The ballet director of the State Opera of Hanover was suspended on Monday after smearing dog poo in the face of an art critic during a premiere in the northern German city.

But the poo attack will have no consequences for Marco Goecke in his role as artist in residence at the Stuttgart Ballet, in south-west Germany. The Hanover incident had nothing to do with it, a spokesperson for the theatre said.

Goecke later spoke about the incident but has not yet apologized to the journalist.

“I think the choice of means was not great, absolutely,” the 50-year-old told the Lower Saxon regional public broadcaster NDR in an interview. He said it was “certainly not recognized or respected” by society if one resorted to such means.

“And I am also a person who has never done anything like that, so of course I am also a bit shocked at myself,” Goecke said. But his person, his work, his business had also been smeared over the years, he said in justifying himself.

On Saturday, Goecke had smeared dog excrement on Wiebke Hüster, a critic for the German broadsheet Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Previously, he had accused her of always writing nasty personal criticisms. The journalist told dpa she had filed a formal complaint against Goecke.

Police in Hanover, the capital of the state of Lower Saxony, have started investigations for simple assault and insult. The Hanover State Opera suspended the ballet director and banned him from entering the building.

In addition, Goecke’s employer demanded that the ballet director apologize to the journalist.

Hüster told dpa that she had initially reacted very calmly when Goecke accused her on Saturday of writing negative reviews that had led to the cancellation of ballet subscriptions.

Suddenly, she said, he pulled a plastic bag with dog excrement out of his pocket and rubbed it in her face with the open side.

“When I felt what he did, I screamed,” Hüster said. She was in shock and crying, she said. A theatre employee helped her to clean herself up in the washroom.

Goecke was also asked to apologize comprehensively and explain himself to the theatre management in the next few days, after which the theatre would inform him about further steps, it announced.

The incident took place on Saturday evening during the premiere of the ballet “Faith – Love – Hope.”

The incident drew condemnation from artistic leaders in Hanover and resulted in several politicians calling for Goecke’s resignation.

“The behaviour is completely unacceptable and the attack is disgusting,” said Lower Saxony’s Minister of Culture Falko Mohrs. “We will discuss further consequences with the state theatre,” he said.

A native of Wuppertal, east of Düsseldorf, Goecke has an international reputation and has received many awards for his productions, most recently the German Dance Prize in 2022.

The choreographer, who always wears sunglasses, is often seen carrying his dachshund Gustav in a bag at the Hanover opera house.