A Life of Dance in Stuttgart
When his ensemble goes on tour, it enchants audiences all over the world. He explains that, of all the cities in the world, Stuttgart is his absolute favourite. He went on to tell us more about the charm and qualities of this city.
What is the secret of the spell the city casts on people when they arrive? Is it its attractive location close to the river Neckar, surrounded by wooded hills, orchards and vineyards? Or is it maybe the hard-earned prosperity of this affluent city with its 600,000 residents – a prosperity that is in turn reflected in the city's rich cultural life?
Reid AndersonThis manager and visionary, this talent scout for the dance and choreography projects of the Stuttgart Ballet, is actually a Canadian. Ever since he was four years old rhythmic and lyrical body movements set to music have been part of his life. "Actually", he says amusingly, "my sister, who was one year younger than me, was the one who was supposed to take tap dancing lessons". When she arrived at the studio however, she was overcome by an extreme bout of shyness. She was afraid of having to dance alone, so big brother Reid had to "hold her hand" – this was the only way to get her to make any progress. So he simply had to start taking the tap lessons with her. In order to perfect his tap-dancing skills, Reid Anderson decided to start doing some classical ballet as well – it became his passion and his calling, the beginning of an international career ...
At the age of 17 he received a full scholarship to study at the Royal Ballet School in London, one year later he joined the Stuttgart Ballet whose director at the time was the legendary John Cranko. Five years later he rose to the heights of a soloist and after four years he was promoted to principal dancer – a perfect career in the true sense of the word. After appearing in many productions, both classical and contemporary, he has become a well-known face to the Stuttgart audience. Throughout the course of his 17-year career this famous Canadian, renowned for his strong characterisation and elegance, often danced the main roles in Cranko's works. Then he left his German "hometown" for ten years – spending a lot of time in faraway places - only to return to Stuttgart as the theatre's artistic director in 1996. According to him, it was this theatre with its "fantastic vibe" that had left a real mark on him. Finally in 2006 Reid Anderson was awarded the German Dance Prize 2006 in appreciation of his significant contribution to the development of classical dance in Germany.
The State Theatre ItselfThis theatre with its inspirational "fantastic vibe" was built according to the plans of the Munich theatre architect, Max Littmann, between 1909 and 1912. It is a monumental structure in the Late-Historism style, an architectural jewel that has been a listed building since 1922. Centrally located in the heart of Stuttgart between the Schlossgarten and the Akademiegarten, close to all the city's historical and cultural sites: it stands opposite the post-modern Staatsgalerie (state gallery) designed by James Stirling, just a stone's throw away you will find the Alte and Neue Schloss (Old and New Palaces) from the time when the city was a royal capital; not far from there the classical Königsbau building, and, the more recent Kunstmuseum (Museum of Art) on Kleiner Schlossplatz – a daringly designed museum of art, avant-gardistically clad in steel and glass. All this is surrounded by picturesque parkland – the city's source of fresh air. When Anderson was furnishing his office, he seems to have been inspired by the city's genus loci – the walls are hung with modern paintings showing – what else would you expect – images from the world of dance. We are told they are "souvenirs" from all the tours he has been on all over the world.
|Photo Gallery: A Life of Dance in Stuttgart|
How It All Started In Stuttgart"In February 1969", Anderson reflects on his arrival in the city, "there was a metre of snow blanketing the city like a fluffy eiderdown quilt." It sounds like a real winter wonderland. Until then he had never experienced anything like this. The snow was so deep you could hardly get to the door of the theatre. The young Cranko-discovery rented one of those gabled houses typical of the region. It was situated in an upmarket suburb on the outskirts with a splendid view of this magical snowscape. Alongside the interesting work he was doing with his father-figure, John Cranko, and his fellow dancers in the company – a very international as well as dedicated troupe, it was the engaging friendliness of the people of Stuttgart that warmed his heart. He remembers that it did not take very long before the people in the shops were welcoming him by name, "Guten Morgen, Herr Anderson," (Good morning, Mr Anderson). This had never happened to him in London with all its millions of people. He also felt very much at home with the size of the city – its particularly compact city centre and the quiet, picturesque suburbs. "Stuttgart is big enough to get where you want and small enough to get there quickly" – even today the performer, who still lives in leafy proximity to Mother Nature on the outskirts of the city, still manages to get to his place of work, the State Ballet, without wasting much time; for that matter to the airport as well, especially if there is a tour in the offing.
Moneyed and Magnanimous or Fussy and Fastidious?Beyond the borders of Baden-Württemberg people often scoff at the allegedly exaggerated diligence and thrift of the native Swabians – their philosophy of life "Schaffe, schaffe, Häusle baue" (Work hard, work hard, build a wee house!) and their over-the-top cleaning mania are notorious. Anderson however sees this quite differently. He pays a huge compliment to the politicians in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg. "We are in good hands here, the politicians are there for us", he says gratefully and despite the latest austerity measures that have now started to affect his institute, the Stuttgart Ballet is one of the best-subsidised ballets in the world, thus providing an excellent environment for doing good work. His "beloved, faithful Stuttgart audience" always "supported" him, whether he was staging a conventional ballet with a story or a more daring, avant-garde piece. Like many performers from his – predominantly Anglo-Saxon – field, Anderson knows how to get close to an audience. At every performance he moves among the crowd in the foyer in the interval in order to savour the atmosphere, answer questions and pick up impulses from the audience. But how does he feel about the "kleine Kehrwoche" - a cleaning tradition, particularly strong in Swabia, that goes back to the 15th century and even today is still one of the conditions in people's tenancy agreements? It stipulates in which order the tenants of a particular building have to clean the communal stairwell. Anderson beams! "I am very well organised, extremely thorough and have to have things neat and tidy – I just love the ‘Kehrwoche'. When I was younger I remember telling my parents about this tradition and they were really impressed. Back then my mother said a society in which my son was legally compelled to clean five floors of stairs had to be a really worthwhile society."
The Art of Cooking in the Land of SwabiaIt is not difficult to detect the fact that at the beginning he was not particularly bowled over by the Swabian cuisine. Today however Anderson has become a huge fan of the region's specialities. "Maultaschen mit Rührei" (Swabian Ravioli with Scrambled Eggs) – in fact he loves ravioli of all kinds; not forgetting the famous "Käsespätzle" (cheesy noodles) served of course with "Sauerkraut" (pickled cabbage). He himself however is hardly ever the one slaving over a hot stove – "I love to eat out, especially al fresco in a garden restaurant in summer." And even with things that take a bit of getting used to like tripe, for example, he is cool. Tripe is an easily digestible speciality made from cow's stomach cut into strips and served in all kinds of ways and has in the meantime become one of his favourite dishes. "Only three years to go," Anderson ponders for a moment, by then he will in fact have spent exactly half of his life in Stuttgart. Where this far-travelled Canadian dance star and globetrotter will spend his old age after he has retired? What a silly question, in Stuttgart, of course.
Artistic Director of the Stuttgart Ballet since September 1996, Reid Anderson has had a long and distinguished career in the world of dance as a dancer, teacher, coach, producer and artistic director. Born in New Westminster, British Columbia in Canada, Anderson began his dance training at the Dolores Kirkwood Academy in Burnaby, B.C. At the age of 17 he received a full scholarship to study at The Royal Ballet School in London, England. One year later he joined Germany's Stuttgart Ballet at the invitation of the choreographer and director John Cranko.
In February 2006 Reid Anderson was awarded the German Dance Prize 2006 in appreciation of his significant contribution to the development of classical dance in Germany. The German Association for Dance Education and the German Association for the Promotion of the Art of Dance decided to honour Anderson not only because of his successful efforts at the Stuttgart Ballet to preserve the legendary work of John Cranko, but also because of his successful promotion of new talent and his ideas on ballet repertoire. The total number of world premieres commissioned by Anderson for the Stuttgart Ballet since he took charge is coming up to 50 this season.
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Translation: Paul McCarthy
Copyright: Goethe-Institut, Online-Redaktion
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