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Jobs to be cut at RDB?


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#16 checkwriter

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 04:36 AM

As is clear from the Politiken article (Google translate works pretty well), Hubbe has used this as an opportunity to clean house. It will be interesting to see on Monday whether the other branches of the theater do the same, or whether their chiefs (I'm thinking of the Opera in particular) are better able to reduce the toll on the artistic staff.

Meanwhile, I'm sure all who do remain will be happy to know they'll still have a cafeteria. Because that's what running a theater is all about - Swedish meatballs on Tuesdays.

#17 Anne

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 05:33 AM

I think it is important to be precise in these matters, and google translations are not always reliable.
What the Politiken actually writes is this (my translation):

[font=georgia, serif]"According to several dancers Politiken has spoken with, it is now clear that the firings are determined by the ballet master Nikolaj Hübbe's personal taste and preferences.
"It's 100 percent the ballet master's criteria that have determined it. That's how the ballet world is - it's all a lot about personal taste. It is actually very natural, "says principal dancer Ulrik Birkkjær."[/font]

#18 JMcN

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 06:00 AM

This is absolutely shocking news, especially for the seven dancers who are not retiring. I used google translate; it came up with a very bizarre translation but did give the gist and the names.

#19 Anne

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 07:57 AM

Eva Kistrup has made a comment already on her blog (this time in English!):

Read article

#20 Helene

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 10:12 AM

Kistrup mentions three dancers retiring and eight cut positions, including a soloist, Lesley Culver, who was set to retire next year. How does the layoff affect her retirement earnings?

Bowman is tall: perhaps ABT should be looking his way? Or maybe he'd like it in Seattle.

Although RDB is part of a state theater, there doesn't seem to be a policy for layoffs to start with foreign dancers. One of my first thoughts when the issue was first raised was to worry about former PNB soloist Jodie Thomas, who has only been with a Company a few years.

Hubbe wouldn't be the first Artistic Director to turn layoffs into an opportunity to clean house.

#21 Joan

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 12:28 PM

The names of the 11 dancers, who are going to leave the RDB have now been announced in Politiken:

Article (I couldn't find out making it appear in English translation, but maybe you can help yourself to a google-translation)

I can't help feeling very sad today, and I feel very sorry for the seven dancers, who are leaving the company against their own free will, many of whom I remember vividly from many fine performances during the years.

It is so sad Anne....Hopefully they will manage to come through this, but it will be difficult to find another job as a dancer in Denmark..

#22 Amy Reusch

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 06:40 PM

An artistic director is responsible for casting, this is a big part of his/her vision. It can't be expected that he/she would keep someone rarely cast over a dancer often cast. There could be a lottery, with everyone's chance equal, but to what point? The company has excellence as it's goal. It's just a shame they didn't find some other way to cut the budget... Shortened weeks or one less production or an equal percentage pay cut for everyone...

#23 Anne

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 01:12 AM

As is clear from the Politiken article (Google translate works pretty well), Hubbe has used this as an opportunity to clean house.


Hubbe wouldn't be the first Artistic Director to turn layoffs into an opportunity to clean house.


Before this interpretation of what is going on in the RDB gets the character of a fact, I have to say, that unless checkwriter has some insider knowledge, which makes it possible to read between the lines, there has been nothing in the press, neither in the article checkwriter refers to in Politiken, that directly says so. What the article said was:

"According to several dancers Politiken has spoken with, it is now clear that the firings are determined by the ballet master Nikolaj Hübbe's personal taste and preferences."

And this is what an A.D. do all the times. He has the final say in everything, in casting, in who is accepted into the company etc. One may not like that fact, but it is not the same as to say, that he has misused this power to "clean house". That is a very strong accusation which one shouldn't bring forward unless one is very sure.

#24 Helene

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 01:56 AM

And this is what an A.D. do all the times. He has the final say in everything, in casting, in who is accepted into the company etc. One may not like that fact, but it is not the same as to say, that he has misused this power to "clean house". That is a very strong accusation which one shouldn't bring forward unless one is very sure.

According to your own translation of the "Politiken" article,

"According to several dancers Politiken has spoken with, it is now clear that the firings are determined by the ballet master Nikolaj Hübbe's personal taste and preferences.

"It's 100 percent the ballet master's criteria that have determined it. That's how the ballet world is - it's all a lot about personal taste. It is actually very natural, "says principal dancer Ulrik Birkkjær."


There's been no statement by the company or theater administration that the cuts were made on an objective basis, such as seniority, tenure, rank, or nationality and no statement refuting that it wasn't Hubbe's decision to make.

According to Eva Kistrup's blog:

The New Zealander [Andrew Bowman] has been with the RDB for his full career, but he has been an infrequent dancer for most of Hübbe's tenure. Soloist Lesley Culver who is also laid off, would have reached retirement next season. Cecilie Lassen, who's original promising career has been marred with injuries has been given a retirement package. The remaining lay offs are placed on members of the corps, who have had little stage time and no featured roles. This group include two Danish girls and three foreign dancers.


The dancers who've been laid off have one thing in common: Hubbe hasn't or couldn't (in the case of at least one oft-injured dancer) use them. Laying off dancers that aren't useful to an Artistic Director is one definition of cleaning house. (Of course, there are other reasons good and bad that an AD can clean house.) It doesn't take insider information to come to that conclusion.

#25 Anne

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 06:51 AM

Maybe I'm now the one who is reading more between the lines than is really there. I understand from your explanation, that the expression "to clean house" can have a more neutral meaning and that it doesn't necessarily mean that a director misuses the opportunity to get rid of his or her enemies or critics. Because of the managment crisis last year the latter has been a fear vented in the papers before the layoffs were a reality.

I don't know if objective criterias are less damaging. Maybe it hurts less to be sacked because you are, say, the one with less seniority, and not because you are the less usefull, and for the A.D. it is much easier to hide behind such criterias, because he or she doesn't risk accusations of favourism. But for the company it can never be the best criterion, as you might end up sacking some of the best dancers that way.
What is really the issue, and maybe has been it all the time to you, checkwriter, (I apollogy that I might have got your meaning wrong) is, whether Hübbe has had any choice: Could he have avoided the lay-offs by saving money elsewhere in the organisation? And how free has his hands been in this process? One must remember that there is a theatre director above both him and the other A.D.s of the house, who has the final say.

#26 checkwriter

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 10:00 AM

I don't disagree at all that if cuts must be made from the artistic staff, then it is the AD's responsibility to make those cuts with an eye to what he believes will work best for the company under his leadership. So it's probably the case -- and would make sense -- that cuts were made based on his artistic preferences.

My question is whether cuts to the artistic staff were necessary - the last resort, so to speak - or whether there were other savings that could have been implemented but weren't. I don't imagine we will have any definitive answer to that question, because that level of detail will never make its way public. However, it will be interesting to see whether the other branches of the theater - which are due to announce their cuts on Monday - were able to ameliorate the toll on their artistic staff and, if so, how they did it. Remember that the Opera was set to lose 16 of its 56 chorus members, a significant cut. Stay tuned . . .

#27 Helene

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 11:47 AM

The way reports have been written since the story broke, the ADs were given a directive to reduce specific headcount. Perhaps, at a collective level the numbers were negotiated, but nothing has been written to suggest that they were given a DKK amount to cut overall or from artistic HR. That could be short-sightedness -- i.e., not giving the ADs the chance to come up with their own solutions, such as across-the-board cuts or (more) job sharing in multiple theaters or administration -- it could be based in the economics of the long-term cost of benefits, such as pensions, for example, or it might have come as a bombshell with a short time to come up with a solution. There may be a contractual clause or unwritten rule that all theaters come up with the same type of solution. The headcount solution might be the best for the ADs regardless of whether it was imposed or decided voluntarily. For example, if the rep was changing to need fewer dancers overall or to need different types of dancers/singers, then it was an opportunity for ADs to make the change.

In Seattle, for example, the dancers agreed to take pay cuts to preserve the numbers rather than lose members, and it was in their best interest, given the demands of the rep and inevitable injuries. Although Peter Boal has said repeatedly he'd rather do mixed rep where he can give many dancers the opportunities for leads instead of full-length story ballets where there are two-three leads and another few main characters, the full-length ballets lose much money less than mixed rep. No matter how you slice it, he needs warm bodies for the full-lengths. In a few weeks, PNB will perform Alexei Ratmansky's "Don Quixote", and even under the best possible circumstances -- everyone's healthy even though there are three extra performances (42% increase) over two weekends -- Dutch National Ballet, for which the work was choreographed, is larger than PNB before counting the 24 corps members, and the PNB dancers have a triple bill to perform five weeks later, and "Carmina Burana" a month after that.

In the US the musicians, stagehands, and dancers have different unions which negotiate contracts separately, and while the same musicians can be contracted for multiple companies, the contracts are separate. In Seattle, the Symphony musicians are given the option to play for the Opera orchestra, while the Ballet orchestra is a separate entity. while in Phoenix, the Symphony musicians play for the Ballet when it performs in Symphony Hall, while the Opera orchestra is a separate entity. The Ballet and Opera have independent back stage and costume/set shops. My understanding is that while the different groups in Denmark -- musicians, backstage, dancers, and actors -- have different levels of power that shift, all are employees of the state theater, and that very well could mean fewer choices for solutions to the money issue, especially a sustainable one. It's not likely with the world economic climate that budgets will go up any time soon.

#28 Eva Kistrup

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 01:48 AM

In Denmark labour cost are one of the highest costs in any enterprise. As we have to pay very high taxes the basic wages are higher than in most other countries. Comparing the ballet company with peer companies, the Danish dancers are paid a higher basic wage and is paid 365 days a year. The theatre also covers some of their pension pays. As the budget cuts have gone on for years, most other area have already been hit. The credit crunch had made more difficult to sell tickets and the theathre is hard hit by the costs of running the new opera and drama house. When the opera was given by a big sponsor to the theathre management did not really wanted the gift as it came with no money to run it. The state tthen provided some money, but not enough to cover the cost and what money was given has since been cut. As it is the company has two larges stages but only one orchestra. If a ballet and opera should play the same night, they have to hire a second orchestra for one of the two performances. It makes it difficult and expensive to for instance do more performances of a popular programme and it makes it difficult to really use the artistic assets. As the theatre like any opera house loose money everytime they perform, the cure so far has been to cut number of performance, but that makes each performance more costly as most of the employes are contracted for almost life. A statistic was publish last week that showed that the ten most expensive productions was 7 operas, 1 musical and 2 ballets. The Opera beeing much more expensive than ballet. The two ballets were Romeo & Juliet and The Ballerina program. WHy were they so expensive. R+J was a rerun, but it include many extras, has a complicated decor and I suspect that the cost of hiring an extra orchestra hits hard. The Ballerina programme is a fairly cheap programme, but as it only had six performances the cost for each performance is high.

What can be done? Looking at Sweden and Norway, their national theatres are cheaper to run but has more performance. They have split into independent drama and Opera/ballet houses. I cannot see how that split can make it cheaper, but as it works in the other countries that could be a solution. Another solution could be to merge the orchestra and choir with the othe national orchestra and choir. That is the model in Austria where Wienna Philhamonics has more members than an ordinary orchestra but do the concert scheduke and cater for the operas needs. As long as the orchestra is not pplaying Mahler and the Opera Wagner on the same night that would work and save money.

#29 Jane Simpson

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 04:19 AM

The Royal Theatre has today issued a press release about the job cuts, which have now all been announced.

The final number of jobs to go was 81, with about a third of these coming from planned retirements, expiring contracts, abolititon of vacant jobs etc. The remainder was made up by 42 agreed redundancies and 12 layoffs.

33 of these were artists: 16 from the opera chorus, 1 opera soloist, 1 repetiteur, 11 dancers, 3 actors

Most of the actual layoffs were from the ballet: the reason the theatre gives is that most of the dancers would lose their pension rights if they left voluntarily.

The full text of the press release is here:

http://kglteater.dk/...g 16januar.aspx

It's in Danish but Google translate does a reasonable job.

#30 Helene

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 10:13 AM

What is the difference between redundancy and layoff?


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