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Another Royal Danish Ballet director resigns

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Aage Thordal Christensen has resigned. His contract is up at at the end of the year and he won't seek another term. Thordal Christensen is the fifth director that has left in the past ten years. The Danes used fo have quite stable directorships. Nothing less than five years since 1960. Michael Christiansen, the Theatre Chief under which this has all taken place (and whose policies are, in no small measures, cited by those unfortunate enough to hold the RDB director position) said in an interview in Politiken that this was all the dancers' fault, that they're children and need a strong father to rule them. (Mr. Christiansen's last job was -- I kid you not -- Permanent Undersecretary in the Ministry of Defense. He was very good at budgets, I am told.

This seems to have come as a surprise, and so there's no news on possible successor(s).

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This was original posted by Pamela Moberg on the Links thread:


Thankyou so much, Alexandra, for posting those links to the Danish papers. They are both serious daily papers not given to scandals. All I can say is that if I were offered a job there, I would think about it... It is kinda sad when these things happen in the art world - so much time wasted in petty bickering when they ought to get on with the dancing or whatever it is they are doing. Hopefully things will settle down in due course and that the Bournonville heritage will be maintained.

(I suppose few BalletAlerters could read it).


and I have a reply:

Pamela, I think the dancers are being given a bum rap. In my view, it's the Theatre Chief and the structure there that's been the problem since a new regime went in in 1992. Aschengreen is right that the only two directors who could govern the company were Flindt and Kronstam, but it wasn't just through fear and love -- that sounds as though the next director has to come in with either a whip or a box of chocolates. Both of them had a vision of the company that the dancers could accept. The company needs an artist -- I have to love dancers who'll threaten to go on strike because a director puts in his, er, young friend, in the role of the Sylphide and they know it's wrong. Or who think a production of "Giselle" is so putrid that they are embarrassed to be dancing in it. All of their complaints aren't just about art -- some of the recent RDB directors haven't treated them well, and that's part of it. But they need an artist, not a nanny or a prison guard. IMHO, of course :)

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David Leonard has just posted on ballet.co.uk

that Aage-Thordal Christensen has just been replaced by Frank Andersen. There's an announcement about in the RDB web site, but only on the Danish part of the site (not on the English one):

Ny Balletmester fra 2002

Den 24. september udnævnte Det Kongelige Teaters bestyrelse Frank

Andersen til balletmester fra 1. juli 2002 til 30. juni 2006. Samtidig

blev Lloyd Riggins, solodanser ved Hamburg Ballett og tidligere

solodanser ved Den Kongelige Ballet, udnævnt til 1. gæste-instruktør.

Frank Andersen begynder allerede 1. oktober 2001 som rådgiver i

planlægningen af de kommende sæsoner og indflyttelsen i det nye Opera-

og ballethus på Dokøen, samt koordineringen af Bournonville-festivalen

i 2005.

I don't speak Denish, but I assume that it means that Frank Andersen will be the artistic director of the RDB between July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2006, and that the dancer Lloyd Riggins will do something too.

Alexandra, Pamela, could you translate it?

(I'd be interested in your opinion, too).

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It's just a simple announcement -- get the dates and names,as Estelle did, and you've done it. (The last paragraph is that Andersen will start October 1st, nearly a year before his official appointment, to work on plans for the new theater that's being built and the Bournonville Festival in 2005.)

The position was never advertised. The chairman of the theater's board gave an interview saying they weren't going to rush into an appointment, they needed to study why the theater administration had had so much trouble finding the right person, etc. etc. Then, with no warning, came this announcement. The dancers were not consulted, I'm told; it was presented to them as a fait accomplit. (This is exactly what happened when Andersen was appointed the first time, by the way.)

The naming of Lloyd Riggins as "1st guest instruktor" is, I think, an answer to the dancers previous complaints against Andersen. He served his entire tenure (1985-94) under a vote of no confidence from them; a vote that was renewed seven years into his term.

The Theatre Chief, Michael Christiansen, was interviewed saying that the vote of no confidence before isn't a problem, doesn't give cause for concern, nor was it a problem that he, Christiansen, had chosen not to renew Andersen's contract when it expired in 1994 (to bring in Peter Schaufuss).

Riggins is still a dancer in Hamburg, and he said he was winding down his career but not that he was stopping (he's still in his very early 30s). Although Riggins is admired in Copenhagen, he has no experience staging, as far as I know. ("instruktor" is a Danish term for the person who "puts up" the ballets: producer, director, coach.)

Andersen's great strength is public relations. When he had the position before he lacked people skills, among other things. But that was ten years ago. That might have changed. He does know the theater and how it works, how to work with the bureaucracy.

(For anyone interested in the trials and travails of the Royal Danish Ballet in recent times, there are several articles in the Bournonville Archive, now housed at www.danceview.org Click on Archive, click on Bournonville Archive.)

[ 09-27-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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This is fascinating information, Alexandra. It's deja-vu all over again, eh?

Well, my only experience with Frank Andersen is having met him at the recent Shanghai IBC, where he served on the jury. His 'people skills' must have improved tremendously in ten years, as hubby and I found him to be quite a charmer, socially. ;) Maybe his other qualities have improved? Hope springs eternal. But I feel sorry for the long-time dancers and staff. I've read your wonderful historic articles on this whole affaire, Alexandra ('Bournonville in Hell' etc.), so I understand the 'bombshell' nature of this appointment.

[ 09-26-2001: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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The official press release:


The Board of the Royal Theatre has today, on the recommendation of the General Manager, appointed Frank Andersen Artistic Director from 1st July 2002 till 30th June 2006.

At the same time, on the recommendation of the new Artistic Director, the General Manager has appointed Principal Dancer Lloyd Riggins 1st Guest Instructor and special associate to the Royal Danish Ballet.

Further, from 1st October 2001 till 30th June 2002 the General Manager has appointed Frank Andersen adviser in questions concerning the repertoire and planning of the coming seasons and adviser about the establishment and occupation of the new opera and ballet house at the Dokøen. From the same date Frank Andersen will take over the responsibility for the planning and coordination of the activities, which are planned in connection with the festivities on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of August Bournonville’s birth in 2005.

As 1st Guest Instructor Lloyd Riggins will be assigned to the assistance both to the the Artistic Director’s development of long-ranged artistic visions for the ballet and to the determination and implementation of the repertoire of the coming years. For the present Lloyd Riggins will continue as principal dancer with the Hamburg Ballett.

Frank Andersen and John Neumeier, as director of the Hamburg Ballett, have entered an agreement ensuring Lloyd Riggins suitable time for his work for and together with the Royal Danish Ballet.

With the appointment of Frank Andersen the Royal Theatre and the Royal Danish Ballet are ensured the great artistic and managing experiences with the result that the ballet will be prepared for the large challenges of the coming years, first of all the securing of the Bournonville inheritance and the opening of the new opera/ballet house.

At the same time the appointment of Lloyd Riggins will ensure that one of the greatest dancers of our generation – and not least one of the greatest Bournonville interpreters – will again be attached to the Royal Theatre. In this way he can contribute to the anchoring of an artistic line and vision also in the long term.

”The engagement of Frank Andersen, being an internationally experienced ballet manager, and Lloyd Riggins being a great dancer, will together with our wish to co-operate with other young ballet people give the Royal Theatre the possibility to work on a longer-term perspective than earlier, both artistically and administratively”, says Chairman of the Board Mads Øvlisen.

The Board expects that the analysis of the conditions for management and co-operation within the Royal Danish Ballet, which is being made by the General Manager, will be ready in the beginning of 2002, and in this way the appropriate changes can be implemented in co-operation with the new management of the Royal Danish Ballet.

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Living in Copenhagen is always interesting, and if you have a feel for the Machiavellian touch, the actions of Theatre director Michael Christensen is a true masterpiece in the art of staying in power. Nobody, I think would have suspected that instead all the promised research, that Christensen simply would turn the deck of failed ballet masters and start all over again with Frank Andersen, whom he dumped rather ungracefully in 1993. What may have set this scene is a wish to duplicate the succesful pairing at the opera with experienced musical director Michael Schoenvandt and whizz kid Kasper Holten. Likewise is our national soccer team headed by a duo of an old experienced hand and a young popular star. but ballet is neither football nor opera. What Frank bring to job, second time around, is more or less what he had the first time, entusiam, political flair, a will to endure hardship and that is about it. Frank is not qualified for the full ballet master role, as he cannot teach, direct or choreograhs,(well neither could Aage, but Frank has at least spared us the coreography) and it is vital that he is backed on all three functions. Potential house coreographers could be Tim Rushton and Alexei Ratmansky, both of immens promise, and I suppose that Lloyd is supposed to fll the other voids. Lloyd has allways been very popular in Copenhagen, both among the dancers and the public, trading on his Ib Andersen "light" qualities and he is the last dancer to be developed by Henning Kronstam. He is obiously the sugar on this new cake and I suppose the plan is to groom him and let Frank step aside when Lloyd is ready to take over. Will Lloyd be ready and does he have the qualifications or is it his and Frank tight personal ties to John Neumeier,that is the attraction. That is the questions that need to be answered.

But chosing Frank we get a known factor, we do also get a lot of old animousities. It was not so much that Frank was disliked, it was more the question of him not being respected. Like Aage and much more than him, when chosing Frank the first time, the post went to the solo dancer considered the less talented dancer in the bunch and it was hard for dancers with more talent to be bossed by someone they did not consider their equal. and then he made a lot of beginners mistakes like agreing to dismiss Sorella Englund. A mistake he was never forgiven.

The one thing management can be certain about is that Frank will never abandom the ship. The late great Danish Critic Henrik Lundgreen wrote 10 years ago: Frank is not the cause of the Royal Danish Ballets problems, but neither is he the solution`". That still stands.

In an way it should be easy because there is so much talent in the company, but it is not used right. Silja Schandorff last week outshone a group of leading interational ballerinas at a galla in Tivoli, but unfortunately casting was never one of Franks better qualities. What is left for us is the hope, and so far it cannot be more than a hope for Lloyd has only shown his flair as a performer that he really is the Messias we need. Perhaps it was a good omen that he dance the title role in Neumeiers Messias last week in Copenhagen.

As far as Aage goes, I do not think any of us will miss him as he never made much impact.

I am sorry for the dancers wrongfully cast as difficult, childish, spoiled. This is not true and their spokes person Christina Olsson has shone with dignity and intelligence in the press. One positive thing about Aage regime was her Sylph, showing us the dept of the talent in the company. May it shine a little bit brighter.

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Thanks, Effy. I'm glad to have a Danish perspective on this -- I hadn't considered the opera angle.

Why Christiansen can stay in power is one of the Great Mysteries of Life. :)

What you've written certainly matches everything I've heard from dancers -- past and present.

I hope you'll drop by often -- please feel free to post reviews of Danish performances. There are quite a few Bournonville, if not Royal Danish, fans here.

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A small legal point here. In Sweden, and I am almost sure the situation would be the same in Denmark - all vacant posts must be properly advertised in the press, or maybe in the case of let's say a caretaker, at the Labor Exchange. There must be no private and internal appointments within a company - everybody must have a chance to apply for the job.

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Being part of the state system a post like Ballet Master should be announced. However depending on whether The Royal Theatre is considered a part of the state or as an independant company, owned by the state the legislation would be different. A lost of jobs on the Royal Thetre is not posted, like actors, singers and dancers. Likewise the board has the autority to prolong a contract without calling for appliacants. this has been done previously with Flemming Flindt, Henning Kronstam and Frank Andersens position. likewise the Board could have given Aage four more years.

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The law may well have changed in the last decade, but a former (dancers) union official I spoke to said the issue had been raised earlier, when Frank Andersen had appointed Lise La Cour to succeed Kirsten Ralov as Vice Ballet Master without announcing the position. They were told that only the top position needed to be announced; assistants, teachers, dancers, actors, etc. did not.

I don't understand why there is a distinction between a new appointment and a renewal, but there is, as Effy noted. The renewals are not automatic but as far as I know, they are the province of the Theatre Chief (now that there's a board, I don't know how that changes things. The period I studied ended just as the board came in.)

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This will only be of interest to those who have followed the fortunes and misfortunes of the Royal Danish Ballet in the past decade, but Niels Jørgen Kaiser died Saturday.

(For those who read Danish, here's the link to Ebbe Mørk's Nekrolog of Kaiser in today's Politiken.)


Another Nekrolog in Berlingske Tidende with photo!


[ 09-29-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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