Carte Blanche2. Foto: Yaniv Cohen

Constructive challenge?

INNLEGG: – As a board member, Haugland approved of the artistic goals stated in the current strategy plan of the company, writes artistic director and CEO in Carte Blanche, Bruno Heynderickx in this answer to what Glenn Erik Haugland wrote November 1.

Human beings develop when they are challenged to better themselves.

Reading Glenn Erik Haugland’s recent articles would picture him in the position of being thanked for. He writes he challenged Carte Blanche’s artistic choices which



we could say would only make the outcome result in a better development of the company. Having been present in every board meeting together with Mr. Haugland it is surprising to learn that the constructive challenge he speaks of took place throughout the time he was part of a board that has fully supported the strategy and artistic path proposed for the company, welcomed the steady growth in the audience numbers and praised our national and international development.

A board guides a company by voicing its questions and suggestions for its most efficient development. When the strategy plan developed for the company is approved, it could be assumed that questions and doubts have been discussed and answered, the best path for the company agreed upon and that the artistic director has the board’s full support to carry on the work that result from expertise and vision.

Carte Blanche’s strategy plan clearly outlines the artistic goals for the company in relation to programming, the constitution of the ensemble, the balance between commissioning Norwegian and international choreographers and the company’s view on its responsibilities in the Norwegian dance scene. When the artistic and financial results, laid down in public documents approved by the board, confirm that the strategy plan is followed it is even more surprising to read these statements by Haugland, who fully participated in its approval.

This does not mean to say that my artistic choices or aesthetics cannot be debated. They are praised by some and disputed by others, seen as “not demanding enough” by few or “not accessible enough” by still others. Fortunately for audiences and creators around the world arts and aesthetics are diverse and multiple providing for a rich and thriving range of possibilities and new experiences. It is also understandable that there are different wishes, opinions, desires or expectations and that certain individuals are disappointed that the choices didn’t go their way. But the core of a teatersjef’s job is making choices and strategies and assuming responsibility for them.

For Carte Blanche the vision proposed was forward looking and building on the legacy of my predecessors, solidly anchored in the wishes and desires of our artists and placed inside the reality of a dance landscape that is substantially different from past eras such as the times when Halldís Ólafsdóttir and Marianne Albers danced for the company or when Karen Foss directed it.

Artistic directors of all times share the challenges of taking in consideration the history and legacies of the companies they are invited and trusted to lead. Parallel to that, they are aware of the new contexts of a developing audience and of the creative potential of artists to offer both audiences, creators and dancers with the most enriching, motivating experiences that will contribute to our personal and collective future heritage. When Mrs Foss, referring back to her term leading Carte Blanche, presents ideas which differ from the present choices those are nonetheless to be respected for these arguments are build on her experience in the field of dance and the challenges she faced during her era and present situation. This diversity of opinions does not impede a relation of mutual respect which included Carte Blanche’s support of Mrs. Foss’ choreographic work with her own company.

Diversity of opinion, when backed by experience, expertise and a correct grasp of context can be stimulating, enriching and respected. But, for instance, it should be obvious that there is a significant difference between the identity of a repertory company, as is Carte Blanche, and the identity of an author company, as are for instance Pina Bausch or Batsheva. When these basic differences are confounded, the discussion lowers to the level of comparing apples with peers.

The level of discussion is also dumbed down when one attributes the rise of audience numbers to the success not of the companies excellence but to the success of popular TV shows. These may have the merit of being a first encounter with a new art form but would be unlikely to provoke the recurrent return of audiences to see the works of any given company.

A last disturbing point needs to be made concerning the seemingly deliberate choice to repeatedly point out the fact that Carte Blanche chose a non-Norwegian artistic director. That this could be used as a veiled suggestion that I, as a foreigner cannot or has no understanding of the Norwegian society/ laws / ways or is not capable of leading a Norwegian institution, reveals a obvious disregard for the mobility and cross knowledge each European citizens now has, and should have, to better live together in this challenging times. We could sadly wonder if the terrifying lessons from the past have been sponged off our memories. Anti discrimination laws were put into place to prevent the denial of equality of opportunities but laws are as important as the full conscience of each individual of the richness of sharing and knowledge of diversity. It is rather shocking to me to find what I call the rhetoric of division in possibly one of the most international and mobile art forms. It is moreover in stark contrast with the open and welcoming Norwegian society I have had the benefit of enjoying since moving to Bergen in 2008.

If nationality above qualities of the individual should become the deciding factor, what then is the next step?

What would happen if Carte Blanche, the National Ballet, the orchestras or any arts organization in the country for that matter, would only open their doors to Norwegian choreographers / dancers / musicians / conductors / artists? What would happen to the opportunities abroad for Norwegian choreographers / dancers / musicians / conductors / artists if the companies elsewhere would practice the same policy? Would this “segregation” be really in the interest of the development of the dance or arts scene in Norway? Could bringing in talented artists from abroad not be an important (added) value to the development of the dance or arts scene in this country? Could their art and practice not work as a source of inspiration or motivation for local (national) artists? Could we not learn from what is different and teach what we know well so that in the end we can all improve?

It is my conviction that in the time we live in and in our art discipline, dance, with its global dimension and therefore also global possibilities, BALANCE is the keyword for an organization as Carte Blanche. It’s therefore exactly that balance that is referred to in our strategy document. Balance between Norwegian and foreign, upcoming and renowned can therefore be found throughout my program and selection of choreographers and dancers.

The personal disappointment of not being reappointed to the board by Carte Blanche’s owners is understandable. Nonetheless, the fact that Haugland, before having been released from the board, voted in favor of the last board decision he was part of and is now contesting can however not be sanctioned. That decision, for those who may not know the actual content of vedtak 41/12, starts with stating: “Styret har full tillit til teatersjefen som kunstnerisk leder for Carte Blanche. Styret vil berømme ham for hans strålende innsats med å løfte CB kunstnerisk nasjonalt og internasjonalt.“

If it’s really art, artistic identity, cultural policy or strategies for dance that Haugland is interested in discussing, then I will do that with the complete openness to learn and the humbleness to contribute with 25 years of experience in the field of professional dance. Perhaps it would be more reasonable to do so in a frame in which personal attacks and deformation of events are left aside and instead a focus is put on what can be benefitting and enriching for the Norwegian dance environment as a whole.

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