Opera Ballet Vlaanderen is doing away with hierarchy and seasonal contracts

Opera Ballet Vlaanderen is doing away with hierarchy and seasonal contracts

The dancers of Opera Ballet Vlaanderen will no longer be divided by rank into principal, soloist, demi-soloist and corps de ballet. The company is abolishing the ranking system. In this way, Belgium’s largest ballet company is moving into the 21st century, but it’s also returning to its roots.

When the legendary Jeanne Brabants founded what was then the Ballet of Flanders in 1969, she did so without the classical hierarchy or ranking. That tradition was introduced later and is now being discontinued.

The motivation behind this shift is to pursue a more democratic policy within the company, in which everyone is assigned the same role – that of dancer at OBV. 

In recent years, OBV has developed artistic collaborations with a diverse range of choreographers. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jan Martens and Jermaine Maurice Spivey are associate artists and, in addition to their groundbreaking work, the house has presented iconic pieces by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, William Forsythe, Akram Khan, Crystal Pite and Sharon Eyal. 

“The OBV dancers are justifiably acclaimed for their stylistic flexibility, spanning the classical to the avant-garde,” notes artistic director Jan Vandenhouwe. “They are all strong personalities who, thanks to this new approach, will all have the same opportunities to shine in our highly varied programming. Choreographers will have even greater freedom in their casting. This new way of working was created in collaboration with the dancers and the social partners. They undertook an extensive process of consultation to take this historic step.”

In communications to the press and public, the dancers will from now on be listed in alphabetical order.

Furthermore, the company will cease to give dancers seasonal contracts. In the past dancers received contracts for one year. From now on, dancers will be offered indefinite contracts, providing them with more security in their work-life balance and with more time to develop their art.

This doesn’t mean that the house will shy away from classical ballet technique or major titles in the future. “The daily ballet class remains a cornerstone of our house and in our world-premiering creation, New ballet mécanique, for example, Richard Siegal shows his fascination with work on pointe,” reassures Jan Vandenhouwe. “This season, our programming includes Petrushka in a new choreography by Ella Rothschild and next season we will present a new Romeo and Juliet in a choreography by Marcos Morau.”

The Olivier Award-winning ballet company opened its season with the world-premiering creation New ballet mécanique by Richard Siegal in a double bill with Half life by Sharon Eyal. Die Sieben Todsünden/Petrushka (Stijn Celis/Ella Rothschild), Ombra (Alain Platel), Puur (Wim Vandekeybus) and Martens, De Keersmaeker & Brown (Jan Martens, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Trisha Brown) will follow later this season.

Visit https://www.operaballet.be/nl to learn more about the season.