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Berlin ballet angry at ‘political choice’ of new director

Dancers at Berlin's Staatsballett are challenging the appointment of choreographer Sasha Waltz as one of the company's new directors, rejecting the appointment as "insulting" and politically-tinged.

Berlin ballet angry at 'political choice' of new director
The Staatsballett in Berlin. File photo: DPA

Berlin's mayor Michael Müller had last week appointed Waltz and Swedish ballet chief Johannes Öhman as co-directors of Germany's largest ballet company from the 2019/2020 season on.

But in a scathing petition posted on the company's homepage on Sunday, the dancers said: “Unfortunately, the appointment has to be compared to an appointment of a tennis trainer as a football coach or an art museum director as an orchestral director.”

They described the nomination as “disruptive and insulting to the company,” and added that the fact that “this announcement comes in the middle of an election campaign leads us to believe that it is politically motivated rather than artistically.”

Berlin votes Sunday in a state election, a timing the dancers find dubious as Waltz's term is due to start a whole three years from now.

Their suspicion is that Waltz, 53, is a big name who will sell tickets but as a choreographer of dance theatre lacks the background for classically-trained ballet.

Her appointment had been broadly welcomed by German media, which had been little impressed by the current director Nacho Duato, noting that none of his three premieres since he joined in 2014 had been a hit.

The Staatsballett is a merger of three companies – Deutsche Oper in west Berlin and Komische Oper and Staatsoper in the east – a legacy of a divided capital.

The conflict plaguing the dance company comes a year after a similar dispute at east Berlin's legendary theatre Volksbühne (People's Stage), over the succession of veteran artistic director Frank Castorf, who is to bow out in 2017 after a quarter-century at the helm.

Berlin authorities, which heavily subsidise the avant-garde theatre and Castorf's daring, politically-charged productions, declined to keep the strong-willed iconoclast much beyond the end of his current contract in 2016.

The director of London's Tate Modern museum, Chris Dercon, has been nominated as his replacement, but some 172 actors and employees of the theatre have written an open letter voicing their “deep concern” over the appointment.

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BERLIN

EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

Shops
If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

Leisure
2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

Hairdressers
For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

Transport
3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.

 

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