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La Monnaie dumps dance

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Ballet has not had much of a presence in Brussels since Maurice Béjart moved his company to Switzerland in 1987, but now comes news that La Monnaie plans pretty much to eliminate dance from its programming. The opera house anticipated receiving a government subsidy of 34.8 million euros, but will get 1.55 million less. In response, the theater is laying off 16 employees and largely eliminating its dance programming. A planned production by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui has been canceled.


Opera will also be affected. A Monteverdi cycle planned for 2016 will not take place, and the total number of productions each season will be reduced, as the theater tries to shrink its budget.


Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker reacts:

The news that the management of De Munt/La Monnaie is to drop all dance from its programming fills me with disbelief. In historical terms dance has always been part of the mission of the De Munt. After the glory years of Béjart and Huisman the budget for dance has been systematically pruned. De Munt has invested less and less in dance over the years, first when Gerard Mortier was in charge and then after Bernard Foccroulle took over. Peter De Caluwe is now simply dropping everything. This development contrasts sharply with the importance of Brussels as one of the dance capitals of the world.

For thirty years now Rosas has performed in major cities such as Paris, London, Berlin, Amsterdam, and New York as well as in Belgian cities such as Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels. Peter De Caluwe’s decision means that in future Rosas will no longer have a home in Brussels. Does this mean that I must start looking for another pitch or another home town?


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If a 1.6 million euro hole in the budget can be plugged up by dismissing 16 employees and eliminating dance programming, it goes to show you that the theater was not spending much very much on dance. It also appears that Rosas is not a resident company of the theater being financed out of its budget. How long has it been since the theater had a resident dance company?

From time to time I have heard it suggested that replacing resident ballet companies with resident modern dance companies had a specific aim. Modern dance companies are generally smaller and therefore less expensive to maintain, and they're also less popular, so later on they can be eliminated altogether, after which a theater's budget can be directed solely to opera. Of course, 27 years is a very long time to execute such a diabolical scheme, but on a day like this, I would almost be inclined to believe the conspiracy theories.

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Frustrating news.

I do wish EU countries would implement more rigid structures with regards to the administration of their performing arts institutions. The Governments should designate x amount for dance, x for opera etc. rather than take the misguided view one person will split the funding fairly - or push the programming of an art form they're not even connected to in the right direction.

To be honest, companies like the La Monnaie and the Paris Opera just remind me of France's ridiculous National Choreographic Centres. A director's hauled in to do whatever he or she likes (provided the state agrees), then the repoirtoire's thrown out at the end of their tenure, sacrificing any chance of increased semi-sustainability through steady commercial growth. And this is in the middle of an era of financial austerity...

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A few years ago Pilobolus premiered a new work by Cherkaoui. To be honest, based on films of his work I'd seen, and considering the astonishing physical abilities of the dancers he had at his disposal, I expected something really explosive, but it was a surprisingly low-key and somewhat generic affair. No doubt it would be better to see works made on dancers with whom he works regularly.

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