“As an artist it is my duty to speak up.”

Fabien Voranger
Dresden, Germany
November 30, 2015

Interviewed by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

Fabien Voranger, photo: Ian Whalen 2015Fabien Voranger, principal dancer of Semperoper Ballet Dresden, is French. Confronted with the terror attacks in Paris a few weeks ago he feels compelled to comment on the events.

“First, there is the right to free speech, which was massively threatened by the attack on Charlie Hebdo in January this year. As an artist I am grounded in freedom of expression. Second, the biggest massacre of the recent terror attacks in Paris happened in Bataclam, a music club. The theater, the stage is my home. This time the target was a music club, but what places might be attacked in the future?”

“What has happened is horrible and it is my duty to take action. I don’t want to focus on politics or discuss whether one religion is more right or wrong than another. Instead I feel the need, the responsibility, to fight for keystones of our culture: freedom of expression and pluralism. Culture evolves through influence from outside. Without that input it wouldn’t develop. We all know that. Therefor we should be courageous and take a clear stance. We believe in what can be achieved by art. We have an opinion. Ballet dancers are not naive. Hence we should encourage, foster and defend diversity. It is our fertile soil.”

“France has been attacked by Islamists, Dresden struggles with Pegida, an anti-Islamic political movement, organizing weekly demonstrations in the city. The Semperoper is active in setting an example against xenophobia and hate speeches. Around ninety percent of the ballet company comes from abroad. Actually living in Dresden as a French person feels like being in the center of the problem. Things are confusing. But I think that mirrors the general climate in Europe at the moment. People are uncertain whether they should take a more radical position, for example in terms of the flow of refugees and of people seeking asylum. For decades now we have had no functioning policy of integration. That causes insecurity on both sides, for natives and immigrants alike. I am an immigrant myself. I try my best to accommodate to German culture, to contribute to its development by drawing on my French roots. And I feel respected by Germans also because of being different. But in general, neither in France nor in the rest of Europe does the culture seem strong enough to motivate people to find other solutions than attacking and killing each other. The current political actions are definitely insufficient.”

“I’ve nothing up my sleeve about how to get out of this deadlock. But history shows that the ones coming up with a concept, an idea, were artists, philosophers and thinkers rather than politicians. Political systems are more concerned with sustaining themselves than with defending the rights of the people. Artists are the voice of the people. People need art. Seeing a performance makes people dream, makes them reflective. They may be uplifted, become more hopeful. The ballet world should step forward not only with beautiful pointe work but with ideals. We should stand up for what we represent. I feel responsible to point out that what has happened, what still is going on, is absolutely wrong. There has to be a better world! If artists don’t stand up for it, who else will?”

(The interview has been edited for clarity.)

Links: Portrait of Fabien Voranger
Homepage of Semperoper Ballet
Photo: Fabien Voranger © Ian Whalen 2015
Editing: George Jackson
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