ABT Summer Schedule Announced;
Season Reduced to Five Weeks

American Ballet Theatre’s Metropolitan Opera House schedule is out. The traditional eight-week Spring Season at the Met has been shortened to a five-week Summer Season from June 13-July 16 due to a Metropolitan Opera scheduling change announced in 2018. ABT will perform full-length favorites Don Quixote, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, the New York debut of Alexei Ratmansky’s Of Love and Rage, and one mixed rep consisting of Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, a new Alonzo King work, and Jessica Lang’s ZigZag. Overall, the company is sticking to its more substantial pieces and not straying from fan favorites.

Random thoughts:

  • Christine Shevchenko/Aran Bell/Hee Seo will be busy as they are cast in lead roles in all four full-length productions. Soloist Catherine Hurlin is looking for a breakthrough season with lead roles in Don Quixote, Of Love and Rage, and Swan Lake (similar casting for Herman Cornejo). Skylar Brandt, who had a great New York debut in Giselle in the fall, will be in Don Quixote and Swan Lake, both can’t miss performances with Herman. It is good news that Herman has found a partner in the latter stages of his stellar career that can match his superb technical skills. James Whiteside is cast in Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet, although his availability is a question mark after a serious knee injury in Nutcracker, requiring surgery. Gillian Murphy is cast in Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet. After her promotion to Principal Dancer in 2020, Cassandra Trenary will appear as a lead in only Romeo and Juliet.
  • Absent from the schedule are Misty Copeland and Daniil Simkin. Misty is listed as a Principal Dancer on ABT’s website, while Daniil is not. Neither appeared in ABT’s Fall Season. Sad development if Daniil has left ABT as I always valued his unique bravura style.
  • I am eagerly anticipating Of Love and Rage, which debuted at Segerstrom Center in California in March 2020, ABT’s last hurrah before COVID-19 lockdowns. The work is based on the first-century historical romance novel Callirhoe by Chariton. It tells the story of star-crossed lovers Callirhoe and Chaereas in ancient Greece. Of Love and Rage is Ratmansky’s 17th work for ABT and has lead casts of Catherine Hurlin/Aran Bell; Christine Shevchenko/Thomas Forster; Hee Seo/Calvin Royal in eight performances.
  • The casting is more interesting than in previous years, with more newly promoted Principal Dancers. Anything with Skylar will be electric, along with Catherine, the only Soloist in lead roles. Aran Bell is another dancer to watch; he had a top-notch Albrecht debut in Giselle in the Fall Season.

Eight Week Spring Season Cut to Five Week Summer Season

For as long as I can remember, ABT has performed eight weeks at the Metropolitan Opera house in the spring. In a stupid and selfish move, the Metropolitan Opera changed its schedule with a three-week break in February, extending the season by three weeks in May when ABT typically started its season. Why the Metropolitan Opera thinks that ticket sales will increase in May with many competing entertainment options over the dead month of February is anybody’s guess. The bottom line is that ABT fans will have three fewer weeks of performances.

As I noted in a previous article on the scheduling switch, ABT performed less than other major companies. In the 2018/2019 season, ABT had 108 performances; the bulk (63) was during the Met Season, while New York City Ballet presented 169 (plus the Saratoga season); Royal Ballet-129 (plus a Los Angeles run); and the Mariinsky Ballet-124. The 2022 ABT Summer Season will present 40 performances in 2022. Assuming the other pre-COVID runs, ABT would have only 85 performances (108-63+40), widening the performance gap between other major companies.

This gap will have significant implications for ABT. Fewer performances mean less revenue and donations. Dancer recruitment is another negative factor as top-notch young dancers with choices would instead go to a company with more performance opportunities.

ABT needs to increase the number of performances to thrive. In the first half of 2022, the company will present only 12 performances (all Don Quixote) outside of New York: March 25-27 Norfolk, Virginia; March 29-April 3 Washington D.C Kennedy Center; May 14-15 New Orleans.

ABT’s Giselle run at Koch Theater in the Fall Season was well received, with few empty seats, demonstrating that fans will see non-Met Opera House full-lengths from the company. ABT could do a three-week Fall Season at either Koch Theater or Brooklyn Academy of Music consisting of mostly full-lengths to compensate for the loss of three weeks in the Spring Season (there were previous rumors that ABT would do 2-3 weeks at Koch Theater after NYCB’s Spring Season in May, but that plan did not materialize). ABT could then find another theater for a two-week mixed rep run at another time. There are a number of alternatives, but the ABT needs to come up with more than seven weeks of New York performances.