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A first step towards recovery and healing

A response to reports of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's leadership

Nieuws
05.07.24

Kaaitheater acknowledges the distress and harm experienced by several people while working with and for Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. We regret De Keersmaeker's toxic behaviour - raised by a number of her staff in an article in De Standaard on 22 June 2024 - and recognise its long-term impact. We also recognise our part in a system that not only enables but also rewards, protects and reproduces such behaviour. This system is sustained by a persistent, romanticised image of the artistic genius that creates at any cost. This image is well past its expiry date. However, we remain susceptible to it.  

Last year, after yet another wave of rumours about psychologically unsafe working conditions at Rosas, Kaaitheater opted not for a call-out on social media, but for a call-in. We wrote to Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and her new management and, over the past year, have had several conversations with them. In these, we made it clear that the stories we picked up were incompatible with the values that we as Kaaitheater stand for. We also talked about the need for recognition, apologies and visible change. Rosas explained how steps are being taken to create better working conditions. We continued to present Rosas' work and remained in dialogue.   

The reason for this is that Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker is an exceptional choreographer. We also believe that people are complex beings, with the potential for learning and unlearning, change and transformation. We believe that Rosas' work cannot be reduced to Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's toxic behaviour. Moreover, she works with a whole entourage of dancers and collaborators. They too could become the victims of a negative response from the sector to the mistreatment some of them endured.   

But, effective and visible change is needed, urgently, both at Rosas, and in the wider dance field. We want and need to learn to have the difficult discussions that are necessary to make this change happen. Today, we can no longer afford to simply enjoy the aesthetic result of a work without looking at the circumstances in which it was made. We need to implement a culture where problematic behaviour can be addressed. What we are looking for is not a cancel culture, but a culture of consequences. We are thus calling on the sector at large to recognise our collective responsibility and to look for new ways to work together, in solidarity. In doing so can hopefully be a first step towards recovery and healing.   

A longer version of this text by our general and artistic coordinators can be found here