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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Affects the Ballet World


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NYCB has cancelled the Fall 2020 and Nutcracker seasons, according to the Times:

Quote

Because of concerns about the continuing threat of the coronavirus pandemic, New York City Ballet is canceling both its fall season and its popular holiday run of “The Nutcracker,” the company said on Thursday. The cancellation of “The Nutcracker” eliminates a major source of funding for the company as well as an annual event that for many has become emblematic of Christmastime in New York.

City Ballet has pushed its return, tentatively, to January 2021. The company said it was following the advice of government officials and medical professionals in determining that it would not be safe for large groups of people to gather in a theater or for artists to interact in close quarters through the end of the year. (Lincoln Center also announced on Thursday that it was canceling all fall events. The David H. Koch Theater, where the company performs, is on the Lincoln Center campus but is city-owned and operated independently by City Ballet.)

Unsurprising, but of course disappointing.

 

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On 6/18/2020 at 9:48 AM, California said:

Germany must be doing something right if three theaters expect to open in August!

Germany had a test developed and laboratories trained to process the results by the middle of February.

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I thought this was amusing - Conversations on Dance podcast with Rebecca King Ferraro and Michael Sean Breeden joined in a "Balanchine masterwork tournament":

"This week on the pod, Rebecca and Michael fill out a Balanchine masterwork tournament bracket to crown the ultimate Balanchine ballet. In March, two students at Indiana University sent us an email: they were missing March Madness and decided to create a bracket for Balanchine Masterworks as a fun activity for the dance department. They were kind enough to share their bracket with us. So today, we each fill out our bracket, share our results, and defend our choices. Our bracket discussion starts at time marker 16:00." (Otherwise they are talking about the quarantine and its effects on their world.)

https://conversationsondancepod.com/2020/05/01/balanchine-masterworks-tournament-bracket/

It does tend to prove that art can't really be subjected to a competition.

Edited by pherank
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My final four was Episodes vs. Chaconne in one semi and Symphony in C and Liebeslieder Walzer in the heart-breaking other semi.  (I call foul on the brackets in the first place.)  Sadly, although Liebeslieder is my favorite Balanchine ballet, and Symphony in C my second favorite, I just couldn't drop the Bizet, having listened to it since I was a kid, way before I knew Balanchine had made a ballet to it.  So Symphony in C beat out Episodes -- Breeden's least favorite leotard ballet, lol -- for the win.

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The Rome Opera will present a season of outdoor productions at the Circus Maximus beginning on July 16. It will include a new, physically distanced ballet by Giuliano Peparini to Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

 

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While this is from Vancouver Recital Society which presents classical musicians in multiple venues across the Vancouver area, this also impacts many small dance companies, who rely on touring, including the university circuits and regional performing art centers:

How are the managers managing?


Dear Friends,
 
I’d like to devote my thoughts this week to a group of individuals who are less visible to the concert-going public but who play a VITAL role in the delivery of great performances in venues large and small throughout the world. Much has been written about the fate of musicians whose livelihoods depend on delivering their art, and the organizations and venues which present them in communities around the globe, but there’s another group within the arts which has been severely hit by COVID-19: the managers and management companies who represent and advocate on behalf of artists.
 
When you sit in your seat, ready to enjoy a recital, opera, symphony performance, chamber or choral concert, you’re not necessarily thinking about all the steps that have taken place to deliver what you’re about to experience. And you don’t need to. You’ve given us your hard earned cash to experience something uplifting and gratifying. And we all do our very best to meet or (hopefully!) exceed your expectations. Sometimes we’re successful, sometimes less so.
 
Just as we at the VRS can never thank our supporters enough for having sustained us for 40 years, we also know that the artists’ managers and their companies have helped us to navigate and survive this wonderful world of concert presenting.
 
Over the years we've built remarkable and lasting relationships with many artists’ managers in various countries. They too take risks, especially when they sign new artists and invest time and money to help build their careers through a variety of networks. They believe in them, nurture them, and plan their courses of career-building very carefully. They advocate, find the bookings, plan the tours, and for this they get a commission. Well, as you can imagine, it’s tough going right now... no concerts, no commission. 
 
The managers, too, are juggling the already-dropped dates with the current and future dates which are in jeopardy. None of us knows what, if anything, is going to happen in the months ahead.
 
My heart goes out to my dear colleagues and friends who are managers, who had put in hours of work to get us to where we are now, only to find all those plans cancelled.
 
I’ve been extremely lucky to work with such a remarkable group of people and can only hope that we’ll all come through this together so that we can continue to bring the makers of magic to our stages.
 
Take care,

Leila Getz, C.M., O.B.C., DFA
Founder & Artistic Director

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Class for a Cause with Jason Ambrose
Join new SF Ballet School faculty member Jason Ambrose for the second Class for a Cause, benefiting the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) Emergency Fund. Jason will teach two back-to-back classes on Sat, June 27 at 9 am (intermediate ages 11+) and 10:30 am PDT (advanced ages 15+). Suggested donation is $15/class and 100% of proceeds go to IABD. Register at Class for a Cause.

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This is purely personal, but after listening to tons of recorded live broadcasts from around the world over the last months, that the audiences have been coughing more than the Violettas and Mimis n their dying acts does not fill me with confidence about returning to the theater.  (That and wanting to virtually muffle the "bravo" guy in Vienna.)

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I think I know what you mean, Helene.

However, I wonder if this issue — one's annoyance at an audience coughing — might be connected as much to what we are aware of, as it is to the frequency of volume of coughing. I speak for myself, of course.

I have always preferred live music, theatre or whatever, over recordings; and it might be significant that a very high proportion of the recordings that I have bought are of live concerts. (I don't have a large library by any means.) When listening to them at home or wherever — away from the live performance in any event, I tend to be more aware of coughing than I am when I'm in the hall. In the hall, I often listen with my eyes closed — though not usually in the theatre for ballet or opera! But even so, I wonder if that awareness of coughing when outside the hall has something to do with my own levels of concentration on the sound, or with being less aware of the physical presence of the performers which, even when I'm listening with enormous concentration, is always part of the experience.

I don't know. These are just wondering thoughts.

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In general, when I'm there live, unless it's very close to me or really persistent, I don't even hear it.

Although I was once at an Andras Schiff recital where someone in the front row was coughing a lot when he walked in and was focusing before the start.  (I don't remember him starting to play, but he might have.) Schiff stood up, said something to the audience member that sound like -- when you're done, perhaps we can start -- and he exited the stage through the door to backstage.  As far as I could see, the front row guy didn't leave in shame, but Schiff waited a few minutes, and then came back and started the concert.

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16 minutes ago, Helene said:

In general, when I'm there live, unless it's very close to me or really persistent, I don't even hear it.

Yes, same here.

That's a good story about Andras Schiff. Thanks.

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1 hour ago, Helene said:

This is purely personal, but after listening to tons of recorded live broadcasts from around the world over the last months, that the audiences have been coughing more than the Violettas and Mimis n their dying acts does not fill me with confidence about returning to the theater.

Frankly, I'm astonished that opera companies thought it was appropriate to stream Traviata and Bohème during a pandemic, just as I was baffled by the proliferation of Dying Swans online, and the fact that balletic and operatic versions of Death in Venice were streamed by various theaters.

Interesting that today's Vienna State Opera gala featured an orchestra for the first time. The players weren't wearing masks and the string players were sharing music stands like in the old days. 

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There was some mask theater by Adam Fischer and a few of the players string seem to have them, and maybe one kept his on.  Fischer was also singing along, or at least mouthing along enthusiastically during the Nozze Act II Finale.  Armiliato did the handshake thing with two players on his entrance, too.

It's really getting bad when you start to recognize some of the recital gowns :) .

My favorite recent live event so far has been Stoyanova's recital the other day, but that's among some really wonderful singing.  

 

 

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Same here.  I'm not sure where the audience was allowed to move during it.

ETA: And Marco Armiliato kept kissing the women's hands, yikes.

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Two things:

1. Whatever your politics, former head of the FDA Scott Gottlieb https://twitter.com/ScottGottliebMD shares a lot of interesting detail and perspective on COVID-19, and he's very much in the camp that thinks we'll have a vaccine and/or treatment by the beginning of 2021. We don't need to be able to reach 100% of the population for this to benefit the performing arts. Among the first to be vaccinated and/or be candidates for treatment should they become sick would be healthcare workers (like yours truly) and those at risk i.e. older or with comorbidities. And of course ballet audiences skew older. If we can prevent or improve outcomes for covid in older people, that in itself may be enough to make performances feasible, in theaters, with a live audience, in 2021.

2. I realize that this group discourages sharing of non-public information on companies, dancers, etc. I'm not entirely sure why that is, and perhaps someone can enlighten me. But regardless, can anyone share information that is already public, or information in the aggregate, or perhaps even their impressions across the industry, regarding how many companies we're likely to lose outright i.e. not just bankruptcy but liquidation? Again in the aggregate, does it look like we'll lose any of our top-ten-ish companies?

Best, P.

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Posted (edited)
33 minutes ago, pbl said:

Whatever your politics, former head of the FDA Scott Gottlieb https://twitter.com/ScottGottliebMD shares a lot of interesting detail and perspective on COVID-19, and he's very much in the camp that thinks we'll have a vaccine and/or treatment by the beginning of 2021.

Gottlieb is very much a political actor, as his biography makes clear. He was affiliated with the Trump campaign and transition team before his nomination to the FDA, and he is now with the American Enterprise Institute. While his confidence may be well-grounded, his close affiliation with those who have for months been espousing ill-grounded confidence fails to automatically earn him my confidence, and his statements can't easily be viewed as apolitical.

Also, note that he specifically says "at best, late-2020, early 2021." I don't think that's quite the same as, "he's very much in the camp that thinks we'll have" it by then.

Edited by nanushka
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26 minutes ago, pbl said:

2. I realize that this group discourages sharing of non-public information on companies, dancers, etc. I'm not entirely sure why that is, and perhaps someone can enlighten me. But regardless, can anyone share information that is already public, or information in the aggregate, or perhaps even their impressions across the industry, regarding how many companies we're likely to lose outright i.e. not just bankruptcy but liquidation? Again in the aggregate, does it look like we'll lose any of our top-ten-ish companies?

Official news only has been our policy from the beginning of this site, and we don't need to explain or enlighten why it is key to the online community we were created to be.  There are plenty of places across the internet where you can discuss pretty much anything you want under different policies.

At this point, there has been no official news about losing any large-small size professional ballet companies, although many companies, in their fundraising pleas, have indicated that their situation is critical.  There's also public information about operating budgets and endowments, and some companies are in stronger financial positions than others, although few that could support their last budgets for any length of time without some combination of donor, foundation, government, and/or ticket income and/or building subsidy/rent forgiveness.

 

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4 hours ago, nanushka said:

He was affiliated with the Trump campaign

My suggestion is to just check out some of his writing and then follow through to his primary sources and vet it for yourself. You might be surprised. People from across the spectrum appreciate his work. The post I linked to sounded more equivocal but he and some other people with fingers on the pulse have been quite optimistic. Anyway, at bottom, I don't think we can write off 2021 quite yet. 

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4 hours ago, Helene said:

we don't need to explain or enlighten why it is key

No offense intended, I was just curious as to the original reasoning. This is a wonderful site and I appreciate all you do. 

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, pbl said:

Anyway, at bottom, I don't think we can write off 2021 quite yet. 

I haven't seen or heard many people "writ[ing] off 2021," here or elsewhere.

There's a lot of space between being confident that we'll have a vaccine in public distribution by the beginning of 2021 and writing off 2021 overall.

Edited by nanushka
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Another factor that I don't see being discussed much is how effective a vaccine will be. The CDC says that initially it should be 50%. From the Washington Post –

Quote

The 50 percent requirement for approval of a covid-19 vaccine got mixed reviews. Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at the Baylor College of Medicine, said that the 50 percent figure was “a realistic goal but not a very high bar.” He said it probably reflected the FDA’s realization that the first vaccines likely to emerge “will be, at best, partially effective.”

He anticipated that better vaccines are likely to follow. “Our first vaccine won’t be our best,” he said.

Offit said he hoped an approved vaccine would be close to 70 or 75 percent effectiveness. “I would hope we could do better than 50 percent,” he said.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/06/30/coronavirus-vaccine-approval-fda/

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Posted (edited)

Yes @Quiggin, for that and other reasons the time between when we “have a vaccine” and when it has a substantial impact on how we live our lives is likely to be measured in (many) months, not weeks.

Edited by nanushka
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