Last season, the Semperoper Ballett celebrated the 15th anniversary of Canadian Aaron S. Watkin’s directorship of the company – 15 years packed full of innovation, diverse works from the classical and modern periods, amazing versatility and close contact with the audience. Unfortunately, the anniversary programme had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. But there are plenty of reasons to celebrate every single season!
Our anniversary season in 2020/21 turned out a little different than expected. In the end, we had to postpone at short notice the German premiere of Johan Inger’s »Peer Gynt«, the star-studded multi-part ballet evening »Playlist«, featuring a piece by Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite, as well as the premiere of David Dawson’s »Four Last Songs«, based on the composition of the same name by Richard Strauss. But we are always looking ahead, viewing every experience and interruption as contributing to our constant (creative) development, even into the 16th year!
Over the past 15 years I have had many experiences – not only positive – while following a steep learning curve. I have continued to develop my aesthetic sensibilities and been able to realise my personal vision of a company at home in both the classical and contemporary repertoire. I have had the opportunity to bring works by George Balanchine, William Forsythe or the new production of Pina Bausch’s »Iphigenie auf Tauris« (created over many years) to Dresden, thereby offering local audiences some fantastic highlights. And, of course, our company has presented many other world premieres and innovative productions.
But above all, it is the people I have met here who have forged and shaped my understanding of Dresden and its discerning audience as an artistic hub. First and foremost, I owe a huge debt to Prof. Gerd Uecker, the former artistic director of the Semperoper. It was his vision of Dresden as a city of dance, in which the ballet company of the Semperoper works closely with the Palucca University of Dance, that brought me here. This foundation stone was very important for my self-image as a director and future member of Dresden’s art scene.
I already knew the city before I arrived as ballet director. As a choreographic assistant, I had rehearsed a piece here by William Forsythe, who has been my mentor and, in many ways, my artistic role model. Nonetheless, 2006 was a fresh start. The ballet company was in flux, and I personally invited many dancers and ballet masters to join us. Each dancer is unique in her/his personality and abilities. This is an aspect I wish to spotlight, and so for each new piece I consider how each artist can best present themselves. The work and aesthetics of those two leading figures of contemporary dance, William Forsythe and the English choreographer David Dawson, laid the foundation for the orientation and repertoire by which the company has made its name. And, of course, we have explored the oeuvres of many other renowned choreographers such as Marius Petipa, Johan Inger, Stijn Celis, Alexander Ekman, to name but a few. My goal – then, as now – is to continue to build the company’s international reputation. In recent years, we have undertaken a major tour to Asia or Australia almost every season. My personal highlight was our guest appearance at the Paris Opera in January 2017, where we gave a total of seven performances of William Forsythe’s »Impressing the Czar« at the Palais Garnier.
To build up a company like ours requires painstaking training and unremitting support for young dancers and choreographers. To this end, I work closely with Jason Beechey, the rector of Dresden’s Palucca University of Dance. Our programme regularly features joint projects between our two institutions such as the Palucca University’s annual gala or the participation of students in productions of Semperoper Ballett.
In my work as director, I need inspiration, fresh faces, ever-changing physical vocabularies and new artistic collaborators. That’s the elixir of life. Equally, stagnation is the death of art. So let’s keep moving! – And launch the new season with the multi-part ballet evening »A Collection of Short Stories«, which continues my vision.
The multi-part ballet evening premiered on 15 October 2021. The Semperoper Ballett displayed its entire artistic spectrum under the direction of Aaron S. Watkin in a versatile programme that ranges between classical and neo-classical ballet as well as contemporary dance.
The application deadline for season 2022/23 auditions has expired. We will inform you about the application procedure for the following season 2023/24 at the appropriate time.