Five Questions for Assis Carreiro on taking over as Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet of Flanders…
What an interesting move – how long have you wanted to be an Artistic Director?
It was really over the last year and hosting so many retreats over the past decade for existing and future artistic directors that the seed was planted. After the Retreat in January 2012 for Future Artistic Directors I had a rather significant birthday and I thought, I really want to do that and it is time for a change and another challenge. Then a call came from the search committee for the Royal Ballet of Flanders and after much discussion on the home front I decided to put my hat in!
The Royal Ballet of Flanders has recently been in the news for the wrong reasons of funding cuts and a falling out between board and Director. How are you going to take it all forward and what’s changing for the company?
Things are tough for the company and for arts organisations around the globe. We are in a recession and the arts are often the first to suffer. I am facing some huge challenges but I know that the government of Flanders and the Board are committed to having a ballet company and one that will succeed nationally and on the international stage. We are in discussions with the Flemish Opera to merge and thus share resources and costs whilst retaining artistic autonomy and this should help. It is also about proving our worth and Belgium audiences having ownership and pride of what we do. We also need to be entrepreneurial and bring in funds from a diversity of sources, not just government, and increase touring nationally and internationally as well as box office revenue and fund raising, and I think the Royal Ballet has until now only skimmed the surface of some of these areas.
The company has generated an international reputation based on modern European work – will you still be flying the flag for Belgian dance, and what’s coming up?
Absolutely! Made in Flanders is a brand that I have introduced and that is about the company being a creative hub and making new work by a range of exciting choreographic talent that I will be introducing over the next few years and these ballets and other key works of the 20th and 21st century repertoire will be key to our international touring and profile. I also have some surprise full-length new works planned that will be specially made for the company and I hope a passport to touring.
OK, so on first impressions how does Antwerp compare with Ipswich?
Well they are both busy port cities! We are just getting to know Antwerp as it has been a manic move but it seems there is always something going on from beer festivals to Christmas markets, fab cafes and bars and an oldie-worldie feel about it all with bakeries on every street corner, very charming and less than an hour by plane to London on Cityjet!
You have one final DanceEast engagement – running the 2013 Ballet Directors’ Rural Retreat. You’ve run them all since 2003 – what’s your fondest memory and the main lesson you’ve learnt from interacting with so many great directors?
Goodness. I remember standing with Charles Handy in freezing cold Thorpeness in 2003 and he looked at me and said, “Do you really think they will get off that bus?” Fear ran through me and then suddenly the bus drew up, and there was Frank Andersen, Reid Anderson, Ivan Liska, Madeleine Onne, Matz Skoog, Mikko Nissinen, Dinna Bjorn, and well, they embraced the concept and here we are. Main lesson comes from David McAllister, who said, “One day, your ego is centre stage and the next you lock it in the closet tight because your job is to look after 60 egos”. He is right! These careers are fragile and they are in our hands.