Spain's Nacho Duato to add Berlin ballet to his workload

Choreographer plans to manage St Petersburg part-time

Nacho Duato, the new chief of the Berlin Staatsballett.
Nacho Duato, the new chief of the Berlin Staatsballett.Rainer Jensen (EFE)

The grapevine had been buzzing for some time with rumors that Nacho Duato, the famous choreographer from Valencia, would be landing in Berlin soon.

The German weekly Bild considered it a foregone conclusion, and confirmation arrived soon afterwards from St Petersburg: the former head of Spain's Compañía Nacional de Danza (CND) will be taking over as artistic director of the Staatsballett Berlin, replacing the Ukrainian Vladimir Malakhov. What is unique about the case is that, beginning in 2014, Duato will in fact be directing two companies simultaneously: the Staatsballett and the Mikhailovski Theater in St Petersburg, where he will work part-time after serving there full-time since 2011. Duato, 56, was actually the third choice to head the Staatsballett after the native-born Sasha Waltz and Mario Schröder.

But Waltz, an independent choreographer with a company of her own, said she would prefer a less time-consuming position, while Schröder is already director of the Leipzig Ballet.

The Berlin ballet is anxious to leave Malakhov's mandate behind, following several high-profile controversies

Although city and regional politicians had stated their preference for a German citizen to head the country's only national ballet company, the position ultimately went to a Spaniard who is well known abroad for his work as a dancer and choreographer of contemporary pieces that are regularly performed at prestigious venues throughout the world.

The Berlin ballet is anxious to leave Malakhov's mandate behind, following several high-profile controversies and his budget-busting and personal versions of the classics.

Duato himself is not without a controversial past. In 2010 he had an almighty row with the Spanish Culture Ministry, which wanted him to introduce classical ballet and neoclassical dance to the repertoire of CND, the company he had headed for 20 years and taken to the top of the world's contemporary dance scene. Rather than yield to the pressure, Duato dramatically announced he was leaving the country.

In recent statements to EL PAÍS, Duato had said he was very happy with his job in St Petersburg and that he had not closed any deals with the Berlin ballet.

The Staatsballett Berlin, a bloated, bureaucratic structure, is an amalgam of three former companies, including one from former East Germany, which is running a large deficit that threatens its very existence. Major structural changes are expected soon, including a reduction of its enormous artistic workforce.

Russian and German digital media said the delay in announcing Duato's appointment was due to the dual-directorship formula that the Spaniard is proposing. While this is a regular occurrence among orchestra conductors, the great ballet companies have different mechanics and work at a different pace.

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