Neumeier’s new goal: 50 years as artistic director in Hamburg

The artistic director and chief choreographer of the Hamburg Ballet is going for gold.

This week John Neumeier’s current contract, that was to expire next year, was extended by four years, to 2023.

That year Neumeier will mark his golden anniversary in Hamburg as he was appointed the company’s director in 1973.

He is the longest-serving living ballet director in the world, ahead of Helgi Tomasson, 75, who was appointed artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet in 1985.

Alicia Alonso at the National Ballet of Cuba might claim the longevity prize but as she is now 97 it’s very unlikely she is active in the role of director.

Neumeier, 79, said this week that “my mental and physical health allows me to develop far-reaching plans for the future”.

Although he has been at the helm for 45 years, “I still consider this position an extraordinarily fascinating mission in life: for me as an artist and choreographer, as general manager of the Hamburg Ballet and, not least, as Honorary Citizen of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg”.

The extension of the contract has brought to the forefront the fact that he was born in 1939 and not 1942, the date given previously in Wikipedia, in his biography written by Horst Koegler, in a dance dictionary by Koegler and another dictionary edited by British critics Debra Craine and Judith Mackrell.

Until very recently the Hamburg Ballet website also listed his date of birth as 1942.

The 1942 date remains on many websites including various ballet companies where his works have been staged, the Encylopaedia Britanica, IMBd, and numerous newspapers whose reporters have written about him over the past few years.

Who will succeed him? The most likely candidate is Lloyd Riggins, the Hamburg Ballet’s deputy artistic director.

Now 48, Riggins will be in his early 50s when, and if, Neumeier retires at the end of his new contract.

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John Neumeier