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From its beginnings as an opera-ballet to the BALLET BASEL in the 21st century

Ballett Basel - tradition and renewal

Presence in city forges strong association with ballet

Today, Basel is renowned for its ballet and for being a city with a particular love of contemporary dance and narrative ballets with a modern twist. The city chiefly owes this reputation to Richard Wherlock who, since 2001, as Head Choreographer and Director of Ballet has changed the face of ballet at Theater Basel and, thanks to his personal presence in the city, is particularly beloved of audiences and audience associations. Since taking the helm, Richard Wherlock has rewritten the history of Ballett Basel. Over 13 years of unrelenting hard work, the ambitious and highly productive head of ballet has assembled a company of the greatest technical skill, which is up there with the best in the world in both neoclassical dance and contemporary dance techniques and is frequently compared with such famous companies as the Nederlands Dans Theater and the Cullberg Ballett. For years, Wherlock has pursued the concept of a blend of small-scale, contemporary pieces, which are abstract in the broadest sense and play with associative images, and modern, full-length narrative ballets which tell stories, paint characters or interpret literary works in dance.

A history shaped by strong characters and opposition

Other people before Wherlock began paving the way for Basel as a city of ballet, ushering the Stadttheater Ballet out of the shadows as a third medium of artistic expression: in 1955 Russian Vaslav Orlikovsky was made Director and got off to a dazzling start in 1956 with his unabridged Swan Lake by Peter I. Tchaikovsky: 184 performances and many guest appearances are evidence of the huge success of Ballett Basel at that time. Ballett Basel was placed firmly on the European dance map by Heinz Spoerli, who led the company between 1973 and 1991 and, besides reinterpretations of classic narrative ballets, also staged works by the likes of Hans van Manen, William Forsythe and George Balanchine in Basel, laying the foundations for the rich exploration of modern dance.

Spoerli was succeeded by Youri Vàmos, who was born in Hungary in 1946 and remained until 1996. Vàmos continued the neoclassical line. One of his greatest successes in Basel was A Midsummer Night's Dream, which he premiered in 1995.
1996 heralded a radical new departure. The tradition of neoclassical ballet which, although recent, was already deeply rooted in Basel, came to an abrupt end with the appointment of Joachim Schlömer and ballet gave way to dance theatre. For Schlömer, who came from the creative environment of the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, success proved elusive in Basel. One of the biggest hurdles faced by him and his ensemble was the opposition of ballet audiences, who were reluctant to embrace his new aesthetic approach.

From gentle innovator to celebrated public idol

The Artistic Director at the time, Michael Schindhelm, sought an artistic compromise and found just that in British choreographer Richard Wherlock. The Ballett Basel boss could be described as a gentle innovator: building on the legacy of the classic and modern vocabulary, he choreographs contemporary dance that is brimming with energy and brings it to the stage in traditional story-telling form, as full-length narrative ballets. His choreographies are a mix of effervescent, athletic tension and playful virtuosity and his pas de deux in particular reveals a highly creative imagination. Today, the company comprises 29 male and female dancers and is hugely popular with audiences in Basel. Particularly successful are his adaptations of the great classics, such as A Swan Lake, Traviata-Ein Ballett, Carmen, Giselle, Eugen Onegin or his enchanting fairytale ballet Snow White and other full-length narrative ballets, which Wherlock has reinterpreted in his own, incomparable way.
As well as his own choreographies, full-length narrative ballets and short pieces, Wherlock regularly invites guest choreographers such as Jirí Kylián, Mauro Bigonzetti, Angelin Preljocaj, Ohad Naharin, Johan Inger and many other big names to Theater Basel.


Ballet Masters at Basle City Theater

(with a small group of 6 to 9 Ballet Dancers)
1928 -1930 Rosalia Chladek (Ausdrucktanz)
1945 -1951 Heinz Rosen (Modern Ballet)

Ballet Directors of Ballett Basel at Basle City Theater
(with a proper Ballet Company)

1955 -1970 Vaslav Orlikovsky (Classical Ballet)
1970 -1973 Pavel Smo (Neoclassical Ballet)
1973- 1991 Heinz Spoerli (Classical, Neoclassical Ballet & Contemporary Dance )
1991-1996 Youri Vàmos (Classical, Neoclassical Ballet)
1996-2001 Joachim Schlömer (Tanz Theater)
2001- Richard Wherlock (Modern Ballet & Cont


emporary Dance)


Youri Vàmos


Richard Wherlock