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Foundation John Neumeier

John Neumeier‘s dance and ballet collections, accumulated since childhood, form a unique amalgamation of a dance art collection, a library, an archive of photography, documents, correspondence and memorabilia which preserve, define and portray the history of dance. The collection is renowned in academic circles around the world. The function and aim of the Foundation is to combine this unique collection which has over the years been used by John Neumeier to research and inspire his own creations, with the artists own working materials and personal archive.

Althoug the collections cover all periods of dance history the central focus is undoubtly the Serge de Diaghilev era and particularly the dancer-choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky.

The Foundation John Neumeier was founded on February 23rd 2006 – as a place designed for dance studies and research. It represents, in a sense, a "third pillar" of John Neumeier‘s artistic activities in Hamburg. Together with the Hamburg State Opera, the performance venue of John Neumeier‘s ballets and the Ballet Centre Hamburg, home of the Hamburg Ballet, where ballets are created, and the Hamburg Ballet school, where young dancers learn their craft, the Foundation augments the significance of the city of Hamburg as a center of dance.

At present, the Foundation John Neumeier continues the extensive task of cataloguing the collections and can offer only limited access to the public. It is planned to expand the collection into a museum, as well as to develop the academic institute‘s scope of activities. The Foundation is currently seeking further financial means to achieve these goals.

The John Neumeier Archive

The collection of John Neumeier‘s working materials concerning his extensive oeuvre – currently comprising over 160 ballets – document the conception, creation and development of his choreography. Original set and costume designs by John Neumeier and other notable designers and artists represent an important aspect of the private archives. Audiovisual material taken from rehearsals, premieres, performances, workshops and the annual Nijinsky gala complement the written materials.

The collection also contains posters, programmes, calendars, flyers and postcards documenting performances of John Neumeier‘s work by the Hamburg Ballet both in Hamburg and on extensive tours around the world, as well as performances of his ballets by other internationally recognised companies. Furthermore, a collection of press cuttings and audiovisual material such as recordings of presentations, interviews and workshops, as well as an archive of articles from books and magazines allow for a further, differentiated insight into Neumeier‘s astonishing body of work. The collections also document John Neumeier‘s personal life. Diaries, personal papers, certificates from schools and university, private files, tributes and personal photos can be found, as well as documents that chart his social activities, including numerous letters and correspondence with a variety of public figures. Conserved at the moment in the artist home, documents, personal objects and the various fragments of his artistic ”work in progress“ complement and complete a picture of the artist John Neumeier.

The Foundation John Neumeier secures the survival and future utilization of this unique facility.

Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes

It is fascinating to imagine what the atmosphere must have been like during the days when the Ballets Russes, under their director and impresario Serge Diaghilev, took Paris by storm. The newly reopened Théâtre du Châtelet was the setting for a series of legendary performances. The extraordinary movement dynamic and technique of the Russian dancers amazed and delighted the audience, who quickly found their favorites among the company. One young dancer was particularly captivating – a dancer whose elevation and magical presence astounded with its power and beauty – Vaslav Nijinsky.

Inspired by Diaghilev‘s fusion of different art forms, the first season of the Ballets Russes in Paris became ballet history and lead to the birth of the Gesamtkunstwerk, an art form encompassing multiple disciplines. The Ballets Russes, whose roots reached far back into historical Russian traditions, also had a cosmopolitan flair that prompted a euphoric following in both Europe and later in America. In short: Diaghilev created a success story without which contemporary ballet would be unthinkable. Still today, his legacy informs our understanding of dance.

All the noteworthy figures of this era are represented within the collection – Serge de Diaghilev, Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Michel Fokine and Léonide Massine to name but a few. Their world can be rediscovered in thousands of works of art, photographs, print materials as well as other documents and memorabilia that characterize and record this unique period of dance history.

Vaslav Nijinsky

The documentation of the life and work of Vaslav Nijinsky is certainly unique and the most important aspect – the heart – of the John Neumeier Foundation.

The various collections that focus on the dancer-choreographer Nijinsky – sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs, personal documents and letters – illuminate the various phases and stages of Nijinsky‘s life and work as a dancer, choreographer, painter and author.

The collection of Vaslav Nijinsky‘s sketches and drawings – the largest in the world – is of particular importance. The exceptional scope of this collection allows a unique perspective on Nijinsky‘s work as a visual artist. Although Nijinsky gave no titles to his works, the use of color, rhythm, subject matter and form is the basis for categorizing the pieces into series. Created for the most part in 1917-19 in St. Moritz, the Nijinsky‘s drawings owned by the John Neumeier Foundation, have been and continue to be shown in major international exhibitions.

The abundance and variety of this Nijinsky collection is unique in the world.


Dr. Kai Greve

Registered Office

Foundation Board of Directors
Prof. Dr. h.c. John Neumeier
Prof. Dr. Dr. Hermann Reichenspurner
Dr. Kai Greve

Curator of the Collections
Dr. Hans-Michael Schäfer

Geffckenstrasse 26
D-20249 Hamburg

Phone  +49 (0)40 413 053 880
Fax  +49 (0)40 413 053 888

Deutsche Bank Hamburg
IBAN DE97 2007 0024 0089 5664 00