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Resignation of Kathryn Bennetts, AD of Royal Ballet of Flanders


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#1 Lidewij

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Posted 23 October 2010 - 12:31 AM

Royal Ballet of Flanders AD Kathryn Bennetts resigns, because she disagrees with the minister for Culture's plans to let the opera and the ballet company merge and be led by 1 person in 2013.
I only know what's in the paper, if any other members can tell anything more about the situation, feel free!

I haven't found anything about this in English yet, but it might follow.

#2 mmded

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Posted 23 October 2010 - 04:56 AM

I think it will be a huge loss for Belgium to lose Kathryn Bennetts but the company has not been supported there as much as it deserves and the funding is just not there. In an article appearing on the company facebook page Kathryn says she has to work with a 6 million euro budget while other European companies of similar size have 20 to 25 million euros. For dancers in the company it makes for very a very disheartening and often stressful environment to work in.

The company is one of three companies that has been invited this year to perform in Stuttgart for a huge gala celebration in honour of the company's 50th anniversary. Stuttgart is the polar opposite to Antwerp and Belgium. The city reveres and supports their ballet company as I have never seen elsewhere. Flanders, thanks to Kathryn Bennetts, does tour extensively so I am very hopeful that there will be lots of reaction from outside of Belgium if not from within the country.

#3 Lidewij

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Posted 23 October 2010 - 02:04 PM

I heard on the radio today that she will finish her contract that runs until 2012.

edit: on the news today she reacted in English, for those who want to see, you can do so here.

#4 mmded

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 11:37 AM

Even though it is in Flemish, here is an interesting report. Just seeing her speak about her company makes it obvious how passionate she is and how much of a loss she will be.

http://www.deredacti...malink/1.890771

The more people that are globally aware of this issue, the better.


I heard on the radio today that she will finish her contract that runs until 2012.

edit: on the news today she reacted in English, for those who want to see, you can do so here.



#5 mmded

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 11:56 AM

It has been announced over the weekend that due to decisions made by Joke Schauvliege, the Minister of Culture that Kathryn Bennetts will be resigning as Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet of Flanders as of 2012. My daughter has danced under her direction and can say on the behalf of the company that they are devastated. The minister has not even attended one performance of the ballet and yet she has made this decision that greatly impacts the lives and careers of them all. My daughter feels as though the most impact can be made when the global dance community becomes aware of this. The Royal Ballet of Flanders certainly needs everyone's support. Here is a link to the full interview as seen in a link previously posted.

http://www.deredacti...malink/1.890921

#6 Amy Reusch

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 01:13 PM

And who, do they imagine, would be suited to run both an opera and a ballet company?

#7 bart

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 06:50 PM

Thank you, mmded. That is one of the most extraordinary interviews I have ever seen or read. Ms. Bennetts' emotion is palpable. Her criticism of the Flanders government is devastating. Cost-cutting is one thing. Cost-cutting based on little knowledge of the situation, and done in the least diplomatic way, as this seems to be, is another story entirely.

I don't know much about the background to this story. But I intend to learn more. BTr's should read this earlier thread, if you haven't already:
http://ballettalk.in...__1#entry276694

I hope that someone in Flanders has the will (and the power) to make things right.

#8 mmded

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 01:35 AM

Kathryn Bennetts has fought for her dancers and her company from the time she took over a struggling company in Antwerp that no one cared about.

She has transformed it into a company that has won an Oliver dance award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance Award, a company whose dancers were on a recent cover of Dance Europe for David Dawson's Third Light commissioned for their fortieth anniversary, and in the latest edition of the same magazine has two of its dancers named outstanding dancers of the year. David Dawson has been named resident choreographer this year which may not mean much in North America but is a real coup in the eyes of the European dance world. Christian Spuck, the current resident choreographer for Stuttgart Ballett and the incoming AD of Zurich Ballet created The Return of Ulysses on Flanders which was performed at the Edinburgh International Festival the summer before last. Kathryn Bennetts sets Forsythe choreography for many of the top ballet companies in the world and was given permission to perform Artifact in its entirety which is a rarity. She has received many outstanding reviews from many sources including a memorable one from the New York Times.

Unfortunately Flanders is still a struggling company that no one in Antwerp and indeed Belgium seems to care about. A recent tour to Brussels ( a 40 minute train ride from Antwerp) was cancelled because Brussels did not want to pay the costs associated with travel. It is hard to believe that Flanders is the ONLY company in Belgium that currently the country should appreciate and support.

Here are several clips to show the diversity of the company .







#9 diane

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 02:43 AM

Really sad that it has come to this. A true sign of the times, I fear. In times of economic stress, usually the arts are questioned. The ballet is a traditional victim - most members of a company are young and often do not or cannot effectively speak out and protest. They just go elsewhere. Dancers also often have contracts which can be very easily terminated - not so orchestra members, for example. I sure hope that something happens to change this situation.

-d-

#10 innopac

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 12:15 PM

Kathryn Bennetts talks about her resignation as Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet of Flanders (in English)
Link to video

#11 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 01:48 PM

This is not good at all. She's put the company on the map.

#12 mmded

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 03:29 AM

The Company is showing their support of Kathryn Bennetts and their frustration towards the governments decisions by writing letters addressed to Joke Schauvliege ( the Minister of Culture). They are asking for your support to take the time to write your own letter to prove to the Minister the impact on the global dance community.

The email address is kabinet.schauvliege@vlaanderen.be
Please place in the cc of the email kathrynbennettss@balletvlaanderen.be

Important things to be mentioned in the email

1) The Company does not want an Intendant who will do the programming for the ballet
2) The budget should be raised
3)The actual proposition from the Minister of Culture will mean the end of the Royal Ballet of Flanders


Please forward this to as many of your colleagues, friends and family to get them also to write letters. The more emails that the Minister receives the more chance the company has of fighting back.

#13 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 05:14 AM

And who, do they imagine, would be suited to run both an opera and a ballet company?


Interesting question, Amy. There will be an intendant for both troupes, as well as artistic directors for both. A crisis manager will have to solve the financial problems the ballet company is still facing in spite of Kathryn Bennetts' laudable efforts. This is a ballet board, reactions are justifiably emotional to all this. Within its local context, it is far less so. In the papers here you can read reactions like: "Why pay 6 million euros for an institution that nobody goes to see?!" That may be hard to swallow, but that's the reality. In Flanders (or Belgium) there is basically no interest in ballet, there is no tradition, and there never will be, no matter the level of the shows on offer, no matter how good the dancers may be. There is no interest from the press, we don't have proper ballet critics or at least the papers don't find it worthwile the pay any and cover a performance. The Royal Ballet of Flanders won more critical success abroad then in Belgium. There is even less willingness to pay money for it. We have come a long way in the last decades, after years of struggle we even got our own independent ballet company, with its own theatre - at least for the time being. But sadly this seems to be the limit where tax-paying Flanders is willing to let it go. Ms. Bennetts is right to retort that it is for a large part about how and on what the available money is spent, but she has to face the fact that the majority here doesn't care about ballet. None of our politicians is concerned about what happens to it, and neither is the majority of the cultural-minded population: give them trendy contemporary dance and they will flock to it, any performance featuring a dog in heat with a bonnet on created by Jan Fabre or any other of the local geniuses, but "ballet"... nah.

#14 Philip

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 07:41 AM

Please forgive the length of this post.

Responding to the inteview of Kathryn Bennetts at: http://www.deredacti...1.890921?ref=nf

On one hand, I agree with Bennetts: the dusty old European Stattsoper system needs to be chucked.  Indeed, Opera companies tend to dominate because 1) the system is based upon a worn out 18th and 19th century Euro-centric caste system that is long over due for replacement 2) Opera companies are, by nature, much bigger.  Staging a Verdi Opera will always require much more funding than staging a Swan Lake or even less, an evening of short ballets: its the nature of the beast. Ergo, it is imperitive for Ballet And Opera companies to be separated, except for smaller opera company-based units to cover the dance needs many operas require.

Sadly, Opera often treats ballet personnel like garbage. In my view, this is inequitable, and must be stopped by ligitative force. Some of this has been done in the US, where AGMA covers both Ballet and Opera performers - but Europe has a long way to go in creating said equity.

When dancers' sole education is high school and a studio with $5000 worth of mirrors in front of them, the only thing that gets educated is their fragile under socialized egos.  All too often, promoting them to AD, is the Peter Principal at work. When Bennetts referred to herself as one of the "experts", my eyes rolled deeply into my skull.  I thought, "Yes, Virginia, she's just like a 23 year old dancer crying about the role she thought she should get but didn't."  Please. I witnessed and did this myself when I was a dancer. Thank goodness I grew up. Listening yet another A.D. continuing this overly emotional tirade makes me wince; sister, its time to grow up!

Fact is, the Euro -is- getting weaker -REALLY weak- and if countries are to be fiscally responsible, state support of the arts needs to follow suit.  Bennetts believes her budget should be increasing by 2 million, when EU countries like Greece, Iceland and Spain are going belly-up. This is entirely ludicrous.   (Particularly when she left-blank the assumption that -she- would be in charge of the budget!) Fact is directors like Bennetts may know ballet. But, all too often they don't know a) proper personnel management skills (IE: Dancers, the public, government officials and business partners) and b) how to operate and fiscally manage an organization: they simply have not had the education to do so.  Her interview quite blatantly betrayed this problem, and likely a complete misunderstanding of fiscal management.

I haven't seen RBF in decades.. I'm sure they are wonderful and she has done a good job.  But, maybe what is needed here is a more conciliatory voice running this company.  Working under stattsoper conditions is a pain in the tush, but for the time being when -EVERYONE- is cutting back, it may keep this company from going under.  Particularly in Europe where, for now, this system may keep the arts surviving.  Maybe later when times are better, the entire system can be overhauled, giving regional companies the benefit of autonomy. But perhaps now is not the time. Too bad Bennetts doesn't seem to understand this.

From the videos above, Flanders looks exponentially better than it did when I was a young dancer. I pray it continues so under the new directorship. I'm interested to find out if the selections will be internally or externally politically motivated or not. All too often it is. That will be another issue to discuss on this forum when interviews begin.

#15 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 08:02 AM

I think a critique of Bennetts as an AD might be better based on looking at five years of her work rather than five minutes of an interview done at a highly stressful time.


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