the "new" budget.

It is for this reason that complaints of the extremely tight finances just don't hold water for me. That would have implied a 21% budget cut for the Ballet, an overall belt-tightening for everyone, not an 80% cut. It seems that the people with the money have decided what their funding priorities are. And for whatever reason, they've decided they do not value the Ballet enough to see it continue.

This may be stupid and short-sighted, especially given Forsythe's International reputation. But Frankfurt has a democratically elected government that presumeably reflects the will of its citizens to some degree. It's their money, and it is their right to spend it as they please.

Dance is an inherently regional art form. In spite of its great reputation, I have had little opportunity to see the Frankfurt ballet: I live nowhere near Frankfurt. It is therefore the people of Frankfurt who must ultimately decide they want to keep the ballet.


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 Post subject: Re: Ballett Frankfurt Crisis - from August 2002
PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2002 8:16 am 
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This article appeared in the SF Chronicle, but it really doen't contain any info we didn't already read elsewere.

Quote:
Forsythe to leave Frankfurt Ballet in 2004

Paris -- William Forsythe, the American choreographer who has led the Frankfurt Ballet since 1984, announced this week that he will leave the company when his contract expires in 2004.

Forsythe, 52, who has turned the Frankfurt Ballet into one of the most admired experimental dance companies in Europe, had been seeking guarantees of his artistic freedom from the city government in Frankfurt, which largely finances the troupe. He avoided pointing an accusatory finger at the municipal officials in announcing his decision.
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