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The point of view of the Ballet Department employees regarding recent events

Due to the events which occurred in the last weeks at Bucharest National Opera House, the Ballet Department employees issue this press release to express a point of view. We challenge the affirmations of Prime Minister Dacian Cioloș, according to whom we, the employees of the Ballet Department of the Bucharest National Opera House, are “retrograde” and not open to newness. We would like to bring to his attention that shows from important associations, such as George Balanchine and Jiří Kylián, have been performed on the stage of the Bucharest National Opera House for many years. Furthermore, many international dancers performed along the dancers of the Bucharest National Opera House, while countless internationally recognized artists and choreographers came to work with us, among whom we name Edward Clug, Paul Boss, Vasily Medvedev, Laura Graham, Frederic Olivieri and Suki Schorer. We express our openness to collaborate with any ballet personality, as long as they observe the Romanian laws and respect the Romanian culture and us, as artists.

Even this aspect is important, the purpose of our protest is not the pay packet, as it has been stated in the press, but the problems we faced in the period when Mr. Johan Kobborg was head of the Ballet Department of the Bucharest National Opera House. In the last weeks, Ms. Alina Cojocaru gave statements to the press and on TV, statements which damaged the image of the Ballet Department of the Bucharest National Opera House, its history and artistic heritage. We find unsubstantiated and offensive the statement according to which the working environment before Mr. Johan Kobborg arrival was one of terror, this contradicting the statements issued by Ms. Alina Cojocaru and Mr. Johan Kobborg during the period when they both danced as guests in our institution, that the working environment and the artistic and professional levels met the highest standards.

Hereinafter we present the most important problems the Ballet Department of the Bucharest National Opera House had to face since the investiture without public competition of Mr. Johan Kobborg in the effective management of this structure in our institution:

  • The appropriation and use by Mr. Johan Kobborg of the position of Artistic Director of the Ballet Department, in total contradiction to the institution’s grading structure. This situation brought the misinformation of the Ballet Department members about the real status of the management staff. Mr. Johan Kobborg took on and adopted all decisions inside the Department, even if in reality his agreement strictly stipulated he was employed only as a ballet dancer and managing adviser.

  • Removing several performances and creations from the season program (Sleeping Beauty, Anna Karenina, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Baiadera, Cinderella, Femei(Donne), shows which were signed by well-known Romanian choreographers (Alexa Mezincescu, Ioan Tugearu, Mihai Babușka, Gheorghe Iancu) and which had been in the repertoire of the Bucharest National Opera House for an indefinite period, and changing them with shows with a limited number of stage plays, despite the fact that until Mr. Kobborg’s arrival the shows were performed in parallel. Hence, the Bucharest National Opera House, which was mainly a repertoire institute, was slowly turned into a project theatre.

  • Employing ballet dancers at Mr. Kobborg’s exclusive discretion, without any preview by a Specialty Committee.

  • Constantly supporting and demonstrating the discrimination of the ballet dancers in terms of their salaries for the same type of rendered services, which represents a severe breach of Romanian and EU legislation.

  • Professional discrimination among the artists regarding casting, rehearsals, leave days, granting positions and other facilities. An example in this sense is the preferential treatment offered to a ballerina who is publicly defending Mr. Kobborg, the only member of the ballet of the Bucharest National Opera House who had the opportunity to dance with internationally recognized ballet dancers especially invited for her debuts. We would like to emphasize that not one established prima ballerina from our institution had this privilege under Mr. Kobborg’s administration.

  • Stipulating the mandatory use of the English language during rehearsals and causing conflicts which led to the resignation of important Romanian ballet masters and valuable first soloists from our Department.

  • Exercising constant psychological pressure on the ballet dancers, controlling their social media activities through intimidation, thus directly resulting in the deterioration of the working environment and of the employees’ emotional balance.

  • Dividing the ballet dancers’ collective in two sections, the “Ballet” Department and the “Entertainment Ballet” Department, thus breaching yet again the grading structure of the Bucharest National Opera House. The ballet dancers who were abusively transferred to the “Entertainment” Department were forced to study in one auditorium, while their access to other auditoriums, where Romanian and foreign masters were giving lessons, was forbidden. Mr. Kobborg and Mrs. Florica Stănescu, head of the department at that time, threatened to apply pay cuts if these rules were violated.

  • Favoring dancers brought in by Mr. Kobborg, even to the detriment of the other ballet dancers in the Department at the time Mr. Kobborg was invested as “Artistic Director”. We will present only two cases, out of several, when two ballet dancers, one Italian, the other Swiss, submitted a written statement last year to the Ministry of Culture regarding a situation which they found abusive. Their contracts were not extended, even if they had been performing in this institution for approximately three years, despite the fact that they made prior inquiries regarding this matter and that they were assured that their collaboration will continue in the following season. Mr. Kobborg reasoned that the contracts were not extended because he was going to bring in other ballet dancers, whom he knew they would pass the hiring auditions before they even came in for the audition.

  • Casting students from private ballet studios in the show Le Corsaire, instead of students from the Floria Capsali Choreography High School, although the former had performed the respective choreography since the show premiere. Through these actions, Mr. Kobborg tried to alienate the students of the Bucharest National Opera House from the artistic act.

  • The inefficient elaboration of the work schedule by not granting sufficient rehearsal time for preparing the spectacles, both for the ensemble and vocalists, thus compromising the quality of their evolution and exposing the ballet dancers to possible injuries.

  • Removing Birbanto’s variation from act I of Le Corsaire for one show, because one dancer had a physical unavailability and another was not prepared.

  • Changing the variation of the Forest Fairy from act II of the Don Quijote ballet without the choreographer’s approval, because the ballerina could not perform the technical elements presented in the variation.

  • Changing the rehearsal schedule from one hour to another or to inappropriate hours, sometimes even at night, not observing the minimum period of 48 hours for informing the artists of the schedule change, as well as exceeding the legal work program without any additional remuneration.

We believe that the expression “Before us you were nothing”, statement made by a foreign ballet dancer of the Ballet Department, represents nothing else but the lack of respect with which the artists of the Bucharest National Opera House are treated and may represent an act identical with our labelling in countless articles released in the national and international press.

We want to assure you that Mr. Kobborg did not revolutionize the Romanian ballet, but merely continued on the path of his predecessors. The stage of the Bucharest National Opera House had hosted, is hosting and always will host international guests and shows, regardless of the management.

Here are several examples:

The 1980 ballet premiere of La Fille mal gardée, with choreographer Alexa Mezincescu, a spectacle Mr. Kobborg called “a national premiere” on the stage of the Bucharest National Opera House.

Swan Lake by Oleg Danovski, Baiadera by Valery Kovtun, Romeo and Juliet by luri Papko, Serenade by George Balanchine, Falling Angels by Jiří Kylián, Tango.Radio and Juliet by Edward Clug, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Marc Bogaerts, Le Corsaire by Vasily Medvedev, Giselle by Jaroslav Slavicky, Coppelia by Oleg Danovski, Notre Dame de Paris by loan Tugearu, Peer Gynt by Mihaela Atanasiu, Simfonia Patetica and Francesca da Rimini, both by Olivier Patey.

Great internationally recognized ballet dancers performed on the stage of the Bucharest National Opera House, among whom we name Andrian Fadeev, Andrey Batalov, Anastasia Kolegova, Svetlana Lunkina, Artem Spilevsky, Miki Hamanaka, Michelle Weils, Iana Salenko, Dinu Tamazlacaru, Letizia Giuliani, Amilcar Moret, Ygone de Iongh and Artur Shesterikov.

Internationally recognized masters came to work with the dancers of the Bucharest National Opera House, among whom we name Paul Boss, Laura Graham, Edward Clug, Emanuela Tagliavia, Gheorghe Iancu, Frederic Olivieri, Loretta Alexandrescu, Gigi Caciuleanu, Suki Schorer, Laura Delfini, Fabio Sartorelli, Francesca Pedroni, Delia Duccoli and Olvier Pattey.

In the Ballet Department were brought Omar de Bartolomeo, specialist physician in the physical recovery of dancers, and Pierre de Hillerin, administrator of the National Centre for Athletic Research.

The collaboration with the ballet shoes company Gaynor Minden USA started in 2004.

The tour organized in 2008 by RCI, the Romanian Cultural Institute in Madrid, for Romania’s National Day, with the spectacle Giselle, with Mr. Johan Kobborg and Ms. Alina Cojocaru as special guests.

The ballet of the Bucharest National Opera House performed countless tours in France, Germany, China, Italy, Luxembourg, England and the Netherlands.

We state that Mr. Kobbog disposed of colossal amounts of money to bring in new titles, money which even the most clueless manager could have used to bring in established masters and choreographers.

Apart from the aforementioned aspects, we also believe that the return of Mr. Kobborg as head of the Ballet Department of the Bucharest National Opera House is displeasing to the entire artist collective because his behavior in the last few weeks annihilated any idea of mutual respect.

We have attached the list of the 51 signatories of this press release.

We also attach the Bucharest Opera House Ballet Repertoire before Mr. Kobborg.