Nacho Duato Out, Sasha Waltz In at Staatsballett Berlin

September 6, 2016

Nacho Duato
is on the move again. After two years as artistic director of Staatsballett Berlin, Duato has announced that he will be handing his post over to a co-directing team of choreographer Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman, who is currently artistic director at Royal Swedish Ballet.

Staatsballett Berlin is the home company of stars like Iana Salenko, and formerly Polina Semionova. The change in leadership won’t take place until summer 2019, when Duato’s contract expires. But since this is Germany, where dance news is major news, the move was announced by Berlin’s mayor this morning. (Nope, we can’t imagine that happening in New York.)

No word yet on what Duato’s plans might be going forward. Before Staatsballett Berlin, he’d spent 2011 to 2014 leading the Mikhailovsky Ballet in a more contemporary direction, following 20 years as director of Madrid’s Compañia Nacional de Danza (which he left under pressure from Spain’s Ministry of Culture).

Duato hasn’t had a particularly easy time since arriving in Berlin. Several performances were cancelled last year when the dancers went on strike over a pay dispute. The local press has not warmed to his choreography. And according to Spiegel Online, critics have accused him of not being invested enough in the company.

Yet Sasha Waltz is a bold choice for co-artistic director of the company. Although she is already a darling of the Berlin dance scene, the dance theater choreographer is known for wildly avant garde collaborations, sometimes literally setting stages on fire. She and Öhman reportedly plan to curate a rep that includes both classical and modern works. Meanwhile, she will continue to run her own Berlin-based company, Sasha Waltz & Guests.

At today’s press conference, she said the co-directorship will allow her to remain active as an artist, as Öhman will take on most of the executive and administrative tasks of the shared position. The pair has signed a five-year contract, which stipulates that Waltz will set a piece from her own company’s existing repertoire annually, while also creating three new works for Staatsballett Berlin during that period.

The Staatsballett Berlin dancers, who are mostly classically trained, are in for a major change.