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ABT cancels 2021 Met season; digital/outdoor performances planned for early 2021


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AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE ANNOUNCES THE CANCELLATION OF 2021 SEASON AT THE METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE

DIGITAL AND OUTDOOR PERFORMANCES PLANNED FOR THE FIRST HALF OF 2021

American Ballet Theatre announced today the cancellation of its 2021 Season at the Metropolitan Opera House. The season, originally planned for June and July of 2021, has been cancelled due to health and safety concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on non-essential gatherings.

“While we cannot safely gather to rehearse this spring and perform live for our beloved audiences at Lincoln Center, we are inspired by the resiliency and optimism of our dancers and staff,” said Kara Medoff Barnett, ABT Executive Director. “We will continue to find novel ways to create through crisis and to share our artistry with the widest possible audience nationwide andworldwide.”

“It is with deep regret that ABT will miss another season at the Metropolitan Opera House,” said Kevin McKenzie, ABT Artistic Director. “Since 1976, the Company has performed regular seasons at the Met, so the loss of two seasons on the iconic Met stage weighs heavily. Our dancers, musicians, staff, and crew look forward to the day when we can return to this magnificent opera house and perform live for our loyal fans.”

In the months ahead, American Ballet Theatre plans robust offerings of new choreography, created in remote ballet bubbles under strict medical and health guidelines in upstate New York and Southern California, and additional locations to be announced. Digital productions and outdoor socially distanced performances around the United States are planned for spring 2021. Outdoor performances in and around New York City are in the works for summer 2021.

Choreographers premiering new works with ABT in 2021 include New York City Ballet principal dancer Lauren Lovette, Darrell Grand Moultrie, ABT Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky, and Sonya Tayeh.

“The unprecedented challenges of the pandemic have been catalytic fuel for transformation,” said McKenzie. “This has been a time of exploring new ways of working and collaborating as we extend the repertoire, and as we find new storytelling partners and platforms to bring the artistry of ABT to the world.”

Additional creative activity planned for 2021 includes ABT Incubator, in its first year under the Artistic Directorship of ABT dancer Jose Sebastian, and new commissions for ABT Studio Company.

For more information on American Ballet Theatre, please visit www.abt.org.

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21 hours ago, nanushka said:

Though I am not at all surprised, it's dispiriting to face the reality of another full spring/summer without the usual ABT and NYCB offerings.

Yes. I can barely stand to think about it.

Also, all of these dancers losing two years out of their short careers (I don’t consider their digital seasons to be equal). It’s devastating.

I agree with what someone wrote above - ABT should be showing us some classical pas with current couples or dancers who are quarantining together. New work is great, though I haven’t watched it yet, but it would be exciting and some food for the soul to see some great pas.

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5 hours ago, ABT Fan said:

Yes. I can barely stand to think about it.

Also, all of these dancers losing two years out of their short careers (I don’t consider their digital seasons to be equal). It’s devastating.

I agree with what someone wrote above - ABT should be showing us some classical pas with current couples or dancers who are quarantining together. New work is great, though I haven’t watched it yet, but it would be exciting and some food for the soul to see some great pas.

Oh, could you imagine what they could do with an “ABT Bubble”?

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I'm glad ABT is pushing on as best they can. I too agree that ABT should try to show us some classical pas with couples they can put together. How much these dancers have been able to stay in classical pas shape is a question, although Skylar Brandt (from her instagram posts) seems ready for anything. ABT's big ticket sellers have been the big classical ballets. That's the audience they've cultivated and programmed for, the exceptions being new works by Ratmansky and other new choreographers here and there. IMO audiences go to ABT to see big, theatrical, classical ballet productions. It may be harder for them, than for some other companies, to appeal to their usual ticket buyers. IMO one way would be to present as much classical ballet as possible, be it by pas de deus or excerpts. 

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Shevchenko and Bell appear to be rehearsing something (classical) together as well, according to Instagram. It may be for something non-ABT-related though. Other dancers have posted class/rehearsal footage as well. So the dancers are definitely "working" in one way or another. For whatever reason the company isn't -- at least not yet -- showcasing the classical talent and drive among its own employees. Instead, dancers like Brandt and Shevchenko get to perform for Instagram, or organize their own virtual events while the company prioritizes mediocre commissions that aren't even ballet. A real shame, and the company's loss, because people would actually pay to stream things like pas de deux from Swan Lake, Giselle, etc. I'll give them the benefit of a doubt that those events might be in the works, but we haven't seen much indication yet. 

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I am wondering when Kevin McKenzie's contract as Artistic Director expires.  He celebrated his 20th anniversary with ABT in 2012.  At that time his contract was extended another 10 years.  Is 2021 the last season he is contracted for or is it 2022?  Or did the ABT board foolishly extend his contract longer?  Canceling the 2021 season might mean that there are no more Met seasons for McKenzie to plan if the ABT board wisely gets some new blood in there.

COVID-19 might be cutting McKenzie's career at ABT short.

 

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13 hours ago, FauxPas said:

I am wondering when Kevin McKenzie's contract as Artistic Director expires.  He celebrated his 20th anniversary with ABT in 2012.  At that time his contract was extended another 10 years.  Is 2021 the last season he is contracted for or is it 2022?  Or did the ABT board foolishly extend his contract longer?  Canceling the 2021 season might mean that there are no more Met seasons for McKenzie to plan if the ABT board wisely gets some new blood in there.

COVID-19 might be cutting McKenzie's career at ABT short.

 

I 100% agree- its past time for new blood at ABT. I just worry who they'd pick and if they'd want more of the same or a big shake up. Some of the previous contenders are less viable now (Marcelo is out, Ethan's leadership track record isn't great, Julie Kent seems to be struggling at Washington Ballet with managing budgets/fundraising, Angel has had lots of friction with dancers at PA Ballet). I would hope they'd pick a younger person that can bring new ideas and innovative on their current model. The current model seems be slowly dying.

I think a big shake up with a person like Danill Simkin (with his social media/digital background), Tamara Rojo (she is doing well at ENB and managing COVID seemly well), or Irina/Maxim as co-directors (I think they have good taste and Irina's experience acting might bring in new ways to revitalize the ballet), would be most exciting and get me back to the theater quickly when its safe. Or, a diverse smallish/managable artistic committee that makes artistic decisions and reports to the Executive Director.  

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We may be segueing into a new topic but any new artistic director would have to work well with Alexei Ratmansky.  Ratmansky I hope will remain at ABT a long time.  One model might be to expand Ratmansky's artistic role without giving him the administrative/financial/board duties that would interfere with his work as a choreographer.  Then hire a business administrator with a dance background to be the administrative director who handles money, fundraising, staffing, union issues, advertising, hiring and firing, season planning, dealing with the board, etc.  This person would work closely with Ratmansky.

Edited by FauxPas
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On 1/4/2021 at 9:43 PM, FauxPas said:

COVID-19 might be cutting McKenzie's career at ABT short.

If the 'Guest Star Era' of 2010-1015 (roughly) didn't sour McKenzie's relations with the ABT Board, then I don't think there has been anything since (up to and including the Sarah Lane situation) that would have put him in jeopardy.

For the sake of argument, though, let's say that McKenzie retires after 30 hears at the helm. Before the company hires one or more artistic directors, I think they need to answer the following questions:

  1. What kind of company does ABT want to be in the 21st century?
  2. What financial resources does the company have at its disposal to realize this vision?
  3. What artistic resources is the company lacking currently lacking?

Point-by-point:

1. The company still adheres to the policy Lucia Chase implemented over 50 years ago when she gradually moved the company away from mixed bills to the multi-act story ballets that are now the company's bread and butter. Is this the path they should continue to trod in the 21st century? Making a case for the defense, I would offer up a qualified 'yes'. I don't get any sense that ABT's regular audience is crying out for the shorter one act works which McKenzie has been commissioning for 25 years and which haven't produced much in the way of a lasting repertory. I don't think there's any demand for the company to dance more George Balanchine, especially considering there's a company right across the Lincoln Center courtyard whose whole existence is to do just that. Heck, I'm not that convinced ABT's regular audience wants Alexei Ratmansky all that badly. My sense is that he is loved by the ballet intelligentsia but tolerated by the rest who would be just as happy to watch Giselle or Swan Lake or Romeo & Juliet over and over again.

2. If the company stays the course with the multi-act story ballets, then whoever eventually replaces McKenzie will face the same constraints that McKenzie has faced since 1992: money. ABT has had to deal with three great financial crises since the early-90s: the overspending from the Baryshnikov era which left the company destitute and on the verge of folding in the early 90s, the Great Recession of 2008 and its aftermath, and now the COVID-related collapse of 2020-21 and its aftermath. Whoever comes in may be wonderful from an artistic standpoint but they are still going to be bound by the financial constraints that have bedeviled the company.

3. Point #3 dovetails with point #2. Whatever policy the company pursues this century, they need to give substantial thought to how they will perpetuate that vision given the obvious fiscal limitations. I'm speaking now in terms of coaching, which has always been a problem for ABT. (People were complaining about it in the 70s, which is considered the Golden Age!) The company never successfully replaced Georgina Parkinson and Irina Kolpakova will be 88 this year. Susan Jones has done heroic work with the corps over the decades but she is no longer young. (The male ballet masters are relatively young so that's less of a pressing need.)

As such. the company has to give plenty of thought to what it will take to replenish its coaching staff both in terms of (a) age-related need and (b) finding the resources to hire the right people relative to the artistic vision (see point #1). (My preference would be for Irina Dvorovenko and Xiomara Reyes to return as ballet mistresses.)

As for a replacement for McKenzie, my choice would be Stella Abrera and Sascha Radetsky as co-artistic directors. They know the existing repertory backwards-and-forwards and they both have actual managerial experience: She running Kaatsbaan and he running the ABT studio company. Together, they also would bring a much need glamour to the central post.

 

Edited by miliosr
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