Ballet director apologises after smearing dog faeces in critic's face

German ballet director FINALLY issues grovelling apology to critic for ‘disgraceful act in the heat of the moment’ after smearing dog faeces in her face for writing a negative review

  • Goecke was suspended from his post as ballet chief at the Hannover state opera
  • The theater’s management called on him to apologize ‘comprehensively’

A German ballet director has finally apologised for smearing dog feces on the face of a newspaper critic who branded one of his productions ‘boring’.

Marco Goecke was suspended from his post as ballet chief at the Hannover state opera following the weekend incident. The theater’s management called on him Monday to apologize ‘comprehensively’ and explain himself.

According to the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Goecke approached journalist Wiebke Hüster during the interval of his show on Saturday and demanded to know why she had written a bad review about a previous production.

Goecke accused Ms Hüster, a dance critic for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), of being ‘aggressive, arrogant and condescending’ during the exchange. 

The furious ballet director then took out a bag of dog faeces from his pocket, which had been freshly produced by his dachshund Gustav just minutes before, and proceeded to rub the excrement over Ms Hüster’s face in front of shocked onlookers.

Marco Goecke (pictured with his dachshund Gustav) smeared dog faeces over theatre critic Hüster’s face

Wiebke Hüster was approached by Goecke during the interval of his show on Saturday at the Hannover state opera

The newspaper said that Goecke threatened to ban the critic from the ballet and accused her of being responsible for people canceling season tickets in Hannover. 

‘I would like to apologize sincerely to all concerned, first and foremost to Ms Hüster, for my absolutely unacceptable act,’ Goecke said in a written statement.

‘In retrospect, I am clearly aware that this was a disgraceful act in the heat of the moment and an overreaction,’ he added.

However, he added that it’s time for media to ‘rethink a certain form of destructive and hurtful reporting that damages the whole cultural sector’ and criticized Ms Hüster for what he said were ‘often nasty reviews.’

Goecke pointed to the ‘nervous strain’ resulting from two premieres in quick succession as a reason for his actions.

‘I apologize for the fact that I finally blew my top, but I also ask for a certain understanding at least for the reasons why this happened,’ he wrote.

Ms Hüster filed a criminal complaint after the incident. Goecke faces an investigation on suspicion of bodily harm and slander.

Goecke has said his elderly dachshund had defecated earlier, and he had packed the mess into a bag and had been planning to dispose of it. While he says he then acted in the heat of the moment, the critic has contended that it was a premeditated attack.

Ms Hüster said she was shocked by Goecke’s statement on Tuesday.

‘What kind of an apology is this supposed to be?’ she asked on 3sat television, describing it as an attempted justification of his actions, German news agency dpa reported.

Earlier in the week, Goecke refused to apologise to the critc and sought to justify the assault by saying he was reacting to years of Ms Hüster critiquing his work, which is part of her role as a journalist.

Goecke previosuly refused to apologise for the assault and said he was reacting to years of Hüster critiquing his work

The furious ballet director took out a bag of dog faeces from his pocket, which had been freshly produced by his dachshund Gustav (pictured with Goecke) just minutes before, and rubbed the excrement over Ms Hüster’s face 

‘She also threw s**t at me for years,’ Goecke told German broadcaster NDR from a dog park earlier in the week. ‘How would other people who work hard deal with being pelted with dirt like that? 

‘No hard-working person would put up with that in the long run.’

In the interview, the ballet director acknowledged that his ‘choice of means wasn’t super, absolutely’.

‘Of course socially that is also certainly not recognised or respected, if one resorts to such means,’ he said, adding that he had never done anything like that before and was ‘a bit shocked at myself’.

Goecke said that while having his work ‘soiled for years’ was a price he had been told he had to pay for being in the public eye, there was a limit to how much he could handle. ‘Once a certain point has been reached, I disagree,’ he said.  

Yesterday, Ms Hüster told how she was left in utter shock after Goecke smeared his dog’s faeces on her in the busy foyer of the Hanover Opera House during the interval of his production ‘Glaube – Liebe – Hoffnung’ (Faith – Love – Hope)’.

She said he had approached her and ‘blocked her way’ before threatening to ban her from the house and accusing her of being responsible for cancelling subscriptions in Hanover.

‘It was bodily harm and an insult. Marco Goecke came to me in the first interval and he blocked my way,’ Ms Hüster told BBC Radio 4. ‘He said I should get a house ban instead of being allowed to report on this evening.

‘I said I was just doing my job and was there to review his performance,’ she said, adding that Goecke had accused her of ‘always writing so badly’.

‘And then, all of a sudden, without any warning, it was so quick, he just took out this doggy poo bag and smeared it into my face.’

She told The Daily Beast: ‘He didn’t just throw it at me. He pulled out the bag with the open side of the bag and rubbed it in my face brutally, so the dog poop would stick in my face. 

‘One moment we were still talking and the next moment his fist was in my face.’ 

Goecke was said to be furious over Hüster’s scathing review, published in the FAZ just before his new show premiered on Saturday, of his production ‘In the Dutch Mountain’ (pictured)

=Goecke smeared his dog’s faeces on Hüster in the busy foyer of the Hanover Opera House during the interval of his production ‘Glaube – Liebe – Hoffnung’ (Faith – Love – Hope)’.

Ms Hüster said: ‘I was surrounded in this foyer by lots of people and they were watching this scene, and as he turned around and walked away, and as I realised what had happened I screamed.

‘I was in panic, I was completely shocked, as were the people around me. They didn’t know what to do. 

‘And then the next thing, somebody from the theatre came up to me and led me to a ladies room so that I could clean my face.’ 

Ms Hüster said she left the theatre to file a police report against Goecke, who is said to have taken a bow on stage following the ballet performance ‘like nothing had happened’.

The journalist had compared the production, which recently opened at Nederlands Dans Theatre in The Hague, to being ‘alternately driven mad and killed by boredom’.

Ms Hüster said that a woman who witnessed the incident told her in an email that she had tried to stop Goecke and get hold of him. ‘But somebody from the theatre actually came and led Marco Goecke to a separate room,’ she said. 

And showing no remorse, Goecke is said to have bowed at the end of the performance ‘as if nothing had happened’.

‘As colleagues have reported to me, he bowed at the end of the performance. He went on to the stage, he waved to the audience, he acted as if nothing had happened,’ Hüster said. 

Ms Hüster said she has received an outpouring of support since the assault.

She said: ‘There is a wide response in the cultural arts world. People saying this is an act against freedom of the Press. This should not have happened. 

‘And in my 25-year-long career as a dance critic, nothing similar has ever happened to me nor to anyone else. So I like to consider this a singular act.’

The German journalists’ association DJV denounced the attack.

‘An artist must tolerate criticism, even if it seems exaggerated,’ the union’s regional head in Lower Saxony state, Frank Rieger, said. ‘Whoever reacts violently to criticism is unacceptable. The attack on the… journalist is also an attack on Press freedom.’

The opera house has suspended ballet director Goecke and banned him from the opera house until further notice

In a statement the opera house said that Goecke’s ‘impulsive behaviour’ was going against their code of conduct and left the audience, staff members and the general public ‘extremely unsettled’

The opera house apologised for the episode in a statement, adding that it was checking which steps to take against the director in accordance with labour law. It did not give details of what happened.

‘We contacted the journalist immediately after the incident and apologised to her personally and also publicly,’ Laura Berman, the opera house’s artistic director, said in a statement.

‘We very much regret that our audience has been disturbed by this incident.’

In a statement the opera house said that Goecke’s ‘impulsive behaviour’ was going against their code of conduct and left the audience, staff members and the general public ‘extremely unsettled’.

They added that his behaviour has harmed the ballet house’s reputation.

The opera house demanded an apology from Goecke and an explanation before it will give information about further steps regarding the choreographer and ballet director.

FAZ suggested that Ms Hüster’s public shaming was worrying news for the arts world.

‘This humiliating incident is not only an act of bodily harm but also an attempt to intimidate our free, critical view of art,’ the newspaper said.

The next performance of ‘Belief – Love – Hope’ in Hanover is scheduled for February 24, according to the opera house’s website.

Hüster’s stinging review of Goecke’s new show ‘In the Dutch Mountains’ 

Wiebke Huster wrote on February 11 as a standfirst: ‘Ridden by a troll? At ‘In the Dutch Mountain’, Marco Goecke’s new ballet evening with the virtuoso Nederlands Dans Theater in Den Haag, the audience is alternately driven mad and killed by boredom.’

The critic mainly takes issue with the choreography, saying: ‘The problem is the syntactic meaninglessness of the abstract choreography, the theme of which is not the incessant re-starting.’

She ends on an equally scathing note, calling it a ‘disgrace and a cheek’: ‘The piece is like a radio that doesn’t get the right station. 

‘It’s a disgrace and a cheek, and the choreographer has to be blamed for both, as the virtuosity and presence of the dancers at the Nederlands Dans Theater demand more. 

‘The best abstract choreographies create an inner-worldly pull in which stage personalities really unfold and their movements and looks create a meaningful, dense web. 

‘Only working on such intensity and communication could have saved this unfocused and disjointed piece.’

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