Cooperation paused – Mr. Neumeier, how about the monkey sounds?

Hamburg – After the allegations of racism against the Hamburg choreographer legend John Neumeier, the Royal Ballet in Copenhagen “paused” the almost 60-year collaboration with the 83-year-old. And that despite the fact that ballet boss Nikolaj Hübbe (55) does not consider Neumeier’s “Othello” version, the stumbling block, to be racist.

“Othello”, Shakespeare’s play about the dark-skinned general who, through intrigues, becomes so jealous of his beloved wife Desdemona that he first kills her and then himself. 37 years ago, John Neumeier’s production premiered at Kampnagel.

The choreography has been shown at the State Opera since 2013, and it has also been on the program in Denmark for years.

Hélène Bouchetal's Desdemona and Amilcar Moret Gonzalez as Othello in 2008 at the Hamburg State Opera

Hélène Bouchetals as Desdemona and Amilcar Moret Gonzalez as Othello in 2008 at the Hamburg State Opera

Photo: Oliver Fantitsch

And now suddenly the bang.

It is about a scene in which Desdemona dreams of Othello performing an African hunt dance. Because they are supposed to make monkey noises, the Copenhagen dancers refuse to perform “Othello” after the choreographer rejected requests for changes.

Neumeier speaks of “negative misinterpretation” and “censorship” and explains himself: He described his concept and the dramaturgical purpose of the “Wild Warrior” to the ensemble. Neumeier left unanswered a question from BILD as to what this purpose was.

Ballet boss Hübbe said on Danish TV why the production was canceled, although he doesn’t think it’s racist: “I don’t like sending young dancers on stage who don’t feel comfortable in a role.”

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