Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker questioned by members of her troupe

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, à Berlin, March 23, 2022. JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP

Three entire pages and a very heavy indictment: the Dutch-speaking daily The standard published, on Saturday June 22, an embarrassing investigation for one of the most notable figures on the Belgian cultural scene, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Creator, in 1983, of the Rosas dance company and, in 1995, of PARTS, a world-renowned school, the 64-year-old choreographer was denounced by around twenty witnesses (mostly anonymous) for the “psychological violence” to which she has allegedly engaged for years with, as a result, “hurtful remarks”of “subtle harassment” and one “authoritarian and unpredictable behavior”. The artist is also criticized for failing management and, during the Covid-19 crisis, the denial of the health measures in force.

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It all started with a survey carried out in 2022 by Aline Bauwens, a mediator and specialist in workplace relations. Twenty-four members of Rosas complained, at the time, about the behavior and demands considered excessive by the director, while saying, for some, their ” pride “ to work with a “icon”.

Eight members of the troupe have, however, left it since 2022, after the submission of the conclusions of Ms.me Bauwens. In addition, four of the five members of the management resigned or were fired, while Kees Eijrond, 75, the Dutch patron who largely contributed to the rise of Rosas and had become Ms.me De Keersmaeker also slipped away.

A “climate of fear”

The standard questioned 21 employees of the company, of whom, at this stage, none have filed a complaint. However, they describe a “climate of fear”constant stress, mockery of some people’s physical appearance or of others’ voices and accents. They also talk about dancers described as “little girls” or some ” little things “. Some underline the infernal pace imposed on a troupe called upon to deliver up to 271 performances per year.

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Hans Galle, former head of press relations, spoke openly. He suffered two burnouts before resigning, but his numerous altercations with the choreographer still fuel his nightmares, he says. He also says that, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the director of Rosas allegedly denied health rules, in Switzerland in particular, and ignored the contamination of certain dancers. The spread of the virus was the result, she said, of a conspiracy by the pharmaceutical industry and a lack of precaution by those infected. Mr. Galle and a dancer allegedly tried, in vain, to alert the public authorities to the abuses observed within the troupe. The Flemish Ministry of Culture asserts that it could not act because it had not received a formal complaint.

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