Ballet director who smeared dog feces in critic’s face fired

Written by Inke Kappeler, CNN

The director of a leading German ballet company is being investigated by police and has been fired for smearing dog feces on a critic’s face after taking offense to a review she wrote.

According to journalist Wiebke Hüster, Marco Goecke, the head of Hanover State Opera’s ballet company, verbally attacked her during the intermission of a ballet premiere performance. The confrontation seems to have been spurred by a previous review that Hüster had written, Hüster said.

“Goecke rubbed the dog feces hard and most brutally into my face,” Hüster told CNN Wednesday. “It was in an open dog plastic bag which usually is tied up with a knot,” the journalist added.

“I was completely guileless when he approached me because he spoke calmly, otherwise I would have turned away, but his bright red face showed his excitement,” Hüster said. “The bystanders were paralyzed with shock while I was screaming and crying.”

Goecke apologized to Hüster and all affected for his “absolutely unacceptable action,” in a statement sent to CNN Tuesday.

“In retrospect, I clearly realize that this was a shameful act in the heat of the moment and an overreaction,” following a “nervous strain of two premieres in quick succession” in The Hague on February 9 and in Hanover on Saturday, he added.

Goecke told public broadcaster NDR on Tuesday that Hüster had been “throwing sh*t” at him “for years.” He said that his dachshund left feces in his dog bag, which he then used to attack Hüster. “Of course I have to justify myself and of course it’s not right that this happened in this opera house, in this public space, and of course, it’s also a fact that spectators were frightened and I’m incredibly sorry about that,” Goecke told NDR.

Marco Goecke, pictured in April 2019, has apologized for his “absolutely unacceptable action.” Credit: Christophe Gateau/picture alliance/Getty Images

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) wrote in an article Sunday: “We evaluate the humiliating act beyond the offense of bodily harm also as an attempt to intimidate our free, critical view of art.” FAZ also reports that the police are investigating the incident after Hüster filed a criminal complaint.

A Hannover police spokeswoman confirmed to CNN that they are investigating insult and bodily harm against Hüster. No charges have been filed.

Hannover State Opera immediately apologized “personally and also publicly” to Hüster, writing in a press release that the journalist had been “blatantly violated in her personal integrity.”

Hannover State Opera said in a press release Thursday it has ended its collaboration with Goecke by “mutual agreement.”

“A trustful cooperation with Marco Goecke in a leading position is inconceivable for the Hanover State Opera after the assault on journalist Wiebke Hüster. Marco Goecke’s irresponsible actions have deeply unsettled the audience, irritated the public, violated all the principles of the house and massively damaged the reputation of the Hanover State Opera,” the opera house said.

The head of the regional journalist association, Frank Rieger, condemned the “attack as an attack on the freedom of the press.”

“An artist must endure criticism, even if it may seem excessive,” Rieger said in a tweet. “Anyone who reacts to criticism with violence is not acceptable.”

Goecke criticized what he called “destructive, hurtful reporting,” saying it was damaging “the entire cultural enterprise.”

Meanwhile, the Nederlands Dans Theater said on its website it would “continue working with Marco,” as he had apologized.

“I will never attend any more performances by Marco Goecke anymore, now he exists in a different universe than mine,” Hüster said.

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