Most ballet companies in the US do not travel because of the prohibitive costs. Even national companies like National Ballet of Canada and Australian Ballet are criticized at length for their limited touring outside their home cities or regions. I don't think Paris Opera Ballet is a touring company. In general, performances outside the home theater don't count towards the season, although sometimes free performances are included in seasons listings. In the US and Canada, a season generally is defined as a series of performances to which a person can subscribe.
What exactly is a "season" in ballet? I know that, for example, ABT has a Spring season, but they also travel, it seems and perform around the country and the world. Does "season" refer the performances staged at their "home" theatre for specific part of the year? For companies which don't travel, do they typically extend (or stretch out) their season through most the calendar year?
The huge companies in Russia have always toured, having enough dancers to support performances in the home theaters and to tour, and during the renovations have toured extensively.
There are a few companies like Miami City Ballet which do fewer programs per year because they repeat a program in multiple venues. (In MCB's, in Miami, Palm Beach, and Broward.)
Often the pieces performed on tour are different than the pieces performed at home that season, due to the logistics of touring. Sometimes triple bills are rearranged for touring.
Does weather have anything to do with when a company's season is? NYCB seems to be running their season through the winter. ABT shares the Met Opera stage with the Opera and so they can't overlap too much I would assume, but that would apply to the NYCO and NYCB. For NYers we can see lots of ballet and opera from Fall through late Spring. How does this work in other companies around the country and the world?
In the US and Canada, there are two models for venue sharing: 1. ballet and opera alternate programs, like Ballet Arizona (which performs in the same venue as the opera and the symphony) and Pacific Northwest Ballet. 2. ballet and opera alternate seasons, like New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and ABT for the summer season. But even in this model, the period between seasons is chock full of rehearsals while the opera is on stage.
On the whole, the season is when people are in town and not on vacation and traveling. Summer is usually the time for special festivals, especially in the music world, although some, like Tanglewood and Mostly Mozart, can span months. Many ballet professionals teach during summer ballet programs and summer intensives; you can see the advertisements in Dance Magazine, for example, promoting top dancers and teachers in their programs.
Usually with both companies at once, like Sofiane Sylve with New York City Ballet and Dutch National Ballet. Suzanne Farrell Ballet uses dancers who perform in the off-season of their permanent companies. Many dancers take time off in Nutcracker season to guest, often in or near their home cities. The more reputation a dancer has, the more bargaining leeway s/he has, generally, to take periods off during a season to guest. Then there is "Gala World," where dancers are invited to guest at various gala performances.
When a dancer guests with another company, do they take a season off, or typically perform with both companies "at once"?
There are very few opera houses in the Western world today that run on a rep company model, although there are still some in Germany, and there are local and small regional companies all over the world that use it, because almost all of the talent is local. Most of the full-season opera companies that use the rep model are in Russia, Eastern Europe, and the Baltics. Nearly every major opera house outside the Bolshoi and Mariinsky hires the leads from a worldwide talent pool, contracted for each opera, although it may rely upon a core set of local singers for comprimario roles, and singers like Yevgeny Nikitin, who was featured in the documentary Sacred Stage, will leave their base companies to guest, although their primary allegiance is to their home company.
My impression of Opera, is that the principals do more free lance work, moving from company to company as opposed to what I see in ballet. Is this correct?
Almost all full-time ballet companies are rep companies, and guesting is usually either by dancers who mostly freelance, like Dmitri Hvorostovsky does in opera, or who leave their base companies to guest for periods or productions, like Nikitin does with the Mariinsky.