German choreographer Marco Goecke rubbed a bag full of dog excrement in journalist Wiebke Hüster’s face because she didn’t like the review she wrote in the German newspaper. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, for his most recent show. Meanwhile, the director of the ballet company of the Hanover State Opera has been suspended from his duties at that institution and is being investigated by the police after Saturday’s attack.
The unusual and serious nature of the case speaks for itself, while discussing the crisis of cultural criticism and the discrediting of the role of the press.
Award-winning choreographer in his country (last year he received the main German dance prize, the Tanzpreis, ex equo with Christoph Winkler), March Goecke is also an associate artist at Nederlands Dans Theatre, based in The Hague, Netherlands. It was for this company that he created the show targeted by Wiebke Hüster’s negative review, in which he said that In the Dutch Mountains ran the risk of driving the audience crazy or killing them would be “out of boredom”.
Last Saturday the journalist and dance critic had gone to see another performance in the central opera house of the German city, Glaube – Liebe – Hoffnung, when Marco Geke appeared in front of him during the break. They did not know each other personally. The criticism to In the Dutch Mountains Posted on the same day at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a daily report in Germany. As he told the American newspaper New York Times, the 50-year-old choreographer suddenly appeared and confronted her with the content of the text. He then took out a bag containing his dog’s faeces and rubbed the faeces on 57-year-old Wiebke Hüster’s face.
On the BBC, Hüster, who has been a dance critic for 25 years, said he was “in a state of shock” after the “brutal” attack he was the victim of.
“When I realized what had happened, I screamed, I panicked – I can assure you it was not an impulsive act, it was planned. I consider it an act against the freedom of the press,” he also told the British public broadcaster. “It was horrible,” he described New York Times, explaining that when he came to he participated in the attack on the police. An investigation into bodily harm and injuries has now been launched.
The choreographer believed that negative criticism of his show led to a decrease in demand for season tickets or even cancellation of subscriptions and began by threatening to ban the journalist from the company’s shows. After attacking her, he left without being stopped.
According New York Times, Goecke and his dog Gustav, a dachshund (a.k.a. Sausage), are a well-known couple in town, and his celebrity in a certain circle has already led him to dinner in Paris with Princess Caroline of Monaco, as described in The guardian.
After the conflict, Marco Goecke was not only suspended from his duties at the state ballet company, but was denied entry to the concert hall, according to the aforementioned British newspaper. His long-standing relationship with the Hanover State Opera, where he started as a guest choreographer before taking over as director of the corps de ballet in 2019, is now in jeopardy. The foundation has already regretted the director’s “impulsive” act and the “massive damage” it caused the company. The choreographer will be heard as part of an internal investigation, after which there will be a decision on his professional fate.
Artistic Director of the Hanover State Opera Laura Bermansays he contacted the reporter to apologize, according to the guardian, and vouches that he wants to maintain the house’s reputation as an “open space for collaboration and respectful exchange.” Dozens of dancers work in the ballet company of that German state, in particular the Portuguese Anita Ferreira who is studying there.
The Dutch company has also distanced itself from the act, which it stressed was “at odds” with its values.
Goecke’s work has been performed on Portuguese stages at least once, at the Sintra Festival, with the company Scapino Ballet Rotterdam — in 2008. The choreographer has collaborated with important institutions such as the Paris Opera Ballet or the Ballets de Monte Carlo.
The German art scene is now grappling with embarrassment over this act, as well as the cross-border debate — news of the attack, due to its scatological and violent nature, travels around the world — about the relationship between artists and the critics and the public with the press. The Association of German Journalists called the attack “nothing less than an attack on press freedom”, while the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung defended his criticism of what he sees as “an attempt at intimidation” against the newspaper’s freedom of assessment. “The incident shows, in its shocking method of physical violence, what is often believed and said in art circles about critics and critics.”
The German newspaper recalls that in October 2021, the director of the Hamburger Schauspielhaus, Karin Beier, told Deutschlandradio that criticism “is the shit up the sleeve of art”.