New York City Ballet announced on Thursday that it was canceling its spring season because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the company plans to pay its dancers, musicians and other employees through May 31, the date the season was to have ended.
The cancellation was expected, with museums shut down, theaters dark and cultural events of every kind on hold across the city. The decision means delays for two world-premiere works, which will be postponed to another season.
City Ballet board members approved the plan on a Wednesday afternoon conference call, said Katherine E. Brown, the company’s executive director. The cancellation of the season — which was set to begin on April 21 — would mean a projected financial loss of about $8 million for the company by the end of this fiscal year, which includes lost revenue from a spring gala.
“Because a dancer’s career is so finite, losing a season like this is going to have a lasting impact on them, emotionally and physically,” said Jonathan Stafford, the company’s artistic director. “We’re trying to do everything we can to support them off the stage.”
The decision to pay employees will be a relief to 100 dancers and 62 musicians who already get by on inconsistent streams of income, based on when they are rehearsing and performing throughout the year. For now, their payment schedule is the same as it would have been without the pandemic: They will be paid until the end of the spring season, and then will face a short layoff.
The employees who are to be paid and receive benefits through the dark season include the dancers, musicians, stagehands, costume designers, security personnel, ushers and administrators.
As of now, City Ballet is planning to move forward with its smaller scale summer performances and the rehearsals leading up to them, though that is subject to change based on developments in the public health crisis. Dancers are scheduled to perform at Bard SummerScape festival at the end of June and at the Dancers’ Workshop in Jackson, Wyo., in July.
City Ballet’s spring season was to have included world premieres by Pam Tanowitz, who was commissioned to create her second work for the company; and Jamar Roberts, the resident choreographer for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The new premiere dates have not yet been decided.
Many of the programs were to feature works created by choreographers in the 21st century, though there were still programs dedicated to the work of its founding choreographer, George Balanchine, including a run of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Patrons who already purchased City Ballet tickets will be able to get refunds, save the value of the ticket for a future purchase or donate all or part of the money to a relief fund that is being set up to support the company.
Part of the City Ballet’s projected financial loss comes from its management of the David H. Koch Theater. The cancellation of other events at the theater, including Shen Yun Performing Arts shows and the Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition, have resulted in a loss of rent payments to City Ballet.
Ballet companies across the country have been grappling with the consequences of canceled programming. American Ballet Theater, which canceled touring shows in four cities because of the pandemic, started its own relief fund to help pay employees like its dancers, production crew, rehearsal pianists and ballet masters.
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