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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Affects the Ballet World


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I would write off the 2021 part of the 2020-2021 season easily.  Even if the standard timelines for vaccine development are exceeded -- and there are a number of them in progress throughout the world, as Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a recent BBC interview (only accessible for four more days) --  production and distribution are not going to appear overnight, except for the very rich.  Depending on who develops the vaccine and whether pharmaceutical companies can block distribution in the US, even if the "right" thing is done and front-line medical people get vaccinated first, I have no reason to believe that the most vulnerable are going to be next in line.  I think that, instead, the original "Swedish" model will be put in place, that would have the most vulnerable remain in quarantine while younger people, getting colleges back to capacity and, hopefully, shielding teachers from the disease, and those that drive the economic engine will be first in line.  

Even if there is enough vaccine to cover the skewing older ballet audiences, I think whether there is any ballet will depend on the success of phasing in and how many dancers will be able to work together at the same time in a lead up to a live season, even if that begins by streaming to empty or near empty theaters.  The dancers need to build up dance stamina, no matter how many classes they take in their living rooms and how many miles they run. 

Program-wise, ballet itself can pivot faster than, for example, opera, although opera singers can give recitals with a single accompanist. Dancer companies can, and often do, perform to recorded music, even if this is not ideal.    There is also a lot in the rep that can be either excerpted or is already solo to pdd, to pdt to chamber-sized, and unlike nearly all North American opera, companies, are contracted ensembles, not cast all over the world production by production and often several years in advance.  

Before a vaccine is widely enough distributed, if dancers can practice and perform together, they can stream performances before the audience is back in the theater.

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6 minutes ago, Helene said:

I would write off the 2021 part of the 2020-2021 season easily.

Agreed. I'm confident in predicting that we won't see indoor performances with audiences in traditional venues any time in the first half of 2021, on any sort of a national scale.

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I'm surprised by some unexpected retirements (and expect more). I have to wonder if many dancers are taking stock of the realities of their world. Will they be able to rehearse and perform again anytime soon? Will their companies be able to afford to keep them on? I wonder if some are starting to think: maybe this would be a good time to finish that college degree or have that baby or seriously consider other career options. They could stay in reasonable shape during a career detour and keep options open for the coming years. And this surely isn't the only profession that is not likely to ever return to "normal" (whatever that was). Higher education is being gutted in many ways, too. People are starting to wonder if the traditional residential college experience is really worth the money (and the debt) when they can do so much on-line at a much lower cost. Faculty jobs are disappearing ever more rapidly.

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45 minutes ago, Helene said:

I would write off the 2021 part of the 2020-2021 season easily.  Even if the standard timelines for vaccine development are exceeded -- and there are a number of them in progress throughout the world, as Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a recent BBC interview (only accessible for four more days) --  production and distribution are not going to appear overnight, except for the very rich. 

I haven't wanted to be the bearer of negativity, but I came to the conclusion 7-8 weeks ago that unless some existing drugs turn out to be effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus there won't be a 2020-21 season at all for many performing arts groups. I agree with Helene that it will take months to manufacture, distribute, and administer the hundreds of millions of doses needed once a vaccine is developed. And 50 percent effectiveness doesn't seem like enough to allow several thousand people to be packed together for several hours. Given that quite a few organizations have cancelled performances 6-7 months in advance, I wonder whether they will be able to wait much past Labor Day before deciding on the 2021 part of their seasons.

I would think that opera companies are in the most difficult position, since generally the lead roles are played by guest artists who are contracted well in advance. Symphony and chamber orchestras can probably re-start with a few weeks notice, possibly having to change programs because of cancelling contracts with guest soloists.

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9 hours ago, nanushka said:

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

Helene and Nanushka-

I hope my posts didn't come across the wrong way. I really appreciate the site, the community of people who regularly contribute, and all the attention the two of you personally give to it. In asking about the site rules, I was really just curious. When mentioning Scott Gottlieb, whatever his associations, he shares interesting material, much of which can be vetted directly. And in talking about writing off 2021, I wasn't responding to anything I claimed others had said, just expressing some cautious optimism. It can be hard to convey the right tone on the internet, with the absence of facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and the back-and-forth of a real-life conversation.

For what it's worth, my own reading is that we don't need to have a vaccine or treatment with 90% efficacy, or production and delivery to 90% of the population, in order to shift the cost/benefit balance and thus public health measures. At the same time, what you said makes sense: even if there is major progress on COVID in the next 6 months or so, I can see how the lead times involved in ballet would it challenging to stage large productions in theaters in early 2021.

Thanks again for everything you do.

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1 hour ago, pbl said:

I hope my posts didn't come across the wrong way.

No worries :)

1 hour ago, pbl said:

For what it's worth, my own reading is that we don't need to have a vaccine or treatment with 90% efficacy, or production and delivery to 90% of the population, in order to shift the cost/benefit balance and thus public health measures. At the same time, what you said makes sense: even if there is major progress on COVID in the next 6 months or so, I can see how the lead times involved in ballet would it challenging to stage large productions in theaters in early 2021.

I think the lead times on a variety of fronts are indeed going to be a major factor in slowing things down beyond what estimates of "when a vaccine is available" might initially lead us to hope for. Vaccine distribution, widespread immunity, dancers getting back in performance shape, season planning, marketing, rehearsals, etc. — all of that is going to take a good amount of time. The process of getting out of this is going to be a long one, I think.

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12 hours ago, Helene said:

Depending on who develops the vaccine and whether pharmaceutical companies can block distribution in the US, even if the "right" thing is done and front-line medical people get vaccinated first, I have no reason to believe that the most vulnerable are going to be next in line.  I think that, instead, the original "Swedish" model will be put in place, that would have the most vulnerable remain in quarantine while younger people, getting colleges back to capacity and, hopefully, shielding teachers from the disease, and those that drive the economic engine will be first in line.  

Alas, some (many?) of the most vulnerable—members of Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities as well as members of the precariat generally—won't be able to remain in quarantine. They will have to work outside the home, irregardless of the risk to their own health and the health of their families and loved ones. Someone has to work in the cafeterias that feed all those college students, and it's likely to be an older service worker making minimum wage with a cluster of risk factors setting them up for infection. If the arc of history were truly bending towards justice, these very essential workers—people who drive the economic engine just as much as a hedge fund manager or a silicon valley billionaire or a sportsball player—would be be at the front of the vaccine line along with medical personnel. 

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16 minutes ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Alas, some (many?) of the most vulnerable—members of Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities as well as members of the precariat generally—won't be able to remain in quarantine. They will have to work outside the home, irregardless of the risk to their own health and the health of their families and loved ones. Someone has to work in the cafeterias that feed all those college students, and it's likely to be an older service worker making minimum wage with a cluster of risk factors setting them up for infection. If the arc of history were truly bending towards justice, these very essential workers—people who drive the economic engine just as much as a hedge fund manager or a silicon valley billionaire or a sportsball player—would be be at the front of the vaccine line along with medical personnel. 

I agree with you completely, but from what I've seen to date, I don't think the policy will be to protect the vulnerable from disease.  

 

4 hours ago, pbl said:

In asking about the site rules, I was really just curious.

Then I'll try to state the policy in another way.  All news on the site must be from professionals -- journalists, critics, ballet professionals, board members, ballet companies and administrators (and their counterparts in other professions and public figures who comment on the arts ) -- who have spoken/written publicly under their own name and who put their professional reputations and livelihoods on the line when they do.  What they say can be partially or totally untruthful, mis-leading, forgetful, factually wrong, agenda-based, gleefully gossipy, malicious, and/or self-serving.  If they are journalists, they can quote anonymous sources or, by themselves or their editors, misquote or quote out of context.  Any one of them can let themselves be used for someone else's agenda.  But it always points back to them under their name, and it's their skin in the game.

The only exception on BA! are the five Editorial Advisors, who can post news without citing a source (link, reference to a book, reference to social media).  In the last two decades, they have used this twice and to confirm something they thought was a factual error where they could confirm directly with the (ballet professional) source.

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UK — “The arts bailout….”

“What would help them most, however, would be to get shows back on stage as soon as possible, even if they have to play to 25 per cent capacity, socially distanced audiences. That would also greatly boost morale throughout the sector.  

“If that research produces encouraging results, however, we could well see some theatres and concert halls opening their doors again in the autumn."

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/a4363500-bf5d-11ea-bb37-3d3cce807650?shareToken=c141db2e0fc78f42332c405dae6d028a

 

 

 

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Right now money to keep venues open is the priority.   We are told there is no possibility of theatres opening this year.  However with outdoor activities being approved of I'm surprised no one has shown any initiative to stage outside performances.  Not ideal of course but with stewards to maintain social distancing it is actually a possibility.  Might even bring in the so badly needed fresh audiences. 

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Mashinka said:

Right now money to keep venues open is the priority.   We are told there is no possibility of theatres opening this year.  However with outdoor activities being approved of I'm surprised no one has shown any initiative to stage outside performances.  Not ideal of course but with stewards to maintain social distancing it is actually a possibility.  Might even bring in the so badly needed fresh audiences. 

Outdoor performances everywhere seem like a good idea to me, Mashinka.

Edited by Buddy
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8 hours ago, Mashinka said:

However with outdoor activities being approved of I'm surprised no one has shown any initiative to stage outside performances.  Not ideal of course but with stewards to maintain social distancing it is actually a possibility.  Might even bring in the so badly needed fresh audiences. 

Does anyone know if the major companies in the United States are planning outdoor events? It seems like a great idea.

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It does seem obvious to do outdoor performances.

I think the entire country and the arts world are all just breath holding and waiting for it to go away or for a vaccine to come. 

Instead, we should figure out how to press on.  Reconfigure theaters, do outside performances, come up with protocols for back stage and on stage safety. 

Life has changed for good and we must do so.   

It can be done.  We are innovative and resilient. 

 

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I was watching a World Wide Ballet Class led by Sasha Mukhamedov on Youtube, and at the beginning they were chatting about the Covid-19 guidelines for ballet studios and such. The class was taped back in May, but I don't think the guidelines have changed much over the last month. I did some poking about and found this PDF guide at Dance USA published about the same time:

https://dance-usa.s3.amazonaws.com/page_uploads/COVID FAQ - MAY 2020.pdf

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31 minutes ago, pherank said:

I was watching a World Wide Ballet Class led by Sasha Mukhamedov on Youtube, and at the beginning they were chatting about the Covid-19 guidelines for ballet studios and such. The class was taped back in May, but I don't think the guidelines have changed much over the last month. I did some poking about and found this PDF guide at Dance USA published about the same time:

https://dance-usa.s3.amazonaws.com/page_uploads/COVID FAQ - MAY 2020.pdf

Thanks, Pherank. This is obviously a key factor as the Times' article mentions.

The article also underlines the 1.57 Billion UK Pounds (approx. 2 Billion US Dollars) that the government will be giving the 'Arts' for those who haven't read it. This seems quite substantial and the program rather well thought out.

Balletforme, I also agree that this might be something that we'll have to feel our way through. Reacting with moderation seems a good idea, unless the medication arrives in the interim which would be great.  I like to think in terms of following one's intelligence, one's instincts and one's heart.

Edited by Buddy
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Two of London's landmark buildings, the Royal Albert Hall and the south bank Globe were in serious risk of closure so the money came just in time, the weekend before theatres throughout the country staged a demonstration by way of decking the facades with ribbons.

 

The last great disaster to hit was the second world war and in Britain at that time there was a surge of artistic activity in the ballet world despite conscription taking out a generation of male dancers.  Having done a lot of reading during lockdown I can't help thinking that if someone of the calibre of Mona Inglesby was around today, a way would be found to get those dancers stuck at home onto some sort of stage.  Theatres bombed?  No problem.  Dance in cinemas, dance in factories, dance in holiday camps.  There has to be a way to get people back on a stage.  No danger in dancing a solo.  Or a pas de deux with a co-habiting partner.  A challenge for clever choreographers to keep dancers apart?  Open air seems the solution, the restrictions on theatres opening on the continent wouldn't tempt me into a theatre, only single tickets sold, no interval, no refreshments, no toilets and an orderly departure strictly supervised by ushers.  Then there is the question how much will this cost?  Prices will have to surge to make up the loss from all the empty seats.  Not sure audiences will embrace that particular aspect of 'new normal'.

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Choice based on comfort level with various consequences.  In the final analysis I believe (could be wrong) that the "asympotmatic" carrier will not be accountable for the vast majority of infections.  The "studies" upon which that is based have very small sample sizes (one has one 37) and the others are largely correlational.  People who infect others have symptoms. It would be very unsual if they did not. Diseases don't really act like that.

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15 minutes ago, balletforme said:

People who infect others have symptoms. It would be very unsual if they did not. Diseases don't really act like that.

Well, there are certainly numerous diseases that do act like that. For obvious reasons, asymptomatic spread gives a virus an evolutionary advantage.

Is there strong evidence that diseases similar to SARS-CoV-2 do not act like that? This particular virus may be new, with relatively few studies (or even "studies"), but it's part of a group of related viruses that have been studied more broadly.

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5 minutes ago, nanushka said:

Is there strong evidence

"Two models attempted to estimate the number of infections caused by asymptomatic, presymptomatic, or mildly symptomatic infected persons (30,32). These models varied widely; 1 model suggested that up to half of infections were transmitted from infected persons who were presymptomatic (33), and another suggested that up to four fifths of infections were transmitted by persons with no symptoms or mild symptoms (32). Both models suggested that a large number of persons with asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infections were not detected by the health system and that these persons meaningfully contributed to ongoing community transmission (32,33). Although models are highly dependent on the assumptions built into them, these models suggest that the speed and extent of SARS-CoV-2 transmission cannot be accounted for solely by transmission from symptomatic persons."

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/7/20-1595_article

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Given the number of people with other conditions, diseases (chronic and periodic), and allergies, and the number of COVID symptoms, especially when mild, that overlap with other conditions, just taking into consideration the people who have a choice to self-quarantine when they are at all symptomatic, how many people would be able to walk out of the house in the morning?

 

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20 minutes ago, Helene said:

how many people would be able to walk out of the house in the morning?

Helene can you clarify the question? I'm an ER doc, BTW. Standard disclaimer: nothing I write here should ever be construed as medical advice or take the place of consulting your own doctor.

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What I mean is that if we decide not to leave the house because we're showing mild symptoms that overlap with COVID symptoms, but are not caused by COVID, although we can't be sure, I'm not sure how many of us would have to self-quarantine because we might be contagious.  And among the more hypochondriacal people -- raises hand -- if we start looking for symptoms, yikes.

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59 minutes ago, Helene said:

What I mean is that if we decide not to leave the house because we're showing mild symptoms that overlap with COVID symptoms, but are not caused by COVID, although we can't be sure, I'm not sure how many of us would have to self-quarantine because we might be contagious.  And among the more hypochondriacal people -- raises hand -- if we start looking for symptoms, yikes.

Many of us have been staying mostly at home even without any symptoms for much of the past 4 months — not only for fear of contracting the virus, but also because asymptomatic spread does indeed seem possible.

Until there is a treatment and/or vaccine widely available, I would hope that anyone with potentially COVID-related symptoms would either stay isolated or, at the very least, pretty strictly minimize contact with others. That's the reality of living through a pandemic, unfortunately.

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