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Hamburg Ballet cancels Chicago performances due to fire

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An electrical fire broke out at the Harris Theater this afternoon, forcing the cancellation of tonight's performance. Subsequently this announcement was made (from Hamburg Ballet's facebook page)

Hamburg Ballett

HAMBURG BALLET ARTISTIC DIRECTOR AND CHIEF CHOREOGRAPHER JOHN NEUMEIER SPEAKS ON CANCELLATION

CHICAGO (February 19, 2014) Internationally-acclaimed and Milwaukee-born choreographer John Neumeier speaks on the subsequent cancellation of Wednesday and Thursday nights presentation of Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler.

Says Neumeier: To cancel a performance is a particularly devastating moment for me, especially after the great success of Nijinsky last season at the Harris Theater. Chicago is not just another city. Chicago, for me, is very special because it is here that I attended my first professional ballet school. Its incredibly significant, for me, to return with one of my works.

To move a company of 60 dancers and 50 staff members is an enormous undertaking. That we were able to do it is a miracle in itself. We are very thankful that the Harris Theater invited us again, and we sincerely apologize to all the peoplefriends, relatives, and audience members. Ive never had to do this in 44 years as a ballet director, but the security of my dancers and staff, as well as the audience, must always be the highest priority.

After all the troubles we had with the costumes and the containers from Germany, and after the great help we received from Brigitte Lefèvre, Director of the Ballet of the Paris Opéra, we were so looking forward to this weeks performances. The rehearsals were going wonderfully until we had to evacuate the Theater. The worst thing that can ever happen is to cancel a performance.

Im very grateful that weve formed a special relationship with the Harris Theater. Im confident that well be returning very soon in the future.

HAMBURG BALLET ARTISTIC DIRECTOR AND CHIEF CHOREOGRAPHER JOHN NEUMEIER SPEAKS ON CANCELLATION CHICAGO (February 19, 2014) Internationally-acclaimed and Milwaukee-born choreographer John Neumeier speaks on the subsequent cancellation of Wednesday and Thursday nights presentation of Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler. Says Neumeier: To cancel a performance is a particularly devastating moment for me, especially after the great success of Nijinsky last season at the Harris Theater. Chicago is not just another city. Chicago, for me, is very special because it is here that I attended my first professional ballet school. Its incredibly significant, for me, to return with one of my works. To move a company of 60 dancers and 50 staff members is an enormous undertaking. That we were able to do it is a miracle in itself. We are very thankful that the Harris Theater invited us again, and we sincerely apologize to all the peoplefriends, relatives, and audience members. Ive never had to do this in 44 years as a ballet director, but the security of my dancers and staff, as well as the audience, must always be the highest priority. After all the troubles we had with the costumes and the containers from Germany, and after the great help we received from Brigitte Lefèvre, Director of the Ballet of the Paris Opéra, we were so looking forward to this weeks performances. The rehearsals were going wonderfully until we had to evacuate the Theater. The worst thing that can ever happen is to cancel a performance. Im very grateful that weve formed a special relationship with the Harris Theater. Im confident that well be returning very soon in the future.

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A bizarre episode, indeed. All that trouble for nothing.

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Oh this is sad -- I'm so sorry to hear about it.

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More (translated and summarized from the Hamburg Ballet blog, where there are some pics): http://www.hamburgballett-blog.de/hamburg_ballett/2014/02/wenn-ein-brand-einen-kleinen-traum-vernichtet.html#more

Around 1 pm two loud bangs were heard and then smoke was seen. Within minutes the stage and dressing rooms were evacuated. People grabbed only what was closest to hand. There was some consternation because the stage is about six storeys underground at the Harris Theater, but the evacuation up the stairs (about 90 people) was orderly. The dancers, however, were wearing only practice clothes and ballet slippers, and it was just above freezing in Chicago, somewhat chilly to be standing outside the emergency exit of the theatre. They did a quick inventory of who was wearing what, and jackets, sweaters, socks, etc. were redistributed out among the company. The sidewalks were covered with puddles.

After a few minutes, it became clear that the situation in the theater was really serious and they would not be let back in, they moved a few hundred meters to a subway station , where it was a little warmer . Many of the male dancers and staff of the company carried ballerinas over the puddles, because they had only slippers and leg warmers on. They waited in station in the hope of being able to at least retrieve their clothes from the theater .

Nothing doing. The theater was closed for several hours. For over 90 company members another solution had to be found. They all took taxis to the hotel where one team was waiting with money, another with new room keys , because most of them were still in the theater. After about an hour all were in their hotel rooms.

One of the Harris Theater's founders laid on a dinner for the whole company at the hotel, and that was when John Neumeier announced that Thursday's performance was also cancelled.

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Thanks so much for the summary -- this is frustrating and sad for the artists and the audience, but it could have been so much worse.

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