German ballet director suspended after smearing critic with dog feces

Marco Goecke, one of the country’s best-known choreographers, confronted a reporter from ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’ over a bad review she had written

Marco Goecke
The choreographer Marco Goecke, in 2019.picture alliance

The director of one of Germany’s leading ballet companies has been suspended from his post after he smeared dog feces all over the face of a dance critic who had written a bad review about one of his productions, according to the account provided by the journalist and her newspaper, the leading daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).

Marco Goecke, head of the Hannover State Opera until Monday, allegedly took offense at a review written by dance critic Wiebke Hüster and confronted her during the interval of a premiere at Hannover’s opera house on Saturday. According to the newspaper, Goecke threatened to ban her from the ballet and accused her of being responsible for people canceling season tickets in Hannover after she’d published a negative review about an earlier production of his in The Hague.

The Hannover state opera house apologized for the incident and said on Monday that it was suspending the ballet director with immediate effect, and banning him from the opera house until further notice. Hüster said she had filed a criminal complaint, the German news agency DPA reported. Frank Rieger, president of the German Association of Lower Saxony Journalists, described what happened as an “attack on press freedom.”

The “unpleasant incident,” as FAZ describes it, occurred on Saturday afternoon, during the premiere of the ballet Faith-Love-Hope at the Hannover State Opera. After approaching the critic and confronting her, Goecke then pulled out a paper bag with animal feces and smeared her face with the contents before making off through a packed theater foyer, the newspaper said. The newspaper has described the incident as a “humiliating physical attack” and an attempt to curtail the “freedom of art criticism.”

coreógrafo Marcos Goecke con su perro  en un fotografía de su cuenta de Instagram.
The choreographer Marco Goecke with his dog 'Gustav', in a photograph from his Instagram account.

The article that so angered Goecke was published on the same day of the attack, and concerned his production In the Dutch Mountain with the Nederlands Dans Theater, the national dance company of the Netherlands, which is currently on tour. “Watching it, one feels alternately insane and bored to death,” Hüster wrote of a recent performance in The Hague.

According to the critic’s account, when she realized what Goecke had done to her, she started screaming. The theater’s press spokeswoman helped her get clean in the bathroom and accompanied her to the police station, where she filed the complaint, which is being investigated as assault. The journalist said that the choreographer had planned the attack and that it was not the product of a sudden outburst.

Goecke, 50, received Germany’s national dance award last year. He is one of the best-known choreographers in the country and has created more than 90 choreographies in more than 20 years of work. His productions are part of the repertoire of companies around the world, such as the Paris Opera Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada or the Monte Carlo Ballets.

Director of the Hannover Ballet Company since 2019, he is known for always taking his dachshund Gustav with him wherever he goes. His Instagram account includes many photos of the animal, which, according to the newspaper Bild, once accompanied him to a dinner with Caroline of Monaco, apparently a fan of the breed.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

More information

Archived In

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS