German ballet director suspended after critic smeared with animal feces

The opera of Hanover, Germany, is seen on October 27. Hanover is one of the venues that will be used to stage the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006. (Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

A German newspaper critic had animal feces smeared on her face by a ballet director in the city of Hannover after he apparently took offense at a review she wrote.

The Hannover state opera house apologized for the incident and said Monday that it was suspending ballet director Marco Goecke with immediate effect.

The daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that a furious Goecke approached its dance critic, Wiebke Huester, during the interval of a premiere at Hannover's opera house on Saturday and asked what she was doing there. It said that the two didn't know each other personally.

The newspaper said that Goecke, who apparently felt provoked by a recent review she wrote of a production he staged in the Dutch seat of government, The Hague, threatened to ban her from the ballet and accused her of being responsible for people canceling season tickets in Hannover.

He then pulled out a paper bag with animal feces and smeared her face with the contents before making his way off through a packed theater foyer, the newspaper said. Huester identified the substance as dog feces and said she had filed a criminal complaint, German news agency dpa reported.

In a statement posted on its website, the opera house said that Huester's "personal integrity" was violated "in an unspeakable way." It said that it contacted her immediately after the incident to apologize.

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It said that Goecke's "impulsive reaction" violated the ground rules of the theater and that "he caused massive damage to the Hannover State Opera and State Ballet." As a result, it said, he is being suspended and banned from the opera house until further notice.

Goecke has been given the next few days to apologize "comprehensively" and explain himself to theater management "before further steps are initiated," it added.