On Point

A Choreographer Raises The Curtain On His Creative Style
Christian Spuck has been director of Ballett Zurich since 2012. Photo by Carlos Quezada.
Christian Spuck
Director, Ballett Zurich

It's the fifth season of Christian Spuck's directorship at Switzerland's largest professional ballet company. "Finally," he says, "I feel as if I've arrived." And the German-born choreographer couldn’t be happier. He considers it a blessing to be able to stage his ballets in the incredible Opernhaus Zurich; and is grateful for the chance to have put together a company of dancers whose caliber he's always dreamed of. He feels spoiled to be able to try out new ideas with the support of appreciative audiences and benefactors, and privileged to do it all in a city like Zurich.

The Opernhaus Zurich. Photo by Dominic Büttner.
Going The Distance
A Decade Makes A Difference

Spuck’s residency with Ballett Zurich was received with instant approval since his appointment in 2012. So much so that he began with a five-season contract, and, humbly tells the story that only into his second season, he was offered an extension for an additional five years.

"Of course, I said, 'yes.' Now I can really make long term plans for the company," he says, which include continuing to take the company on tour in countries like Mexico, Spain, Israel. "Next season we are dancing at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow," he says.

Christian Spuck began as a dancer, but soon discovered choreography was his calling. Photo by Carlos Quezada.
Contemporary Leaning
Finding His Footing In Ballet

Born in Marburg, Germany, Spuck decided he wanted to be a dancer when he was a teenager. "But when I was 14 or 15, I was afraid to say that,” he recalls. “The times were different then. Ballet was something girls did, not boys." When he was 17, Spuck began secretly attending ballet classes. He found some professional schools who recognized his talent, and allowed him to stay on for further training.

His parents, however, insisted he finish school. At 20, he began training at the renowned John Cranko School in Stuttgart. "After three years, I stopped my classical education, and moved on to a couple of contemporary dance companies,” he recalls.

In 1995 he joined the Stuttgart Ballet corps, but it wasn’t long before he discovered that choreography, rather than dancing, was his true passion.

"Romeo and Juliet" was Christian Spuck's first original work for Ballett Zurich in 2012. Photo by Monika Ritterhaus.
Fond Memories
Fulfilling A Dream

Staging ballets in the Opernhaus Zurich has come full circle for Spuck. "When I was 19, I came to see a ballet here with a friend who was a dancer. I had just started dancing and I sat all the way in the back of the opera house. Afterwards we went to Confiserie Sprüngli, and ate our lunch with our feet in the lake. I remember it made a huge impact on me, that performance, and the lake. I must say, I never dreamed I'd be so lucky to live here."

Local Recommendations

Stepping Out With Christian Spuck

Known for reinventing the classics in his ballets, Spuck's view of Zurich is much the same: an exploration of Old World classics with a contemporary twist.

Be Inspired

Follow In The Footsteps Of Some Of History’s Greatest Minds

Zurich has played muse for many a composer, scientist, writer, and artist. The Viennese-style coffeehouse and bar Café Odeon (2 Limmatquai; +41-44-251-16-50), is one place that became a favored gathering spot for Zurich’s intellectuals. Albert Einstein was known to bring his students from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology for discussion here. The Odeon also has the distinction of being the first bar in Zurich to serve Champagne by the glass.

Composer Richard Wagner fled to Zurich from Germany in 1849 and stayed at the former residence of Otto and Mathilde Wesendonck, what he called his “asylum on the green hill." Today the former residence serves as the Rietberg Museum (15 Gablerstrasse; +41-44-415-31-31), is Switzerland’s only art museum dedicated to non-European cultures. Explore masterpieces from Africa, to Asia, and ancient America. Afterward, stroll the landscaped garden, the Rieterpark, where Wagner composed the song "Im Treibhaus" ("In the Greenhouse") in 1858 for his mistress Mathilde Wesendonck.

Immerse yourself among some of the final oeuvres of painter Marc Chagall, who found himself undertaking a monumental feat at 80 years old when he accepted a commission by the Fraumünster Church (19 Stadthausquai; +41-44-221-20-63) to design five stained-glass windows. The artist devoted three years to the 30-foot tall windows for the 13th-century cathedral, which are in church's choir area. The panels, which depict select Bible stories, drew crowds immediately upon their debut in 1971, and remain a top attraction today.

Traditional Swiss Fare, And Contemporary Fusion

Dishes That More Than Satisfy

Culinary traditions are honored in Zurich, and visitors shouldn't miss out. While there are plenty of restaurants in the city offering Swiss dishes, the Restaurant Kronenhalle (4 Ramistrasse; +41-44-262-99-00) not only serves the classics, but dishes them up with a side of history. The elegant dining room and bar has been one of the city’s preferred meeting points for artists, writers, designers, and architects since 1924. Spuck doesn't even look at the menu when he's at Kronenhalle. The only thing to have here, he suggests, is Zürcher geschnetzeltes, tender sliced veal prepared in a creamy white wine sauce, served with crisp rösti potatoes. Wash it down with one of the locally-made Swiss wines on offer.

After a night of rehearsal, Spuck heads to Du Théâtre (20 Dufourstrassse; +41-44-251-48-44), for its convenient location to the theater, as well as its cozy atmosphere, and Mediterranean-Asian fusion cuisine. The menu is globally inspired, where appetizers run the gamut from yellowtail ceviche to preserved sardines, or a main course of veal carpaccio served with wasabi-mayonnaise. For a Moroccan flair, both in flavor and atmosphere, there's Maison Blunt (5 Gasometerstrasse; +41-43-211-0033). Inside, there is a restaurant on one side, and tea room on the other; but the best seat in the house is on the leafy terrace, where the royal plate (a selection of 12 different mezzes) is a feast fit for a king.

Fun Off The Beaten Path

Visit The Birthplace Of Dadaism

“Come as you are” is the motto of Zurich's Cabaret Voltaire (1 Spiegelgasse; +41-43-268-5630). The original 1916 gathering spot put Zurich on the map as the birthplace of Dadaism when artistic anarchists like Hugo Ball, Jean Arp and Tristan Tzara, among others, decided to make the cabaret their home base. Today the museum, café, bar, shop, and event space continues the Dadaists’ legacy with an interesting lineup of shows on almost every night.

The banks of the Limmat River are a great hangout for those in search of another form of fun. Spuck's favorite spot is the 400-meter swimming channel, Flussbad Oberer Letten (10 Lettensteg; +41-44-362-92-00) where Zürchers gather in the warmer months to swim, splash, or just down the river on a raft.

On The Town

Explore Zurich's Vibrant Nightlife

Curate your own evening itinerary in Langstrasse, the former red-light district that’s now home to countless clubs that stay open late. One of the city’s oldest nightclubs Mascotte (10 Theaterstrasse; +41-44-260-15-80), has been reinventing itself with the times since it opened in January, 1916. Having hosted entertainers, big bands, and pop stars through the years, today it’s a magnet for international DJs like Martin Solveig, and Dillon Francis. For something more low key take in a show at Moods Jazz Club (6 Schiffbaustrasse; +41-44-276-80-00), inside a converted steam ship factory, which is now home to Schauspielhaus Zurich, one of the city's newest performing arts centers.

Raising The Curtain

Where To Find Drama In Theater, Art, And Music

"The Kunsthaus Zurich (1 Heimplatz; +41-44-253-84-84) always has great exhibitions going on," says Spuck about the city's modern art museum, where works by Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh sit beside pieces by notable Swiss symbolist painters, Arnold Böcklin and Ferdinand Holder. For a concert hall with epic acoustics, check out the 1455-seat Tonhalle Maag (22 Zahnradstrasse; +41-44-206-34-34). Inaugurated by Johannes Brahms in 1895, today it is home to Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra. Spuck likes to be challenged when he's in the audience, and he says the best place to fulfill that passion is Schauspielhaus Zurich (34 Rämistrasse; +41-44-265-58-58), where there is a show almost every night running the gamut from well-known classics to contemporary oeuvres. Don't miss the smaller theater in the basement, where young directors develop their style staging new plays performed by members of Schauspielhaus's professional corps.