The Staatsballett Berlin currently comprises 90+ dancers from across the globe. As a company, we were under the impression that national diversity alone would make us sensitive enough about issues of racism and discrimination. We were wrong!

Structural racism is a societal issue, and as a state institution this affects us as well. The racist and discriminatory behaviour that was brought to light in our company deeply moves us and shows that the necessary skills and tools to deal with issues of discrimination need to be worked on thoroughly to instigate profound changes.

Since our former Artistic Directors, Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman, left the company abruptly last season, our company has been in a state of transition, looking for a new artistic director to lead the company. Considering the conversations that emerged over the last couple of weeks, we now see this as an opportunity to restructure the company and move forward to create a safe workspace for everyone from corps de ballet dancer to principal dancer to staff member. It is our priority to foster a working climate in which every single employee is encouraged to speak out as soon as transgressions of any kind occur. As a state institution, we cannot be part of the problem; we must lead as an example.

Another important focal point includes taking a close look at our company's repertory to uncover outdated and discriminatory ways of performing as well as question and re-evaluate our longstanding traditions. We are aware that the ballet profession has marginalised people of colour throughout history. However, it is our artistic duty to be a mirror to our society, and our repertory must be an artistic beacon that reflects it in all its diversity.

Any form of discrimination and racism in our company is unacceptable. Immediately after the accusations were brought to our attention, we started talks with a variety of organisations such as Themis, a trust centre for victims of sexual harassment and violence, and Diversity Art Culture, a Berlin-based project management office for diversity development, the anti-discrimination officer of a Berlin-based theatre and the Senate Department for Culture.

In addition, we consulted specialists on diversity-oriented organisational development. In December 2020, an ombuds office, which all Staatsballett employees could approach, was set up.

All employees were then able to report their experiences with/or them being witness to discriminatory behaviour. All interviews were conducted anonymously for everyone to feel safe to speak out. We gained an extensive overview concerning a variety of topics such as experiences of discrimination, leadership and organisational structure. However, we weren't able to draw conclusions in regards to individual employees. In summary it can be said that in the past individual employees were subject to discriminatory behaviour. The results are a foundation for targeted measures where necessary.

In January, the entire staff participated in workshops learning about the fundamentals of anti-discriminatory behaviour and diversity, establishing dialogue ability in the process. Topics concerning discrimination and diversity shouldn't be tabu in-house but critically discussed and reflected in an open dialogue.

Employees carrying great responsibilities were subject to targeted workshops, particularly employees in management, ballet masters and mistresses and employees in public relations. All findings were reported to all employees, including explanations of fundamental legal terms with an emphasis on the mechanisms of victim blaming. Further workshops will be held in due time.

For the Staatsballett, it is important to resolve the deadlock it is in right now: when employees are afraid to speak their minds or don't want any kind of misconduct to be addressed, issues will remain hidden and can't be solved adequately.

As organisational development processes are extensive, we cannot name all the measures, yet to be taken at this point. Essentially, we can state that, amongst further workshops about anti-discriminatory behaviour and diversity as well as adequate complaint management, feedback culture, awareness of one's own position of power and transparency in decision-making will play a much greater role in the future.

Artistic Director of the Staatsballett Berlin