Open letter to the management and supervisory board of Nederlands Dans Theater

The freedom of the press in the Netherlands and internationally has been under pressure for some time. Dutch research in 2021 showed that more than eight in ten journalists face aggression or threats: an increase of over thirty percent compared to four years earlier.

In this context, we learned last week that Marco Goecke, one of your associate choreographers, smeared dog feces in the face of dance critic Wiebke Hüster. This act of aggression took place at a premiere of Staatsballet Hannover, but the immediate cause was a critical review that Hüster had written about the NDT production In The Dutch Mountains, that had apparently rubbed Goecke the wrong way. After this act, which caused a great deal of controversy in Germany and which also damaged the reputation of the dance sector through reports on CNN and in the New York Times, Goecke declared on social media and in a TV interview that he had no regrets about his act. He attributed his behavior mainly to the negative criticism he allegedly received from Hüster over the years. 

Goecke was quickly suspended as ballet director of the Hannover State Ballet, and fired a few days later. NDT came out with a statement in which you distanced yourself from Goecke’s actions. In the press release, you stated that Goecke had since become “accountable for his action” and “had apologized”. Therefore, your tour of In The Dutch Mountains could continue as usual.  What was unfortunately missing from your statement was a substantial portion of Marco Goecke’s “apology”. 

In the statement Goecke circulated, he did apologize to the victim. This was followed, however, by a remarkable example of victim blaming, with Goecke making heavy accusations against art criticism in general, and Hüster in particular. The reviewer and her colleagues were allegedly guilty of “destructive, hurtful reporting” and of “attempting to create negative opinions and to damaging business”. And although he calls his act “absolutely unacceptable,” his statement mostly asks for understanding. It is no wonder that Wiebke Hüster could not accept this ‘apology’: “What kind of apology is that supposed to be? It’s not an apology, it’s an attempt at justification. Plus: we’re talking about a criminal offense here: defamation and assault.’

We, reviewers and art journalists, fully support Wiebke Hüster and her fundamental right to exercise her press freedom without threats, intimidation, physical violence or exposure to potentially pathogenic substances. We also join Frank Rieger who, as president of the German journalists’ union, condemned Goecke’s action as an attack on press freedom, after which he demanded a clear response from all involved parties. Of course NDT is part of this, as Goecke’s employer but also as a leading dance company with an exemplary function. 

As performing arts critics, we expect NDT to make clear how the company intends to shape its relationship with journalists in the future. We consider your acceptance – without repercussions – of Goecke’s venomous “apology” to be an inadequate response to his attack on a journalist. The fact that you downplay this attack in your statement as no more than an “incident” worries us.

Wiebke Hüster has stated that she will no longer visit Marco Goecke’s work and therefore will no longer review it. If Goecke does not issue a serious apology without any form of victim blaming, it makes sense for us to follow her example. We expect NDT to do everything possible to induce your associate choreographer to make such a sincere apology without reservation. We also expect you to take responsibility yourself by unequivocally standing up for the freedom of art criticism. This is not only a matter of statements and words, but also of deeds. We count on you to guarantee around your performances a working environment that is safe for all professionals involved, including those of our profession.


Marcelle Schots (Movement Exposed Critical Space)

Fritz de Jong (Het Parool, De Filmkrant)

Marijn Lems (NRC, Theaterkrant)

Nuno Blijboom (Theaterkrant)

Iris Spanbroek (Theaterkrant)

Boukje Cnossen (Theaterkrant)

Ruud Buurman (Scènes, Theaterkrant)

Sara van der Kooi (Theaterkrant)

Patrick van den Hanenberg (Het Parool/Theaterkrant)

Jaime Donata (Theaterkrant/De Kanttekening)

Devika Chotoe (Theaterkrant) 

Simon van den Berg (Theaterkrant)

Wijbrand Schaap (Cultureel Persbureau)

Moos van den Broek (Theaterkrant)

Thea Derks (Theaterkrant, De Nieuwe Muze)

Henri Drost (Theaterkrant) 

Jos Schuring (Scènes, TheaterMaker)

Dean Bowen (Theaterkrant)

Vincent Kouters (de Volkskrant)

Sander Janssens (NRC, Theaterkrant)

Rosalie Fleuren (Theaterkrant)

Jordi Ribot Thunnissen (Theaterkrant, Springback Magazine, Movement Exposed Critical Space)
Mieke Zijlmans (Theaterkrant/8WEEKLY)

Zahira Mous (Theaterkrant)

Fransien van der Putt (Theaterkrant, Cultureel Persbureau)

Jeroen van Wijhe (Theaterkrant)
Sem Anne van Dijk (Theaterkrant)

Eva van der Weerd (Theaterkrant)

Elisabeth Oosterling (NRC)

Kester Freriks (NRC, Theaterkrant)

Gina Miroula (Het Parool, Theaterkrant)

Lorianne van Gelder (Het Parool)

Jan Pieter Ekker (Het Parool)

Hans Smit (Trouw, Theaterkrant)

Joost Ramaer (Theaterkrant)

Dominique Engers (Theaterkrant)

Tuur Devens (Theaterkrant)

Sanne Thierens (Theaterkrant, Scènes)

Alexander Hiskemuller (Trouw, Scènes)

Jacq. Algra (Het Parool, DansMagazine, Theaterkrant)

Ivo Nieuwenhuis (Trouw)

Wendy Lubberding (Het Parool, Theaterkrant, Movement Exposed Critical Space)

Thomas van den Bergh (Elseviers Weekblad)

Sandra Heerma van Voss (NRC, Filmkrant)

Edo Dijksterhuis (Het Parool, De Filmkrant)

Yasen Vasilev (Springback Magazine)

Georgia Howlett (Springback Magazine)

Evgeny Borisenko (Springback Magazine, tanzschreiber)

Irina Glinski (Springback Magazine)

Paul van Es (TrosKompas, TV Krant)

Ron Rijghard (NRC)

Alexander Schreuder (Theaterkrant)