Above photo: Alexei Ratmansky New York Premier of Sleeping Beauty, May 29, 2015 Life has changed dramatically in the past several weeks, with carefree thoughts of spring ballet seasons fading quickly due to COVID-19 concerns. American Ballet Theatre sent out an email Saturday that confirmed the obvious. “This is not the way we envisioned celebrating ABT’s milestone 80th Anniversary year. Just two weeks ago we premiered a glorious new production, Of Love and Rage, to standing ovations in Orange County, California, and tonight, there are no standing ovations anywhere in America.” The note documented the ABT tours canceled in Chicago, Durham, Detroit, and Abu Dhabi. ABT closed its studios with staff working remotely until April 20. Next in line is the Spring Season at the Metropolitan Opera House as ticket sales have been postponed. “At this time, a decision on if and how we can proceed with American Ballet Theatre’s Spring Season, May 11-July 4, is currently on hold. We are awaiting further guidance from government officials and health experts, and we ask you to please continue to check ABT.org for further updates.” The email concluded on an uplifting, inspirational note: “ABT was founded in 1940 and survived the Second World War. The Company has weathered many crises over the past eight decades, and we will celebrate together, exuberantly, when we survive this pandemic and return to the stage.”
I have not heard anything about the New York City Ballet Spring Season scheduled for April 21-May 31 at Koch Theatre but that season is even more in jeopardy. Strangely, the company has not suspended ticket sales that are currently available online. UPDATE NYCB announced that its Spring Season is cancelled: “We are saddened to announce that our Lincoln Center performances, events and public programming have been canceled through May 31.”
Dance Theatre of Harlem canceled its New York season at City Center scheduled for April 15-18 with hope of rescheduling sometime in 2020. The landing page of the DTH website features a reference to the Dancer Relief Fund: “Now more than ever, we need your support. Please consider contributing to help us during this critical time. Every contribution is significant in helping us to sustain operations, and deeply appreciated by everyone at DTH.”
With theaters closed, the only ballet available is dancers on Instagram working out at home, some giving class using their kitchen counter as a barre. Noteworthy is the Royal Ballet’s Vadim Muntagirov performing a Swan Lake solo in his cramped living room.
It is indeed an odd time in New York City during the shutdown. The hustle and bustle of the city has vanished as crowds have largely dissipated with Times Square resembling a ghost town. No theater, sports, and group activities that make the city a magnet for people worldwide. Storefront windows of non-essential businesses have been covered with plywood with barrier netting reminiscent of preparations for an imminent hurricane. Restrictions have forced people to improvise such as home workouts instead of going to a gym, work from home rather than riding the subway/bus, contemplating Zoom Passovers, and reading rather than attending theater performances. Such hardships pale in comparison to those laid off in such sectors as the arts, restaurants, and hotels as they struggle to make ends meet.