Ballet in Berlin - History
When Friedrich the Great founded his court opera, the Royal Opera House Unter den Linden, in 1742 he also established a ballet company, initially to challenge the interludes of the opera. Dancers and figurants were engaged from Paris.
Barbarina Campanini - painting by Antoine Pesne (around 1745)
Taglioni's ballet „Satanella“ - stage design by Karl Wilhelm Gropius (1852)

The central figures in this era were: The sisters Roland and Marie Cochois, Barbarina Campanini (Friedrich the Great brought her in an adventurous and legendary kidnapping to Berlin), Jean-Georges Noverre, the ballet master and dancer Michele Poitier, and the choreographer Étienne Lauchery.

The first ballet school was established in order to address the lack of dancers: the idea was to train Berlin bourgeouis girls because it was too expensive to continue to import dancers from Paris.

The first independent ballet in Berlin was performed in 1794 (on the stage of the Nationaltheater at the Gendarmenmarkt): »Cortez and Thélaire« danced in the choreography of Étienne Lauchery. This performance separated the ballet in Berlin from the opera and established the ballet as an independent genre. As a brisk ballet business developed, repertoire quarrels were resolved per decree and »Arlequinaden und Prügel-Divertissements« (= harlequinades and fight scenes), were included in the repertoire. In 1803 – as one of the first imports from Paris – Pierre Gardels »Dansomanie« (in the revision of Étienne Lauchery) was accepted in the Berlin repertoire.

The Royal Opera House and the Nationaltheater at the Gendarmenmarkt were banded together in 1811 to become the »Königlichen Schauspiele«. In 1813 Constantin Michel Telle became the director of the ballet. Between 1817 and 1856 Michel François Hoguet was the director.

Mirroring the developments of European theatre dance, key works like »La Fille mal gardée« (1818) or »La Sylphide« (1832) were staged in Berlin. A considerable ballet schedule (romantic fairy ballets and magic ballets are part of the repertoire) and, unusual for the Biedermeier, success with the Berlin audience allowed Berlin, in addition to Vienna and Stuttgart, to become one of the leading centers for ballet in the German speaking area. Famous personalities like the Taglioni family, Fanny Elßer, Carlotta Grisi, Fanny Cerrito, Lucile Grahn and many others assembled regularly.

Paul Taglioni, descendant of the famous dancing-family and Premier danseur at the Opera since 1829, became director of the ballet in 1856. He was one of the most creative figures within the Berlin history of ballet. It is due to him, that Berlin rose to the ranks of a ballet center like Paris, Vienna, St. Petersburg, London, Milan and Naples. His ballet »Flick und Flock´s Abenteuer« was performed 451 (!) times.

Under the direction of Emil Graeb (1887-1919) and his protagonist Antonietta dell´Era the ballet survived the – in Europe generally fading – star of the ballet genre with 140 dancers (most of them emanated the affiliated Royal ballet school). The performances of Isadora Duncan or Anna Pavlova at the Krolloper (since 1895 affiliated with the »königliche Schauspiele«) forshadowed the scene which would take shape after World War I.

With Heinrich Kröller (1919-1922), who was very open minded towards contemporary dance, and Max Terpis (1923-1930), a pupil of Mary Wigman, the new ground of modern dance was broken. His successor Rudolf von Laban (1930-1934) did not manage to preserve the independent position of the dance art-form at the opera house. However, dance was heavily integrated in contemporary operas.

The national socialist demand on recreation of the old Prussian theatre traditions were implemented by Lizzie Maudrik (1933–1945). She founded a new ballet ensemble.
Prima ballerina Antonietta dell’Era - 1879-1909 in Berlin engaged
Max Terpis’ „Der letzte Pierrot“ - Staatsoper 1927
Tatjana Gsovsky's „Daphnis und Chloé“ - Sybill Werden and Gert Reinholm, Staatsoper 1946

The comeback took place with Tatjana Gsovsky (1945–1951). In her work the complete mastery of the Russian school had as much effect as her experience with the German free dance.

Daisy Spies (1951–1955), who has already been a Principal dancer with Max Terpis, became her successor. Lilo Gruber (1955–1969), a Wigman-pupil that cultivated the Soviet realism and Claus Schulz (1969–1972) replaced each other. For their era, a vivid ballet bustle is characteristic as well as a diversified repertoire.

Egon Bischoff, (1974–1993, inbetween one year with Martin Puttke), brought the classic-academical Russian school to completion and promoted the homogenity of the company by closely working together with the ballet school.

In 1993 Michael Denard was appointed director. Choreographers like Maurice Béjart, Roland Petit or Rudolf Nureyev enriched the ballet repertoire of the Staatsoper, creating specifically for the ensemble, The French choreographer Patrice Bart restaged a row of great ballet classics. Between 1996 and 2001 the temporary director was Georg Quander. Vladimir Malakhov was appointed artistic director in 2002, since 2004 he has been the artistic director of the Staatsballett Berlin.
In 1990 Peter Schaufuss was appointed artistic director, he was succeeded by Ray Barra in 1994 and by Richard Cragun in 1996. Between 1999 and 2004 Sylviane Bayard was the artistic director.

Important for Berlin´s ballet history is the Tanztheater of the Komische Oper. Walter Felsenstein’s „concept of Musiktheater“ lends itself to a productive relationship in a close emotional partnership with theatre and audience. In 1966 Felsenstein appointed Tom Schilling as chief choreographer of the Komische Oper. Claiming that dance “should eventually legitimate as the only possible way of describing a human occurrence” – thus Tom Schilling´s commitment –he conquered a broad audience and his work is internationally watched closely. Thereby his view is just not only on the ballet-lovers, but he thought of the audience as a broad group of human beings, who should be touched through a ballet performance.

Tom Schilling and the dancers of the Tanztheater at the Komische Oper can be considered identification figures for a whole generation.

In 1994 Jan Linkens was appointed chief choreographer, Marc Jonkers becomes the director of the ballet company. In 1999 Richard Wherlock became the ballet director and the Tanztheater changed the name »BerlinBallett – Komische Oper«. In 2001 Blanca Li was appointed director, however, she left after only one year. Between 2002 and 2004 Adolphe Binder is the artistic director.
„Schwanensee“ (Bischoff after Petipa/Iwanow/Sergejew) - Monika Lubitz and Bernd Dreyer, Staatsoper 1983
Tom Schilling's „La Mer“ - Hannelore Bey and Roland Gawlik, Komische Oper 1969

Figurehead of the Berlin ballet history was for a certain time Tatjana Gsovsky. She founded her – in a today´s sense – free group, the »Berliner Ballett«. In 1951 she left the Staatsoper, from 1953 she was a consistently invited choreographer to the Städtische Oper in the Western part of the city. There she became ballet mistress and chief choreographer in 1958. She withdrawed from this position and addressed herself to her own ballet school. Tatjana Gsovsky staged numerous classical ballets as well as choreographies based on contemporary compositions (e. g. Boris Blacher, Hans Werner Henze or Luigi Nono). Her choreographies and projects she performed on worldwide tours, were rather disliked in the head institution in Berlin. On the other hand, considering her internationally successful work, she was labeled to be from Berlin. She was succeeded by Kenneth MacMillan (1966–69) as the director of the Ballet at the Deutsche Oper, whose choreographies left their mark on the repertoire.

Between 1962 and 1990 Gert Reinholm – companion of Tatjana Gsovsky – guided the fortune ot the ballet at the Deutsche Oper. At first the ballet mirrored the paths of a post war ballet and only eventually implemented the change and opened up towards currents and personalities of the international scene. On the basis of classic-academical dance a diversified repertoire prospered in which ballets from August Bournonville, Marius Petipa and George Balanchine come across each other. Choreographies by Hans van Manen, Kurt Jooss, Maurice Béjart and Valery Panov formed the repertoire. Protagonists were among others Eva Evdokimova or Peter Schaufuss. The dancer and choreographer Gerhard Bohner, formerly dancer and choreographer at the Deutsche Oper became one of the central figures in the “anti-establishment-activities” in the Akademie der Künste of Berlin. Gert Reinholm regularly invited star-guest performances to Berlin and managed to stage various world premieres at the Deutsche Oper, among others for example »Tutuguri or Nacht aus Blei«.

In 1990 Peter Schaufuss was appointed artistic director, he was succeeded by Ray Barra in 1994 and by Richard Cragun in 1996. Between 1999 and 2004 Sylviane Bayard was the artistic director.

Translation: Nadja Kadel
„La Sylphide“ (Bournonville) - Eva Evdokimova and Peter Schaufuss, Deutsche Oper 1982
Tatjana Gsovsky and Gert Reinholm with Yvette Chauviré
Gerhard Bohners „Ballett und elektronische Musik“, Akademie der Künste 1971