New York City Ballet stages will remain dark until next fall

New York City Ballet stages will remain dark until next fall

New York City Ballet will not present live performances at its Lincoln Center theater until next fall, the company announced Friday. The performing arts organization stated that ongoing safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 health crisis prompted the decision to cancel the winter and spring seasons.

The company plans to return to the David H. Koch Theater in September, when it will debut a slate of premieres from choreographers Sidra Bell, Silas Farley, Andrea Miller, Justin Peck, Jamar Roberts and Pam Tanowitz.

“We are devastated that New York City Ballet will not be able to perform next winter and spring as we previously hoped, but our primary focus during the ongoing health crisis is the safety of our artists, staff and audiences,” City Ballet Executive Director Katerine Brown and Artistic Director Jonathan Stafford said in a statement. “In consultation with medical and government officials, it has become increasingly clear that returning to our home at Lincoln Center to present live performances will not be possible during the early months of 2021.”

The 2021–2022 season will mark the departure for City Ballet principal dancers Maria Kowroski, Gonzalo Garcia and Ask la Cour, along with the addition of former Houston Ballet principal dancer Chun Wai Chan as a soloist.

The announcement comes as venues around the city are pushing for Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to consider allowing large spaces like the Park Avenue Armory and St. Ann’s Warehouse to host live performances as the industry continues to face closures. Earlier this month, the Broadway League stated theaters will remain dark through May. And the Metropolitan Opera, which has its stages across the plaza from City Ballet, will not reopen until next September.

The financial ramifications of the ballet company’s lost seasons continue to be revealed — for both dancers and the organization at-large.

“After already canceling our 2020 spring, fall, and Nutcracker seasons, losing an additional 12 weeks of performances in the winter and spring of next year is heartbreaking for everyone at NYCB,” Brown said in the announcement. “The financial ramifications related to the ongoing pandemic have been staggering with projected losses of more than $45 million in ticket sales alone.”

Though the future remains uncertain, Brown added that releasing details for next September’s programming has been “very heartening.” The announcement also indicated that the company is open to exploring alternative live performance options if circumstances arise.

In the meantime, steps are being taken by the organization to prepare dancers for a return to the stage.

“While more than a year off the stage is an eternity for dancers whose careers are already short, the Company has recently begun to take small steps towards a return, with our rehearsal studios reopening last month for dancers to begin conditioning on their own,” Stafford said. “In the coming weeks, we hope to move into the next phase of activity and expand studio access to small groups of dancers as we continue to build towards a safe and healthy return for the full company.”

In September, company members launched an independent initiative called Dancers of New York City Ballet on Instagram with the aim of creating a “system of financial support” through “the pandemic and back to the stage.” In addition to classes, the group recently staged a fundraiser performance on top of the Empire Hotel, where they presented choreography by Preston Chamblee, Lauren Lovette, Benjamin Millepied, Justin Peck, Janie Taylor and Christopher Wheeldon.

Since ceasing performances in March, the company has presented a lineup of digital offerings, continuing Tuesday with another slate of films as part of its digital fall season.

“While the ongoing shutdown continues to be challenging for everyone, it has been very gratifying to look to the future and make plans to launch this first full season that Jon [Stafford], Justin [Peck] and I have programmed,” Associate Artistic Director Wendy Whelan said. “It is certain to be a very exciting and moving year of performances by our amazing company of artists.”

Top Image: Artist Shantell Martin's work at the David H. Koch Theater as part of New York City Ballet's annual Art Series. Photo: Roy Rochlin.