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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Affects the Ballet World


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37 minutes ago, nanushka said:

These aren't highly paid professional athletes, after all, who would be sufficiently compensated to make it worth suspending the rest of their lives for the duration of a season.

Yes, even the highly compensated Tuukka Rask, a goalie with the Boston Bruins, left his NHL bubble in order to be with his young children. That bubble wasn't even set up for an entire hockey season, only the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Some dancers have the audacity to marry outside their company. Some have children; some of them will soon be going to school. Realistically there is no way to isolate dancers from the real world.

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22 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

Realistically there is no way to isolate dancers from the real world.

In this regard, I was thinking more of the Russian companies, Volcanohunter. I remember Alexei Ratmansky once saying in an interview that during much of his entire schooling at the Bolshoi the students never left the building, and that he was fine with that. They even played outdoors in the interior courtyard. I guess I'm thinking more of the Bolshoi at the moment and its apparent plans to reopen in September, even after seeing what's happening at the Mariinsky. It will interesting to see if it works. I hope that whatever they decide will be for the best. My ideas were kind of a look at a possible way to do this.

Added: This would only be the case until early next year, when hopefully a reliable, tested vaccine would be available 

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1 hour ago, Buddy said:

I remember Alexei Ratmansky once saying in an interview that during much of his entire schooling at the Bolshoi the students never left the building, and that he was fine with that. They even played outdoors in the interior courtyard.

That was boarding school. I'm not sure how many adults would be "fine with that" sort of reality. It's one thing when you're 14. It's entirely unreasonable if you are a married 34-year-old parent.

Dancers sacrificed much of their childhood and all of their adolescence to get to where they are today. They've certainly earned their freedom. It would grossly unfair to send them back to dorms and not allow them to leave, except to go to work - for not much pay.

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54 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

That was boarding school. I'm not sure how many adults would be "fine with that" sort of reality. It's one thing when you're 14. It's entirely unreasonable if you are a married 34-year-old parent.

Dancers sacrificed much of their childhood and all of their adolescence to get to where they are today. They've certainly earned their freedom. It would grossly unfair to send them back to dorms and not allow them to leave, except to go to work - for not much pay.

Hi, Volcanohunter. I’m going under the assumption that many of these dancers already live communally. I could be wrong. This is a quote from the New York Times article that I’m about to mention.  “….now, once [Mariinsky dancers] test negative, they are allowed out only for essentials. “ I don’t know how many dancers this accounts for.

This quote on the other hand would tend to support a different reality, perhaps more your point of view. “The Bolshoi is now testing its dancers weekly, **urging them to limit contact with one another** [my use of *s] and ordering them to wear masks when outside the studio.’

These are some quotes from the New York Times article just posted by Ian Macmillan at BalletcoForum that speak to the current discussion.

 

“The Mariinsky Ballet has been ordered to stay home to avoid further spread of the coronavirus. What does this mean for other companies?”

The news of the outbreak has caused concerns among other European ballet companies, who had been watching the Mariinsky’s return to the stage closely. “We were so full of hope and this is a scary situation,” Christiane Theobald, the acting artistic director for the Staatsballett Berlin, one of Germany’s major companies, said in a telephone interview.

The Mariinsky’s experience showed that “testing once a week is not enough,” she said, adding that the Staatsballett could not afford to test its dancers every day.

The [Bolshoi] intends to return to its theater on Sept. 10 with four new commissions, followed by “Romeo and Juliet” on Sep. 15. Those programs will involve contact.

Mr. Vaziev said that the company would cancel shows if there was an outbreak. But, he added, he understood that dancers need to work. “The longer dancers don’t have a chance to be onstage, the more they lose,” he said.

Europe’s dance companies, many financed by their governments, are far ahead of American ones in returning to the stage.

The Mariinsky had received “a lot of flak on social media” for returning too soon, [Xander Parish] said. But he did not think that was fair. The ballet had taken every measure it could, he said. “And those same people are saying we should wait two years to get back onstage,” he added. “That’s ridiculous. A dancer’s career is 20 years.”

In a telephone interview, Olga Smirnova, a principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet, said she felt sad about the situation at the Mariinsky, but it had not put her off wanting to return to the stage. “What can we do?” she said. “I think art is more powerful than fear.”

The question of how to come back to stage safely is one that many companies across Europe will soon have to grapple with. Ms. Theobold said she was talking with Berlin health authorities about how to dance safely, but was considering asking her dancers to quarantine in groups for up to a month at a time so they could dance without distancing.

“It’s finding the balance,” Mr. Parish said. “I guess we’re the guinea pigs for that.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/19/arts/dance/mariinsky-ballet-coronavirus-outbreak.html

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3 hours ago, Helene said:

Peter Boal said in his recent Conversations on Dance interview  that PNB dancers can decide whether to come into the studio working in small pods or continue from home via Zoom, that the pods don't interact, but a choreographer can move from pod to pod (studio to studio), and that people who live together are considered for partnering assignments.  (At least through 2020, this has been taken into consideration for the programming.)

 

1 hour ago, balletforme said:

I know of several dancers in Canadian companies who are dancing in pods. Small ones of 3-4 people. 

SFB is using the "pods" approach for company classes. I believe each pod has no more than 5 dancers in it - and there may be a rehearsal pianist and a staff member in the room. In reading Instagram comments, it kind of sounded like the ballet master was streaming class so that it could be watched by different pod groups throughout the day. But I'm not sure about this. Perhaps they are partitioning the practice rooms and pods are all taking class at the same time, while the ballet master is streaming their instructions live in each of the rooms.

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18 minutes ago, pherank said:

Perhaps they are partitioning the practice rooms and pods are all taking class at the same time, while the ballet master is streaming their instructions live in each of the rooms.

When the Vienna State Ballet returned to class a couple of months ago, one group of dancers was in a studio with a ballet master and a pianist, and another group of dancers was in different studio following that class on TV screens.

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17 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

When the Vienna State Ballet returned to class a couple of months ago, one group of dancers was in a studio with a ballet master and a pianist, and another group of dancers was in different studio following that class on TV screens.

It likely is that kind of setup at SFB too - I don't imagine they are using more than one rehearsal pianist at a time. A closed-circuit TV setup would make sense.

EDIT: I'll just add that couples and house mates (naturally) are members of the same "pod". That's going to be interesting when the dancers start working on actual choreography since these dancers don't necessarily partner one another on stage.

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40 minutes ago, Buddy said:

I’m going under the assumption that many of these dancers already live communally.

The housing that larger Russian theaters (like large Russian factories) provide to employees are usually communal apartments with shared kitchens and bathrooms. Not surprisingly, the virus can spread quickly in that sort of environment. Also not surprisingly, dancers buy their own digs when they are able, because even if the apartments are small, at least they're private. So no, I don't think most are living communally, and if they're allowed out only for essentials, that's the same sort of shelter-in-place scenario most of us have experienced.

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45 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

The housing that larger Russian theaters (like large Russian factories) provide to employees are usually communal apartments with shared kitchens and bathrooms. Not surprisingly, the virus can spread quickly in that sort of environment. Also not surprisingly, dancers buy their own digs when they are able, because even if the apartments are small, at least they're private. So no, I don't think most are living communally, and if they're allowed out only for essentials, that's the same sort of shelter-in-place scenario most of us have experienced.

Thanks for this insight, Volcanohunter. The thing about the communal living situation is that it could also limit the spread of the virus by limiting outside contact, I would think. Perhaps as Xander Parish states, “It’s finding the balance”, although certain things seem to be essential, such as testing, audience spacing, face masks, etc.

 

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When Joy Womack wrote about her Bolshoi days, she confirmed the really small salary plus per performance stipend scheme, which was a bone of contention in the Company, and how she was living with four or five other dancers to be able to afford the rent in a Moscow apartment.  So I'd imagine that as soon as a private space was affordable, most would choose to get one.

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53 minutes ago, Helene said:

When Joy Womack wrote about her Bolshoi days, she confirmed the really small salary plus per performance stipend scheme, which was a bone of contention in the Company, and how she was living with four or five other dancers to be able to afford the rent in a Moscow apartment.  So I'd imagine that as soon as a private space was affordable, most would choose to get one.

Thanks Helene, and again Volcanohunter, for this information about living conditions. I didn't think that some of it was as minimal as it appears to be.

I would like to add quickly that I still sort of favor the group isolation approach, although I'm open to anyone's thinking about this. The one thing that does seem essential for the closely grouped dancers, is a sense of responsibility for everyone in one's personal choices and actions.

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1 hour ago, Buddy said:

The thing about the communal living situation is that it could also limit the spread of the virus by limiting outside contact

Unfortunately, that's not how things worked out in seniors' residences, which have been the epicenters of the Covid-19 tragedy in Canada. And I'm sorry to say that I read quite a number of press reports about outbreaks in communal residences in central and eastern Europe. Obviously dancers in their 20s and 30s are much better able to withstand the ravages of the disease than the elderly and infirm, but that doesn't mean that the virus can't spread among them, especially if they're sharing a kitchen.

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A major issue brought up in the New York Times article is testing.

Daily Testing

New York Times — Gia Kourlas — July 24, 2020

“There’s No Social Distancing for Dancers. How Can the Show Go On?”

As I contemplate how on earth dance can return to the stage, I often turn to the podcast “This Week in Virology,” ….

They talk about testing. Daily testing....By nature, dancers push through. And they want to be dancing. Apart from a vaccine, daily testing — from home, before leaving for the studio — seems like the only feasible solution for safe rehearsal. Even though paper-strip tests are less sensitive than nasal swab tests, their speed and ease would be a game changer.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/24/arts/dance/safety-protocols-dance-coronavirus.html

 

Gia Kurlas refers to another New York Times article.

“A Cheap, Simple Way to Control the Coronavirus” July 3, 2020

With easy-to-use tests, everyone can check themselves every day.

One variety, paper-strip tests, are inexpensive and easy enough to make that Americans could test themselves every day. You would simply spit into a tube of saline solution and insert a small piece of paper embedded with a strip of protein. If you are infected with enough of the virus, the strip will change color within 15 minutes.

The strips could be mass produced in a matter of weeks and freely supplied by the government to everyone in the country. The price per person would be from $1 to $5 a day, a considerable sum for the entire population, but remarkably cost effective.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/03/opinion/coronavirus-tests.html

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On 8/19/2020 at 11:19 PM, Buddy said:

A major issue brought up in the New York Times article is testing.

Daily Testing

New York Times — Gia Kourlas — July 24, 2020

“There’s No Social Distancing for Dancers. How Can the Show Go On?”...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/24/arts/dance/safety-protocols-dance-coronavirus.html ...

And "The Need to Go"  WaPo https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/coronavirus-reopen-bathrooms/2020/05/18/a6ed57fc-93ba-11ea-82b4-c8db161ff6e5_story.html

Rural areas had some marvelous outdoor performances including Shevshenko-MacKay  https://www.instagram.com/p/CD_v3SKnm1B/

 

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Thanks, Maps. I'll try to look these over more carefully when I get a chance.

One thing that seems most encouraging in all this is that a tested vaccine should hopefully be available the beginning of next year.

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Aren't many high contact professional sports going on and functioning? NHL? NBA? NFL?  How are they doing it and can't dance do that?  In addition, the COVID disease is mild for the majority who get it. . . this is not ebola or AIDs. 

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26 minutes ago, balletforme said:

Aren't many high contact professional sports going on and functioning? NHL? NBA? NFL?  How are they doing it and can't dance do that?  In addition, the COVID disease is mild for the majority who get it. . . this is not ebola or AIDs. 

They "do it" by ignoring protocols. Then multiple team members get sick and the team has to push the pause button. But that hasn't derailed any big sport season, yet. In a capitalist society, money talks louder than anything else. Ballet isn't seen as an essential activity the way baseball, football, golf and NASCAR apparently are. "Solutions" will be found for the big money sports long before the arts world will be allowed to return to public exhibitions/performances.

 

26 minutes ago, balletforme said:

Aren't many high contact professional sports going on and functioning? NHL? NBA? NFL?  How are they doing it and can't dance do that?  In addition, the COVID disease is mild for the majority who get it. . . this is not ebola or AIDs. 

They "do it" by ignoring protocols. Then multiple team members get sick and the team has to push the pause button. But that hasn't derailed any big sport season, yet. In a capitalist society, money talks louder than anything else. Ballet isn't seen as an essential activity the way baseball, football, golf and NASCAR apparently are. "Solutions" will be found for the big money sports long before the arts world will be allowed to return to public exhibitions/performances.

 

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1 hour ago, balletforme said:

Aren't many high contact professional sports going on and functioning? NHL? NBA? NFL?  How are they doing it and can't dance do that?  In addition, the COVID disease is mild for the majority who get it. . . this is not ebola or AIDs. 

The NBA created a bubble in Disney World in Orlando, where all practices and games have been played, and this was the final Phase 6, at the beginning of August, after completing five prior phases starting in mid-June.  They had extensive testing and contact tracing within the facility, plus strict quarantining protocols.  No spectators are allowed.  And many players opted out anyway.

They also threw $170m at it.  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_NBA_Bubble

The NHL created two bubble cities, Edmonton for the Western Conference and Toronto for the Eastern conference, in which the players are put up in hotels, all food provided, under strict movement protocols.  And many players opted out anyway.

MLB has experience postponements as team members and staff have tested positive, such as today's latest postponement announcement impacting the Mets and Marlins.  The MLB model calls for fewer opponent teams and a much shorter season, but has struggled.  The Toronto Blue Jays have to play at their AAA facility, because the Canadian government prohibited the use of the stadium in Toronto, citing the high COVID rates in the US, where all of the rest of the teams are coming from.  Many players opted out.

In each case, the season has been greatly limited at great cost to the leagues to provide excellent protection against COVID-19 in the case of the NBA and NHL.  Of course, they have very lucrative TV contracts to fill the coffers and billionaire owners who might use any tax write-offs.  

 

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50 minutes ago, Helene said:

In each case, the season has been greatly limited at great cost to the leagues to provide excellent protection against COVID-19 in the case of the NBA and NHL.  Of course, they have very lucrative TV contracts to fill the coffers and billionaire owners who might use any tax write-offs. 

It's all about the TV contracts - that's the lifeblood for many a league.

I do give the NBA credit for making a real effort. But it's still relatively easy to introduce the virus into a group of players - it only takes one infected person and a few moments of close contact, and the virus is "off to the races", shall we say. Thus the need for constant PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing. Is that level of testing going to be available to even the large ballet companies? Doesn't seem like it's coming any time soon. And there just isn't the money to be creating big bubbles for all the dancers, musicians and staff at a company.

Balletforme mentioned that many Covid-19 infections are mild, and Covid "is not ebola or AIDs", which is actually part of the concern to infectious disease experts. The fact that Covid-19 passes so easily through the population, and many people refuse to take the pandemic seriously, essentially ensures a "perfect storm": many more people will be infected with Covid-19 than ever were with SARS, MERS, Ebola, etc. and so the potential death numbers are much, much larger for Covid-19 even though the individual case fatality rate is higher for Ebola, MERS and SARS. Those diseases just don't spread about in the same manner.

"COVID-19 can be mild enough that some people who have it don’t know they have it. It’s also easily spread, can be transmitted by presymptomatic people and is severe enough to kill a significant share of those who have it. All combined, the novel coronavirus has led to an outbreak that is unusually difficult to track and control. The seismic shift in our everyday lives is happening for a reason."

Why Did The World Shut Down For COVID-19 But Not Ebola, SARS Or Swine Flu?
https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/why-did-the-world-shut-down-for-covid-19-but-not-ebola-sars-or-swine-flu/

This Bloomberg article has helpful stats - if they don't block you:
https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-03-05/how-bad-is-the-coronavirus-let-s-compare-with-sars-ebola-flu

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13 minutes ago, pherank said:

Balletforme mentioned that many Covid-19 infections are mild, and Covid "is not ebola or AIDs", which is actually part of the concern to infectious disease experts. The fact that Covid-19 passes so easily through the population, and many people refuse to take the pandemic seriously, essentially ensures a "perfect storm": many more people will be infected with Covid-19 than ever were with SARS, MERS, Ebola, etc. and so the potential death numbers are much, much larger for Covid-19 even though the individual case fatality rate is higher for Ebola, MERS and SARS. Those diseases just don't spread about in the same manner.

Exactly. I fear it is precisely such opinions that ignorantly perpetuate the destructiveness of a virus such as this.

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11 hours ago, Helene said:

The Toronto Blue Jays have to play at their AAA facility, because the Canadian government prohibited the use of the stadium in Toronto, citing the high COVID rates in the US, where all of the rest of the teams are coming from.

Yes, the Canadian government refused to give MLB teams an exemption from the border closure (which is granted, for example, to truckers, who move goods back and forth across the border) because MLB decided that teams would continue playing in their stadiums, albeit without spectators, and travelling between cities, and there was a risk that the virus could spread among players in close contact. Which, indeed, has happened a number of times already.

The government did give approval to the creation of the NHL hubs in Canada because everyone involved was tested extensively and routinely before entering, and once inside the bubble, no one is allowed out. Again, no spectators. NHL arenas are vast spaces with all sorts of facilities, as are the adjoining hotels that house everyone involved. But the cost of housing, feeding and testing so many people is enormous and is possible only because broadcasting major league sports is a very lucrative business. (But it's also worth remembering that each team's bubble consists of only 52 people, including players, coaches and staff, and that their total number shrinks by half after each round of the playoffs. Centralizing the games in only two arenas also reduces the number of support staff needed, say, Zamboni drivers.)

It could even be argued that continuing TV broadcasts of sports is essential to maintaining social cohesion and some sense of normalcy for millions of people being asked to make great sacrifices in their everyday lives. Obviously the performing arts have no such hold over the popular imagination, and it's not yet clear whether digital seasons will prove viable.

It's worth noting that the Canadian Football League has cancelled its 2020-21 season.

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45 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

Yes, the Canadian government refused to give MLB teams an exemption from the border closure (which is granted, for example, to truckers, who move goods back and forth across the border) because MLB decided that teams would continue playing in their stadiums, albeit without spectators, and travelling between cities, and there was a risk that the virus could spread among players in close contact. Which, indeed, has happened a number of times already.

Absolutely: the travel-based model for MLB is so very different than the bubble model for the NBA and NHL, an investment of millions, and the virus-related  results are also so very different.

Of course, withou fans, playing in a AAA facility is much less of a hardship.

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"Two Mets games have been postponed due to a pair of positive COVID-19 tests in the organization. Major League Baseball announced that Thursday’s series finale between the Mets and Marlins at Marlins Park has been postponed, as well as Friday’s Subway Series opener at Citi Field between the Mets and Yankees...

"The positive tests -- one player and one staff member, according to a source -- are the first the Mets have made public since the start of the season. Those individuals, along with others whom the club determined to have been in close contact with them, will remain in Miami...

"The Marlins have already had their season disrupted due to positive tests in their own clubhouse, which resulted in seven consecutive postponed games and the turnover of more than half their roster. The Cardinals went more than two weeks without playing a game, which caused ripple effects throughout the league...

"'The most important thing is your contact tracing,' Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said after learning of the Mets’ positive tests. 'And really what I mean by that is you got to have people willing to be honest and transparent of who they were connected with. And part of what you see in sports is the shaming of, ‘Oh, you brought it into the clubhouse,’ and all of a sudden, you lose a little bit of that transparency and honesty you need to totally get your hands on it. So my advice is, don’t shame anybody. It’s not a finger-pointing incident. It’s really about helping mitigate the spread as best you can.'"

https://www.mlb.com/news/mets-marlins-game-start-of-subway-series-postponed

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An 18-year-old quarterback for Georgia State has been diagnosed with a heart condition as a result of Covid-19. He credits the team procedures and testing for doctors discovering his condition. Were he not a college football player he may have never known and assumed he was healthy. A German study has found heart abnormalities in patients months after they recover—in patients who were feeling healthy and had assumed they had fully recovered. So no, Covid is not Ebola, but it is a virus with still unknown lasting effects in many people. 

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