Martin Schläpfer

Martin Schläpfer has been Ballet Director and Chief Choreographer of the Vienna State Ballet as well as Artistic Director of the Ballet Academy of the Vienna State Opera since 2020/21. Born in Altstätten, Switzerland, he studied with Marianne Fuchs in St. Gallen and at the Royal Ballet School in London. As a member of Heinz Spoerli’s Basel Ballet from 1977, he soon became one of the most charismatic soloists. An engagement with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet took him to Canada for a season. In 1990 he founded in Basel the ballet school Dance Place. As director and chief choreographer, Martin Schläpfer formed three distinctive companies: the Bern Ballet (1994 to 1999), ballettmainz (1999 to 2009) and Ballett am Rhein (2009 to 2020). After the Ballett am Rhein was voted “Company of the Year” four times, the renowned magazine tanz named the Vienna State Ballet “Highlight of the Year 2022”.
Martin Schläpfer’s œuvre comprises more than 80 works created for his companies, the Bayerische Staatsballett Munich, Het Nationale Ballet Amsterdam and Stuttgart Ballet, and has been staged by Zurich Ballet, among others. For the Vienna State Ballet, he has created the large-scale works 4, Sinfonie Nr. 15, Die Jahreszeiten and Sleeping Beauty, the Beethoven ballet In Sonne verwandelt, as well as creations for the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Concert, the Opera Ball at the Vienna State Opera and the Youth Company of the Ballet Academy.
His close relationship with Hans van Manen led to the world premiere of Alltag in 2014, in which Martin Schläpfer returned to the stage as a dancer, as he had done two years earlier in The Old Man and Me by the Dutchman.
His teaching work took him to Toronto in 2017 as a guest of the Canadian National Ballet School.
After winning the Prix de Lausanne as “Best Swiss Dancer” in 1977, choreographer and director Martin Schläpfer went on to receive numerous awards, including the Kunstpreis des Landes Rheinland-Pfalz (2002), the Spoerli Foundation Dance Prize (2003), the Prix Benois de la Danse (2006), the Gutenberg Medal of the City of Mainz (2009), the Düsseldorf Volksbühne Theatre Prize (2012) and the German Theatre Prize Der Faust in 2009 and 2012. Martin Schläpfer received the Swiss Dance Prize in 2013 and the Taglioni – European Ballet Award in the category “Best Director” from the Malakhov Foundation in 2014. In 2014 he was voted “Düsseldorfer of the Year” by centre-tv. His full-length ballet DEEP FIELD, based on a commissioned composition by Adriana Hölszky, was nominated for the Prix Benois de la Danse 2015, and in the same year he received the Music Prize of the City of Duisburg. In 2010, tanz magazine named him “Choreographer of the Year”, followed by the same award from Die Deutsche Bühne in 2018 and 2019, and another nomination from tanz in 2022. Martin Schläpfer has been a member of the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities and the Arts since 2017. In 2018 he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, followed by the Grand St. Gallen Culture Prize in 2019. In 2023, he was a member of the jury for the Prix de Lausanne.
Several of Martin Schläpfer’s choreographies have been recorded for television (ZDF, 3sat, arte, SWR, WDR, SRF, ORF). In 2016, Annette von Wangenheim directed the film portrait Keep the flame – don’t pray to the ashes (good!movies). Swan Lake with the Ballett am Rhein (EuroArts) and 4 to Gustav Mahler’s 4th Symphony with the Vienna State Ballet (Unitel) are also available on DVD. In 2022, ORF broadcast the recording of Martin Schläpfer’s world premiere Die Jahreszeiten to Joseph Haydn’s oratorio of the same name with the Vienna State Ballet from the Vienna State Opera. His conversations with the journalist Bettina Trouwborst were published by Henschel-Verlag in 2020 under the title Mein Tanz, mein Leben.