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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Affects the Ballet World


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2 minutes ago, Leah said:

And if you cap audiences at 2/3 capacity like Asia is doing you get less than 4,000, still less than the cited 10,000 number. Reducing density is the key. I do think De Blasio will probably cancel fall seasons at the very least though.

The Koch holds 2544. If you close off the top two tiers, which they regularly do anyway, that really gets the number down. Still, how many of us would be comfortable in rows of seats, surrounded on all sides by people sneezing, coughing, breathing, whatever...would wearing a mask and gloves make you feel safe? 

https://www.nycballet.com/About/David-H-Koch-Theater.aspx

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I agree with California.  People will not feel safe until a vaccine is created and most of the population has been vaccinated.  Even if you already had the virus, the experts say that the immunity is only temporary. 

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I would feel safe because I'm young and healthy, but a lot -- if not most -- of ballet goers are in the older, at-risk cohort. So even if companies reopen soonish, they will be losing a lot of patrons who are afraid to go out until a vaccine is developed. Classical performing-arts companies are not going to be making much money for awhile. 

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A streamed season would surely help orchestras.  I would be happy to pay the same price for a streamed subscription as for a physical subscription:  I could get home, have dinner, tune in, and not have to have a long commute home on transit before getting up early the next day.  The filming and video editing challenges should be a lot less with instrumental music than with dance, but, those are not insurmountable.

If you're a major fan, chances are you either eschew videos because they don't satisfy at all, or, while grousing about camera work and quality, take it where you can get it.  As a figure skating fan, I will get up in the middle of the night to see a decent, but not necessarily stellar on paper, two-fixed camera live stream over YouTube.  And I'm sure many of us watched reprints of objectively awful VCR recordings off TV to see ballet.  I don't think we'd demand Met Live in HD quality.

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2 hours ago, Helene said:

A streamed season would surely help orchestras.

Maybe. But with all the free music videos available, some of which are by elite orchestras, there also might be limited interest in paying to watch a stream of the local orchestra.

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29 minutes ago, YouOverThere said:

Maybe. But with all the free music videos available, some of which are by elite orchestras, there also might be limited interest in paying to watch a stream of the local orchestra.

There’s a something different about a live-streamed performance, though. And there’s something different about paying a modest amount to help ensure the survival of a local arts organization one values at a time of dire need.

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3 hours ago, Helene said:

A streamed season would surely help orchestras.  I would be happy to pay the same price for a streamed subscription as for a physical subscription:  I could get home, have dinner, tune in, and not have to have a long commute home on transit before getting up early the next day.  The filming and video editing challenges should be a lot less with instrumental music than with dance, but, those are not insurmountable.

If you're a major fan, chances are you either eschew videos because they don't satisfy at all, or, while grousing about camera work and quality, take it where you can get it.  As a figure skating fan, I will get up in the middle of the night to see a decent, but not necessarily stellar on paper, two-fixed camera live stream over YouTube.  And I'm sure many of us watched reprints of objectively awful VCR recordings off TV to see ballet.  I don't think we'd demand Met Live in HD quality.

HD quality films shouldn't be a problem - even amateur videographers have that capability, and companies hire experienced video teams for archive filming. There will be the usual pluses and minuses, but good quality streamed productions would make the local fans much more happy than they are now, and potentially bring in an entirely new around-the-world audience. As long as the streamed performances are reasonably priced, and available for a goodly amount of time to the subscriber, there could be oodles of shows to watch. Imagine being able to see ballets performed by various North American companies for months at a time (without flying back and forth across the continent for single shows). I imagine sales of "casting" software like Apple TV and Google Chromecast, as well as large screen TV's would go way up too, since trying to watch a quality production on a tiny screen would not be thrilling.

Personally, I would not want to pay the same price for a streamed performance as what I pay to sit in the orchestra section at the opera house - I would need it to be more inline with what movies cost (and what online subscriptions currently cost for watching films, sports, classical arts performances, etc.).

Edited by pherank
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You're right, getting an HD image isn't usually a problem today. What can be a problem is recording decent sound from the orchestra. The streams being shown almost daily now range from broadcast-quality recordings to single-camera jobs, and the tinny sound of some of the latter can be frustrating.

Perhaps New York City Ballet can finally put its "media suite" to use, assuming it isn't completely outdated by now.

https://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/28/arts/dance/media-suite-at-david-h-koch-theater-goes-unused.html

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42 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

You're right, getting an HD image isn't usually a problem today. What can be a problem is recording decent sound from the orchestra. The streams being shown almost daily now range from broadcast-quality recordings to single-camera jobs, and the tinny sound of some of the latter can be frustrating.

Perhaps New York City Ballet can finally put its "media suite" to use, assuming it isn't completely outdated by now.

https://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/28/arts/dance/media-suite-at-david-h-koch-theater-goes-unused.html

Yes! The audio capture of an orchestra does tend to be tricky, but the better video companies have sound people with decent abilities (probably not as good as the film industry though). I think the recent SFB releases all say "Archival Capture by Rapt Productions". I wonder what you think of the sound quality of Anima Animus?
Nothing sounds 'great' to me on computer, though I now have some pretty nice little KEF speakers for the iMac. And then there's the TV speakers and their own issues...

Edited by pherank
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11 minutes ago, cyclingmartin said:

Hear hear! to the last posts from volcanohunter and pherank about sound. As someone whose serious interest in ballet was preceded by many years as a professional musician, the sound problems in so many video recordings of ballet can be deeply frustrating.

Not surprisingly, the emphasis has always been on the dance visuals. But to arrive at a really professional digital product, the performances should feature some of the same audio recording techniques as used to record a live orchestra (sans stage performance). That certainly drives the cost up for the company, but best quality audio recording could be reserved for full-length ballets.

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A  very candid interview with Gil Boggs, Artistic Director of the Colorado Ballet, about our current realities: optimism but also realism. Midway through there's an acknowledgement that the next season might have to be cancelled until there is a vaccine and people are comfortable in a large theater. But this company is in excellent shape financially, owns its own building, has great supporters, etc. Still, it's sobering and I have to think every other ballet company director is thinking about the same things. (He mentions his wife Sandra Brown being ill with bronchitis. Some of you might remember her as a soloist at ABT, in the premiere of Lubovitch's Othello. She's now a ballet mistress at the company.)

 

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Oh, I loved both Brown's and Bogg's dancing at ABT!

I am very glad to hear that Colorado Ballet has a strong enough foundation that they won't be as vulnerable as many arts organizations.  So many organizations finally found footing after 2008 and other local crises, and it seems like one step forward, two steps backwards too often.

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27 minutes ago, Helene said:

Oh, I loved both Brown's and Bogg's dancing at ABT!

I am very glad to hear that Colorado Ballet has a strong enough foundation that they won't be as vulnerable as many arts organizations.  So many organizations finally found footing after 2008 and other local crises, and it seems like one step forward, two steps backwards too often.

I do wonder about Houston Ballet in particular - a company can only weather so many disasters.

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20 minutes ago, pherank said:

I do wonder about Houston Ballet in particular - a company can only weather so many disasters.

If Houston Ballet is one of the companies with a strong, wealthy Board where being on it means a lot of prestige, then I think they will be more able to weather it than companies with boards with less deep pockets and/or who would put basic needs social and civic causes ahead of the arts.

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1 minute ago, Helene said:

If Houston Ballet is one of the companies with a strong, wealthy Board where being on it means a lot of prestige, then I think they will be more able to weather it than companies with boards with less deep pockets and/or who would put basic needs social causes ahead of the arts.

I confess I don't know what Houston Ballet's 'governing' situation is like. But as SFB has stated in the past, the wealthy donors make up a smaller percentage of proceeds than people realize. It's the overall ticket sales that really keep things afloat from year to year. Big donors tend to pay for specifics, like the production costs of an individual full length ballet, helping finance a Ballet School outreach program, or subsidizing the salary of a star dancer.

Yesterday I received a contributor's email from SFB stating, "As we all continue to shelter-in-place and find new ways to stay connected, we want to thank you for your support of SF Ballet. We're so lucky to have such a strong community! Since launching the SF Ballet Critical Relief Fund, we've had over 750 people contribute, helping us raise almost $600,000 as of this morning."

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I don't doubt that having a strong base is very important.  But there are people who have enough wealth to be able to write a check to keep the roof from falling in.  (Sometimes that a matching grant, to encourage lots of people to give small amounts that add up. )  Sometimes the motivation is civic duty, and sometimes it is for social prestige.  And in troubled times, there are opportunities, as long as the institution is still standing.

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I've been thinking about  possible scenarios. E.g., if a company was able to test every single dancer before each rehearsal (along with temperatures, perhaps), could they rehearse small ensemble pieces, solos, pas de deux that might be performed in a black box theater with physical distancing for the audience? The dancers need to feel safe performing, even if they don't have an audience for awhile. I appreciate the on-line streaming of classes and old recordings, but they'll wear thin soon, if they haven't already.

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1 hour ago, California said:

A  very candid interview with Gil Boggs, Artistic Director of the Colorado Ballet, about our current realities: optimism but also realism. Midway through there's an acknowledgement that the next season might have to be cancelled until there is a vaccine and people are comfortable in a large theater. But this company is in excellent shape financially, owns its own building, has great supporters, etc.

 

They might be able to pay the mortgage and keep a skeleton staff in place, but can they pay the dancers? Most likely not, and many of them might move on to their next careers.

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21 minutes ago, California said:

I've been thinking about  possible scenarios. E.g., if a company was able to test every single dancer before each rehearsal (along with temperatures, perhaps), could they rehearse small ensemble pieces, solos, pas de deux that might be performed in a black box theater with physical distancing for the audience? The dancers need to feel safe performing, even if they don't have an audience for awhile. I appreciate the on-line streaming of classes and old recordings, but they'll wear thin soon, if they haven't already.

Taking temperatures or checking throats might not be sufficient. People with COVID-19 are contagious before they notice symptoms, and it isn't clear that any sort of exam would detect the infection before contagiousness sets in. I believe that there now are same day tests available in some other countries and it would only be necessary to test the dancers every 3 days, but that would still be a large expense and it might be forbidden for a non-essential organization to tie up testing resources.

Edited by YouOverThere
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1 hour ago, Helene said:

I don't doubt that having a strong base is very important.  But there are people who have enough wealth to be able to write a check to keep the roof from falling in.  (Sometimes that a matching grant, to encourage lots of people to give small amounts that add up. )  Sometimes the motivation is civic duty, and sometimes it is for social prestige.  And in troubled times, there are opportunities, as long as the institution is still standing.

I'm not sure if it's as much an issue in Canada, but in the U.S. there's an unfortunate reliance upon the wealthy - "Can't some rich person just pay for this?" It's an unhealthy way to run a society. I wish there could be more of a general fund in each county/region that supports arts and culture organizations (I don't expect that to pay for everything, just to act as a lifeline). If the residents of Seattle, WA were required to pay $5 a year into the local fund that would amount to $3,724,744. That's all a pipe dream of course, as I live in the U.S.
 

57 minutes ago, California said:

I've been thinking about  possible scenarios. E.g., if a company was able to test every single dancer before each rehearsal (along with temperatures, perhaps), could they rehearse small ensemble pieces, solos, pas de deux that might be performed in a black box theater with physical distancing for the audience? The dancers need to feel safe performing, even if they don't have an audience for awhile. I appreciate the on-line streaming of classes and old recordings, but they'll wear thin soon, if they haven't already.

I've been thinking about these things too. Going forward, the online presentations need to be packaged in a more formal manner, and really be part of a companies season role out - that' my feeling. They can't jut appear in various corners of the Internet, for free, and disappear willy nilly. The big companies should be presenting a certain number of performances each season online to digital subscribers from around the world. People would pay specifically to have access to these presentations. And they could certainly be preceded by some advertising, as long as no one interrupts the performance with 'commercials'!!!
 

38 minutes ago, YouOverThere said:

Taking temperatures or checking throats might not be sufficient. People with COVID-19 are contagious before they notice symptoms, and it isn't clear that any sort of exam would detect the infection before contagiousness sets in. I believe that there now are same day tests available in some other countries and it would only be necessary to test the dancers every 3 days, but that would still be a large expense and it might be forbidden for a non-essential organization to tie up testing resources.

Yes, authorities have to figure out how testing can be made available to all organizations, so we can stop playing the "essential" VS "non-essential" game. Governments are already getting a lot of heat for that approach - vast numbers of unemployed people cannot pay for anything and are being forced into failure, and that's an unworkable model given that it's all the 'little people' who actually pay for these grand systems through taxes. It certainly isn't big capitalists who are paying for society, as they are mostly subsidized. The general populous has to keep working. And I'm afraid that leads us back to the herd immunity concept - one way or another, most of the human population would have to develop immunity either by contracting the illness (and surviving) or taking the vaccine when that becomes available. There may be no way around it - people will go back to living mostly as they did and the virus will continue to circulate until it quiets down naturally. And Covid-19 will likely become a seasonal illness like any other flu.

Edited by pherank
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6 minutes ago, pherank said:

 I wish there could be more of a general fund in each county/region that supports arts and culture organizations (I don't expect that to pay for everything, just to act as a lifeline). If the residents of Seattle, WA were required to pay $5 a year into the local fund that would amount to $3,724,744. That's all a pipe dream of course, as I live in the U.S.
 

A seven-county region around Denver does just that. For every $10 collected in sales and use tax, one cent goes to cultural organizations. The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District has been approved repeatedly by voters for 30 years.  The program distributes $60 million a year to 300 cultural organizations, including the Colorado Ballet and much more. A great model that other regions might emulate!

https://scfd.org/who-we-are/about-us/

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3 minutes ago, California said:

A seven-county region around Denver does just that. For every $10 collected in sales and use tax, one cent goes to cultural organizations. The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District has been approved repeatedly by voters for 30 years.  The program distributes $60 million a year to 300 cultural organizations, including the Colorado Ballet and much more. A great model that other regions might emulate!

https://scfd.org/who-we-are/about-us/

It warms my heart that a U.S. community has approved this 30 years running.  ;)

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19 minutes ago, pherank said:

I'm not sure if it's as much an issue in Canada, but in the U.S. there's an unfortunate reliance upon the wealthy - "Can't some rich person just pay for this?" It's an unhealthy way to run a society.

In Canada the challenge was getting people to donate to the arts, because it was considered the government's job.  There were a lot more grants for artists and writers past the time that, for example, NEA funding in the US was slashed.  It's the same in Europe.  You can see "American/Overseas Supporters of Big Cultural Institutions" in Europe, with big billing, but not local donors so much.  (Either in the Millepied doc or the Wiseman doc on Paris Opera, it was clear that with the donations came at least the expectation of BMOC benefits.)

And, maybe it is, including the social clout that people get by being the rich person who pays for it, especially when it can be a game of chicken to see who gets billed as the savior.

One thing I do admire about Bill Gates, whose mother was a noted Seattle philanthropist, was that instead of paying for everything, while Microsoft did sponsor plenty of philanthropic efforts, including arts seasons, he pushed to institute  a generous matching policy for employees that got more and more generous as time went on.   And when the rule of thumb was that it took more than a generation of giving to instill as sense of philanthropic obligation to anything more than religion-based tithing or its equivalent, that was not the easiest sell, since this was the first time many who worked at the company had seen any wealth.  But it was immensely popular, and it jump-started giving for many people by decades.

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