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  John Neumeier
  Hamburg Ballett


Foundation John Neumeier

John Neumeier's dance and ballet collections, accumulated over a period of decades, form a unique amalgamation of an art collection, a library and an archive that is renowned in academic circles around the world. The function and aim of the Foundation is to preserve and portray the history of ballet through words and images, documents and objects and to present them together with the catalogue of John Neumeier's work in a comprehensible and tangible way within a sympathetic artistic environment.

The Foundation John Neumeier was founded on February 23rd 2006. It represents in a sense a "third pillar" of John Neumeier's artistic activities in Hamburg – a place designed for dance studies and the research, documentation and presentation of dance - together with the Hamburg State Opera, the performance venue of John Neumeier's ballets and the Ballet Centre Hamburg, where the ballets are created and the dancers learn their craft.

At present, the Foundation John Neumeier has begun the extensive task of evaluating and cataloguing the collection and can only offer 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 Collections

The World of Dance and Ballet

The extensive scope of "dance" in its broadest sense is particularly evident in the library. Not only sacral, antique and ethnic-geographical forms of dance but also folk and social dance are documented. From the beginnings with its pioneer Mary Wigman, expressionist dance continuously developed into concepts such as modern dance, but also into other forms of dance and movement such as musicals, jazz, film and tap dance as well as ice dance and acrobatics. Photos documenting the German expressionist dance movement, American modern dance and important pioneering figures within the dance world can be found within the annals of the photographic collection.

Stage sets and designs, ballet costumes and theatre buildings as well as court and bourgeois commemorative events and functions are the hallmarks of the 17th and 18th Centuries. Jean-Baptiste Lully, Marie Sallé, La Camargo, Jean George Noverre, Gaetano and Auguste Vestris, to name but a few characters, can be found in numerous graphic reproductions as well as in a number of paintings. A collection of baroque porcelain figures, predominantly created by the important German manufacturers of the 18th Century, add a three-dimensional aspect to the collection.

The romantic and late-romantic ballet movements are represented by paintings, drawings and sketches, graphic reproductions, sculptures and porcelain figures. The materials that record this time period – the time of Fanny Elssler, Marie Taglioni, Fanny Cerrito and others – include memorabilia, programmes, archived primary and secondary sources and manuscripts. For example, the Fanny Elssler collection includes lithographs (some even hand-coloured), bronze sculptures, porcelain figures, oil paintings and even the original pair of ballet shoes she wore for a performance of Giselle in Hamburg in 1843.

The period spanning classical-academic dance up to the time of the Ballets Russes was characterised by the highly developed Russian ballet technique. This period is also reflected in the collection's treasures, covering a spectrum of various schools and companies as well as important figures of the time, including Marius and Marie Petipa, Olga Preobrajenska, Mathilde Kschessinska as well as dancers – particularly Soviets - such as Galina Ulanova, who became figureheads of this technique. The collection includes not only artistic pieces and photographs, but also personal documents such as diaries and working papers.

Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes

It has hard to imagine what the atmosphere was 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 some quite incredible scenes. The Russian dancers' almost unbelievable technique amazed and delighted the audience, who quickly found their favourites among the company and celebrated them exuberantly. One young dancer in particular caught the audience's eye, a dancer whose jumps were almost hypnotising in their power and beauty – Vaslav Nijinsky.

The Ballets Russes' first season in Paris went down in the history books of dance, setting new benchmarks both in terms of aesthetics and execution and culminating in Diaghilev's desire to fuse different art forms. This desire led to the birth of a Gesamtkunstwerk, a work of art encompassing all the different forms of art, the roots of which reached far back into historical Russian traditions but yet also had a cosmopolitan flair that prompted a euphoric following in both America and Europe. In short: Diaghilev created a success story without which contemporary ballet would be unthinkable; a shift into modern times that significantly informs our understanding of tradition and history today.

All the noteworthy figures of that era, up until the late stages of the Ballets Russes, are represented within the collection, from Serge de Diaghilev to Anna Pavlova and Tamara Karsavina, Michel Fokine and Léonide Massine. Their world can be discovered within thousands of works of art, photographs, print materials and other documents that characterise and record this unique period of dance history.

Vaslav Nijinsky

The various collections that focus on the dancer-choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky clearly illustrate the language of form and colours that characterised the Ballets Russes and its own body of choreographic work. Numerous pieces, from sculptures to drawings to photographs, exemplify the different phases and stages of Nijinsky's life and work, both as a dancer and a choreographer. Autographs and personal documents stored in the archive, as well as the inventory of the library, allow us glimpses into his youth, his career, his success and his later illness.

The collection of Vaslav Nijinsky's sketches and drawings – the biggest in the world – is of particular importance. The exceptional scope of this collection allows a unique perspective on Nijinsky's work as a creator of fine art. The pieces were created in 1918-19 in St. Moritz and can now be viewed in major international exhibitions, having been re-evaluated and rehabilitated by the art world. The use of colour, rhythm and form is a basis for categorising the pieces into series of works that hold their own independent position as abstractionist works of art alongside Nijinsky's choreographic work.

Catalogue Raisonné

The collection of John Neumeier's working materials from his extensive oeuvre – currently comprising over 140 ballets – is a foundation for new creations and is a mirror of the history of contemporary ballet. It documents the conception, creation and development of the choreographic works as well as cataloguing numerous original set and costume designs by John Neumeier and other notable designers and artists. Audiovisual media taken from rehearsals, premieres, performances, workshops and the annual Nijinsky gala complement the written materials. The collection also boasts posters, programmes, calendars, flyers and postcards cataloguing performances of John Neumeier's work by the HAMBURG BALLET both in Hamburg and on tours around the world, as well as performances of his ballets by other internationally recognised companies and works commissioned especially for other companies. Furthermore, a collection of press cuttings and audiovisual media such as recordings of presentations and interviews, as well as an archive of reports and mentions in books and magazines allow for a further, differentiated insight into Neumeier's astonishing body of work.

The collections do not only deal with John Neumeier's work, but also keep a record of his personal life. Documents such as diaries, personal papers, certificates from school and university, private files, tributes and personal photos can be found there, as well as documents that chart his professional, organisational or social activities, numerous signed documents and correspondence with a variety of public figures, all of which provide a further source of inspiration alongside the artistic collections and the library. The different foci of the collections have a reciprocal influence on each other – they are a living aspect of an artist's home, shaped by John Neumeier's personality. The Foundation John Neumeier secures the survival and utilisation of this unique facility.


Elke Weber-Braun

Registered Office

Foundation Board of Directors
Prof. Dr. h.c. John Neumeier
Prof. Dr. Dr. Hermann Reichenspurner
Elke Weber-Braun

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

M. M. Warburg & CO KGaA
Account  1000 500 100
BLZ  201 201 00
IBAN  DE69 2012 0100 1000 5001 00