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Resignation of Kathryn Bennetts, AD of Royal Ballet of Flanders

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.deredactie.be/permalink/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.

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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.deredactie.be/permalink/1.890921

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

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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.

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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 .

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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-

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

Link to video

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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.

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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.

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Please forgive the length of this post.

Responding to the inteview of Kathryn Bennetts at: http://www.deredactie.be/cm/vrtnieuws/mediatheek/nieuws/cultuurenmedia/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.

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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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There is a facebook site now Save the Royal Ballet of Flanders.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-Royal-Ballet-Of-Flanders/106874442712339

In a couple of days they have almost 3000 fans. They have just put out statistics on the site. The most fans are from the U.S. - 414 followed by 206 from Germany and Belgium a disappointing 198!

I am very fearful that Kathryn and all of her dancers are wasting their efforts and their passion trying to make things work in a country that, as Marc said in the previous post, has no interest in ballet.

My wish is starting to be that Kathryn and her dancers including my daughter find positions where they will be appreciated and supported.

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Belgium is now ranking second in statistics showing a breakdown by country of support for the company. In just a few days the Save the Royal Ballet of Flanders has almost 4000 "likes".

The latest announcement on the site:

On Monday evening ( November 1, 2010) there will be a website for an online petition against the fusion of the Royal Ballet Of Flanders and the Flemish opera.

Here is the future website address : www.royalballetofflanderssupportgroup.net .

Please be so kind to pass this information to ALL your friends and have them sign it!

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This isn't the impression given - the impression is that the Intendant will have artistic control over the ballet company and that is the problem.

6 million euros is nothing to the government when you consider that the ballet company is actually the best ambassador on the international scene that Flanders has. Who else has heard of anything else from Belgium, especially Flanders?

In a country wracked by political chaos and alleged corruption on a huge scale in all manner of walks of life, you'd think they would be able to see the "outreach" work that Kathryn Bennetts and her company do.

In response to other posts - of course Ms Bennetts was emotional, and speaking in a forthright manner. If more people did that, showed they really care, and were prepared to point out that the Emperor doesn't have any clothes on, then we'd all be better off.

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That's one righteous rant! And she sounds like a very smart lady who obviously has blood, sweat and tears invested in the company. How very sad, I hope things work out in the end. All the best to her and the company.

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Here is a letter of support from William Forsythe speaking about what the company and Kathryn represents and what he feels about what the Belgian government is doing,

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1462528923540&set=a.1289488757644.2037883.1242973561

The dancers and Kathryn are still looking for support. There is an online petition which they are asking supporters to sign. A request for donations by the site creators appears after the vote is added which can be ignored. There are a number of clips as well on the site to see what the company is doing.

http://www.royalballetofflanderssupportgroup.net/

Thanks

mmded

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Besides getting ready for a run of Artifact this weekend the company has been working hard outside the studio to keep the issue in the public eye. Some of the dancers did a flashmob last weekend and some dancers were filmed in short clips that are up on youtube and one of the support facebookk sites - http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_140060016042424&ap=1

Here is the flashmob link:

and a sample of the dancers' videos

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This is the latest news for the Royal Ballet of Flanders from one of the support sites:

The Royal Ballet of Flanders was granted a hearing at the Flemish Parliament on dec. 16th. We need the petition to be signed by as many people as possible by that time, so please, tell all you friends about the petition!!

http://www.royalballetofflanderssupportgroup.net/

www.royalballetofflanderssupportgroup.net

The link explains about the petition.

The company just did a run of Artifact that was very well received and attended by many first time ballet goers including Flemish politicians. Please pass along the information to as many as you can who might consider signing the support petition in advance of the hearing.

Thanks very much

mmded

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Just bumping this up - the hearing is this week with the Flemish government and as many signatures as possible are needed. The situation was mentioned under politics in the latest Dance Europe issue. Meanwhile the company is starting a run this week of Swan Lake choreographed by Marcia Haydee who wrote a letter of support which I have copied below.

My dear miss Joke, normally I don't need to introduce myself, any person who would know anything about arts would also know what I have done and do in the ballet world. But reading all about what is happening to Kathryn Bennetts and the Ballet van Vlaanderen I realize that we are dealing with people with no knowledge about arts whatsoever. My name is prof. Dr. Hc. Marcia haydee, and I was during many years (thirty six years) principal dancer and artisitc director with the stuttgart ballet. I can not believe that such a country as belgium, does not appreciate and give value to the wonderful ballet company they have. It has become one of the best companies in the world and all choreographers with myself included have had a complete joy working with this wonderful dancers. And all this is happenig because of one person: Kathryn Bennetts. A company is as good as its head, and there is no better head than Kathryn Bennetts. It would be a disaster if belgium would not be aware of all this and not protect, support and be proud to have such a wonderful ballet company and a very special womanthat has achieved all this. And do not forget that the Ballet van Vlaanderen during these years has been the very best ambassador from belgium around the world. I hope belgium will offer Kathryn benntts all what she needs to continue the wonderful work with this great company. At the moment I am the artistic director of the santiago ballet in chile and all my dancers support Kathryn benntts artistic direction and the Ballet van Vlaanderen.

There are many wonderful letters on the Flanders company website and lots of signatures many of them well known in the ballet world supporting the company and ballet in general in this time of uncertainty.

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I am having difficulty editing my link so if anyone can help me out. I have tried to post the correct one twice and it reverts the the one that doesn't work. The correct link is on the sister site Ballet Talk for Dancers.

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