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German ballet director suspended after feces attack on reviewer

Furious director pulled out a paper bag with animal feces and smeared critic’s face with the contents
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A TV cameraman films the State Opera in Hanover, Germany, Monday, Feb. 13, 2023. A German newspaper critic had animal feces smeared on her face by a ballet director in the city of Hannover after he apparently accused her of driving away ticket holders. The Hannover state theater apologized for the incident on Saturday and said Monday that it was suspending ballet director Marco Goecke with immediate effect. (Julian Stratenschulte/dpa via AP)

A German newspaper critic had animal feces smeared on her face in the city of Hannover by a ballet director who apparently took offense at a review she wrote.

The Hannover state opera house apologized for the incident and said Monday that it was suspending ballet director Marco Goecke with immediate effect.

The daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that a furious Goecke approached its dance critic, Wiebke Huester, during the interval of a premiere at Hannover’s opera house on Saturday and asked what she was doing there. It said that the two didn’t know each other personally.

The newspaper said that Goecke, who apparently felt provoked by a recent review she wrote of a production he staged in the Dutch seat of government, The Hague, threatened to ban her from the ballet and accused her of being responsible for people canceling season tickets in Hannover.

He 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. Huester identified the substance as dog feces and said she had filed a criminal complaint, German news agency dpa reported.

In a statement on its website, the opera house said Huester’s “personal integrity” was violated “in an unspeakable way.” It said that it contacted her immediately after the incident to apologize.

The opera house said that Goecke’s “impulsive reaction” violated the ground rules of the theater and that “he caused massive damage to the Hannover State Opera and State Ballet.” As a result, it said, he is being suspended and banned from the opera house until further notice.

Goecke has been given the next few days to apologize “comprehensively” and explain himself to theater management “before further steps are announced,” it added.

The ballet director appeared at least partly unrepentant, however. In an interview with public broadcaster NDR, Goecke acknowledged that his “choice of means wasn’t super, absolutely.”

“Of course socially that is also certainly not recognized or respected, if one resorts to such means,” he said of the attack, adding that he had never done anything like that before and was “a bit shocked at myself.”

Goecke said that while having his work “soiled for years” was a price he had been told he had to pay for being in the public eye, there was a limit.

“Once a certain point has been reached, I disagree,” he said.

The German journalists’ association DJV denounced the attack.

“An artist must tolerate criticism, even if it seems exaggerated,” the union’s regional head in Lower Saxony state, Frank Rieger, said. “Whoever reacts violently to criticism is unacceptable. The attack on the … journalist is also an attack on press freedom.”





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