Corona Virus… our best friend. With the recent pressure in the world of academics urging institutions to close down for the next 30 days, ballet is slowly taking suit. The School of American Ballet just announced they will stay closed until April 20. PNB just canceled the rest of their repertory for March, and the school is on hiatus.
What does this mean? While most small schools can’t afford to close, neither can most major schools and professional schools (schools attached to companies). We keep waiting for YAGP to cancel the Finals. And we keep waiting for other competitions to follow.
While everyone is encouraging most major cities to self-quarantine in an attempt to stop the spread of the novel virus, it would cripple the world of ballet financially. Well, let’s be honest, with the stock market plunging into doom with little to no hope, most major private or endowment contributions to ballet will end. This means most companies won’t be hiring anytime soon. Not to mention that ticket sales would be non-existent. If we urge ballet schools to cancel their summer intensives and close down for the remainder of the season, we are explicitly saying there will be no new hires for the upcoming season.
While the virus isn’t to be taken lightly, we need to ensure we understand what we are asking of these major institutions when we ask them to cancel summer courses and refund our money. What we are asking is to bankrupt these organizations for the 2020-2021 season, and possibly all the way into the 2022-2023 season, meaning we understand that there won’t be jobs for those kids right now who are ages 17-20.
If the world demands that we close schools with over 250 students, we are asking these historic and prestigious companies to lose a large source of their financial stability with both year-round and summer intensive enrollment. Ballet schools support ballet companies, who employ dancers, executive staff, musicians, theater labor and numerous others. So if we are asking these schools to close and cancel, we are creating a substantial financial burden and deficit for these non-profit arts organizations.
The spreading of this virus isn’t to be taken lightly. I’m not saying go out and stock up for the apocalypse, but watching and hearing the stories from Italy are heartbreaking.
So if the world demands that we close summer courses and pull performances, we are going to have to shift our focus to figuring out ways on how to help ballet recover financially and supporting those kids who no longer will be candidates for jobs. This would mean that the generation ages 14 and under, would be the next group to have stable employment in ballet. We are asking to look over an entire group of kids for the sake of the spreading or further mutations of the virus.
Even watching my students who were slated to go to Royal Ballet’s Spring Intensive have their dreams crushed this morning was tough. But obviously, the ramifications of this is more important. As the news keeps reporting rising cases, creating fear and concern among parents, dancers, and the ballet community at large, I keep asking myself… why are we still hosting competitions that are encouraging travel in general?
So, if parents really want to cancel summer intensives, or they want these institutions to cancel, for the sake of health, safety, and concern of all, we do have to realize there are substantial ramifications to this.
With ballet schools in the Seattle area closing, academic institutions closing, does this translate that smaller private schools will need to do the same? With the lack of training, or the lack of incoming tuition coming in, will it ultimately bankrupt these dance studios as well?
Please be careful when you are asking these major institutions for your money back, because it means we are asking to bankrupt ballet. PNB is asking ticket holders to donate their tickets as a way to keep the ballet company running.
Just remember, that ballet is a fragile ecosystem, and if one part of it shuts down, the entire ecosystem collapses.
Interesting read: Ballet after WWII : https://www.britannica.com/art/ballet/Ballet-after-1945