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Frankfurt and Forsythe face off. (News).

In a brief email that reverberated around the dance world on May 30, William Forsythe, the acclaimed American choreographer who has headed Ballet Frankfurt since 1984, announced that Frankfurt's city government had decided not to renew his contract and might replace his company with a traditional classical corps. Through a journalist, he had learned that the city council planned to announce these decisions at a press conference the following week. The changes were scheduled for 2004 when Forsythe's current contract as artistic director ends.

"I was told that the conservative councilors from the Christian Democrat and Social Democrat parties, who hold the majority, want traditional story ballets and disapprove of my aesthetic," said Forsythe, who is commonly credited with transforming Ballet Frankfurt from a provincial troupe into a world-renowned company. "The city is in the middle of a financial crisis and they've targeted us, even though the Frankfurt Ballet has the highest income in relation to public subsidy of any cultural institution in Germany." (Currently the company receives an annual subsidy of about $5.7 million, which covers 87 percent of its budget; a somewhat lower percentage than other cultural institutions in Frankfurt. It also earns back a portion of the subsidy through extensive touring.)

Forsythe's detractors were also apparently unhappy about his leadership of the city's avant-garde theater, the Teater am Turn (TAT), and the fact that Ballet Frankfurt's new works have been performed there rather than at the opera house.

Forsythe's email elicited an indignant outcry from cultural institutions, individuals, and major newspapers worldwide. At Ballet Frankfurt's request, these email messages, faxes, letters, and articles were sent to the office of Frankfurt's Christian Democrat Party mayor, Petra Roth. "I don't think they were aware of how quite well known we are," said Forsythe.

The following week, apparently in response to public pressure, the mayor's office called Forsythe for a meeting in lieu of the planned press conference. Forsythe was told that the city wanted to keep him and the company but that the budget remained a serious problem. Both sides agreed not to discuss the substance of the talk, but Forsythe commented that, though the atmosphere was more conciliatory, he was unable to say with complete confidence that the company's future was guaranteed. And TAT's looked much less certain.
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Title Annotation:William Forsythe
Author:Sulcas, Roslyn
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Sep 1, 2002
Words:381
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