Richard Siegal not renewed

The city of Cologne slams the door on Richard Siegal…

the commentary on the farce by Klaus Dilger

No, …actually it should read, „the politicians of the city slam the door“, because it is neither the audience that gives the „BoD, the Ballet of Difference“ the first place in the occupancy figures in the three-division house, nor is it the media that accompanies Siegal’s work and his BoD in Cologne in a very differentiated but interested and approving manner.  Nor does there seem to have been a jury of proven dance experts to decide and advise on such questions, at least not one that might come to light, even if only as a one-person jury.

The fact that one or the other in Cologne does not like to put on „that hat of responsibility“ and even gets away with it in the most blatant cases was already demonstrated by the predecessor in the office of the Councillor for Art and Culture, Ms Laugwitz-Aulbach, when in 2015, four months before the opening of the Cologne Opera, which was thought to be almost completed, it was noticed that it would not be able to open as planned due to the effects of an unimaginably large number of planning errors (which actually could not possibly have been noticed)!

SEVEN YEARS!!! and after another correction even NINE YEARS!!!! later, it is now supposed to be opened by the successor Stefan Charles. Costs not yet foreseeable. Remember: No hat, no consequences!

Richard Siegal Interview©TANZweb.org_Klaus Dilger3



In conversation with our colleagues from Deutschlandfunk, Charles said that it was a political decision of the „Bühnen-Ausschuss“ that rejected an FDP application for an extension of the season, and when asked afterwards how he could explain it, he said: „Ha, you’ll have to ask the politicians…“.

Of course, you can pass the hat on like that, but wouldn’t it have been Stefan Charles‘ job to keep the options open, or even to discuss them responsibly by submitting a motion of some kind for discussion and a vote?


Alexander Lopez Guerra und Maria Giovanna Delle Donne in ECTOPIA_Richard-Siegal_Tanztheater-Wuppertal©TANZweb.org_Klaus-Dilger


This lack of action was repeatedly indicated in numerous discussions when Stefan Charles did not clearly support the choreographer and his company, but instead expressed the opinion that the dance section of the theatre should be put out to tender again, probably in order to secretly keep the option open for a new theatre director to implement his own ideas.

In doing so, Charles overlooks the fact that in the past it has always been possible to win over outstanding professionals or talents, who then became such, as artistic directors for the Schauspiel Köln, but that the cathedral city had fallen from its reputation of being a metropolis of dance to absolute nothingness since the miserable end of the TanzForumKöln in 1996 and the end of the world-famous Summer Academy of Dance.

Private sponsors did make possible a brief intermezzo with Amanda Miller’s „Pretty Ugly Company“ and the complete absence of internationally remarkable dance art was averted by dance guest performances at the stages, directed by Hanna Koller. But even these were always under discussion for further promotion. The independent dance scene, although numerically significant in Germany, has always lacked structures and support to shine or to attract important independent choreographers additionally to the Rhine.


The fact that the latter in particular lacks said structures also has something to do with Cologne’s treatment of its partners. Years of mutual recriminations, like snowball fights between the city and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and the recurring argument that the city is not a reliable partner (whether true or not), have led to the city’s disastrous structural provision for its independent dance scene and the accompanying quality of working and presentation conditions.

Which important choreographers does the city believe are on the „doorstep“, who will fight to build their future here with a planned minimal budget?




It was a stroke of luck for the city of Cologne that under the then Minister Pfeiffer-Poensgen and under the auspices of the NRW KULTURsekretariat Wuppertal and its director Christian Esch, the new label called NEUE WEGE (New Paths) was launched, which was to enable the houses of the federal state with state funds to enable pilot projects at their theatres, to explore them and, if successful, to anchor them there in the long term. And it was a stroke of luck that Bettina Wagner-Bergelt, who was a member of the selection committee, had established a connection between Richard Siegal, who was (and still is) resident artist at the Muffathallen in Munich, and Schauspiel Köln, which ultimately convinced the jury and did so twice.

It was only through Richard Siegal’s work that the foundation stone was laid for the City of Cologne to make a fundamental decision to continue to rent the interim venues and to use them for the independent dance and performance scene as well as for a third section of the theatre, namely DANCE.

The fact that the „Wegbereiter“ was thrown out of the theatre on the same day and in the manner described above shows a complete lack of understanding on the part of those responsible and their ignorance of dance, but also an unscrupulousness that must not only shock every artist, but also their partner, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.




The fact that Richard Siegal and his company are not burdened by the much-discussed audience crises after the Corona pandemic is also due to the fact that he has found creative answers to these completely new challenges for maintaining the creations as well as the exchange with the audience like hardly anyone else.

With his outstanding dramaturge Tobias Staab, he has created several pieces, both in public and digital space, which have also taken him a step further artistically without losing sight of the art of dance at a high technical level.

Especially in the installative works, new collaborations and networks emerged, which the former Forsythe dancer then knew how to use in the analogue stage works.

Like his „New Ocean Sea Cycle“ in the grandiose installation „HOWL“ by Anish Kapoor.

For example, he created „ECTOPIA“ for the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. Its stage design consisted of the sculpture „Shooting Into the Corner“ by the world-famous artist Anish Kapoor in the magnificent soundscapes of Alva Noto. ( )

That Siegal can also be a great partner of Schauspiel Köln, he proved not least in the much underrated production „ROUGHHOUSE“ at Schauspiel Köln, with actors and dancers together ( )

ROUGHHOUSE Richard Siegal_SchauspielKoeln┬®TANZweb.org_Klaus Dilger5



The fact that Richard Siegal will not apply for the artistic directorship, which is to begin in the 2025/26 season, seems to be both desired by some of the city’s committees and rather out of the question for the artist himself after this treatment.

With the „Ballet of Difference“, Richard Siegal has created a signal that is in many ways in the tradition of TanzForumKöln, at least as far as the philosophy of developing dance art is concerned. This is significant and makes it completely unnecessary for some media to try to use the term „world class“ as often as possible. The Ballet of Difference is not, and with this budget it cannot be. The best dancers in the world would perhaps like to work with Richard Siegal, but presumably not under these austerity conditions to which the company is subjected.

Absolutely „remarkable“ and „different“, perhaps even „unique“ is „Ballet of Difference“ in any case. But these are real values that the politicians of the cathedral city and in general obviously don’t know what to do with.

A difference that will be missed.