The company is also planning six virtual shows starting November 21; the events in person at the Opera will not take place until next May.
On March 11, dancers from the Boston Ballet were on stage at Citizens Bank Opera House in full costume and make-up for the dress rehearsal of Jorma Elo’s “Carmen”, with musicians from the Boston Ballet orchestra seated in the pit. The following afternoon, hours before opening night, artistic director Mikko Nissinen took the stage to announce that the show – and both weekends – had been canceled due to the threat of the deadly novel coronavirus. .
That same day, Margaret Tracey, principal of the Boston Ballet School, sent her young students home over fear of possible exposure to the virus. Within 24 hours, the school was officially closed. Tracey thought classes would start again “in a few weeks,” she recalls. Nissinen said that “everything fell apart in March”. No one knew the Boston Ballet dancers would stay off the stage for the remainder of the 2019-20 season and far into the next.
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Given the enormous toll COVID-19 has taken over the past six months on the worlds of dance, theater and music – and future uncertainty – it is both astonishing and admirable that The Boston Ballet kicks off its 57th season this month, including the reopening of the Boston Ballet School. While live performances won’t be staged until May 2021, a free movie screening of “The Nutcracker” will air in December on NBC Boston.
After the March shutdown, Nissinen escaped to his vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine, and Tracey and her husband, Russell Kaiser, deputy artistic director, retreated to their home in Newton. The company’s chief executive, Meredith Max Hodges, stayed in town with her family, including a new baby and a 2-year-old. Despite the distance, business leaders worked together on Zoom and conference calls to find a way forward.
The Boston Ballet will once again welcome 60 members of the company and BBII, the second company, to its South End studio on September 21. To be sure, the dancers will come together in different ways, wearing masks and standing 6 feet apart to practice. and rehearsals, in accordance with health and safety rules. Public programs have also been changed but, according to Nissinen, “we are going to create again. We had 400 possible scenarios and now we have a full plan for the rest of the season in place. “
The Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker continues to dazzle and charm
Hodges, a graduate of Harvard University and Business School, has led the administration of the company for the past six years. The budget, which had grown to over $ 35 million, was reduced to $ 22 million. To make up for lost revenue due to reduced class sizes at school and lower ticket and season ticket sales, “$ 15 million will be raised through philanthropy. Our board of directors, and the public, subscribers and donors have been very generous, ”said Hodges.
In the spring, the school quickly moved the classes. A virtual summer session for 175 students from the United States took place over five weeks, with several students from Europe and Asia. Classes are restarting in the South End, Newton and Marblehead – in person and virtually – for the children’s program on September 24 and the classical ballet program on October 1.
“Students have a choice. We’ll be hybrids with a teacher and cameras in the studio, but the professional program at Walnut Hill School (in Natick) opens up virtually, ”Tracey said. Company safety precautions will apply to all classes.
Although the month-long annual series of “The Nutcracker,” the city’s beloved holiday tradition, has been canceled, the company will feature a free one-hour version on NBC Boston, with recall viewings. on NECN and Telemundo (dates to come), narrated in English and Spanish.
Behind the ‘Nutcracker’ magic: Quincy’s Sara Kirk makes sure Boston Ballet dancers look perfect
“I didn’t think it was fair for Boston to do without ‘The Nutcracker’,” Nissinen said.
The broadcast was edited from an archival film of the 2019 dress rehearsal, with the cast of company dancers and school children in lavish Robert Perdziola costumes on its elaborate sets. The Boston Ballet Orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky’s score.
Instead of the fall and winter seasons announced before the coronavirus shutdown, the Boston Ballet will produce its very first virtual season, titled “BB @ yourhome”. Six programs begin with “Forsythe Elements” from November 19 to 29, conducted by choreographer William Forsythe. Live footage of his works will be performed by dancers in the studio.
The series continues from December 17-27 with newly choreographed ballets in Duke Ellington’s “Nutcracker Suite”. Four other programs from January 21 to April 25, 2021 are available for paid subscriptions of $ 180 (per computer). “We hope people will buy more than one subscription, as corporate donations,” says Nissinen.
And with fingers crossed, the company plans to produce a month of in-person performances for the public at 50% capacity at the Opera during the month of May: “off the chART” (May 6-16) and “ChoreograpHER ”(May 20-30). The duration of the programs will be shortened, minus the intermissions, for the health and safety of artists and the public.
“Off the chART” features Forsythe’s first “New Suite” company, a collection of pas de deux from his earlier works, and a world premiere by Stephen Galloway, former director of the Rolling Stones creative movement. He and Mick Jagger started talking about a choreographic collaboration 15 years ago.
“ChoreograpHER” will feature five world premieres by female dance designers, including Tiler Peck, Claudia Schreier, Shantell Martin, Boston Ballet Principal Dancer Lia Cirio and Melissa Toogood. “Five of the six choreographers are women; three of the six are black, ”says Nissinen.
The Boston Ballet’s goals for the 2020-2021 season include “to deliver the arts and inspiration safely to our viewers and a wider audience than ever before, to implement health and safety for our dancers and all. our people, and find new ways to be creative and collaborative together, despite concerns, ”according to Hodges.
Nissinen believes that “even when we get back on stage, some of the digital programming will remain. I hope it will be a difficult year and that we will get back to sort of normal for next season.
For more information on the 57th season of the Boston Ballet, visit bostonballet.org.
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