No One Is Saving Dance In This Pandemic
The news that Cirque du Soleil was permanently closing Le Rêve at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas delivered the first blow to the Strip. The show ran 15 years and employed approximately 275 cast and crew members. Will other shows follow the same sad path?
It's entirely possible given that Broadway is still shuttered with a possible spring 2021 opening. (Although Dance Dish has heard October 2021 thrown out there as well.) How can the arts survive this?
The tragic answer is that many shows, ballet companies, dance studios and arts groups won't make it. The pandemic cut too deep and too long into organizations' budgets. PPP loans only covered a few months of payroll and this pandemic lingers in the background as the basics of wearing a mask has become a political fight.
Major ballet companies in the U.S. have canceled their lucrative Nutcracker seasons because social distancing on and offstage doesn't seem feasible right now. New York City Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Washington Ballet, Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet and San Francisco Ballet have already announced the cancelations, while other companies are hoping for a miracle before cutting the cord. For many companies, the annual holiday ballet brings in over $1 million profit to allow them to do Swan Lake, Giselle and contemporary ballets in the spring. Without this additional income, many companies have a bleak future.
Edge Dance Studio closed on Sunday, Aug. 16 with their future unknown. The building has new owners, who have different plans for the development. IAF, owned by Chehon Wespi-Tsschopp, is closing its warehouse facilities due to the economic hardships. Wespi-Tschopp is hoping to raise funds to rent a smaller space where he can continue his mentorship mission.
Even Flaming Saddles in West Hollywood can't keep their doors open even though they've been an important venue for drag performers. They announced their closing on Sunday, Aug. 16. This venue was a valuable part of the LGBTQ community and an inclusive place to watch the queens perform their work.
And just because we are talking about theatres and studios, doesn't mean TV dance shows aren't affected. The COVID-19 crisis already cost FOX Season 17 of So You Think You Can Dance, a rushed finale for World of Dance, and most likely, a slightly delayed season of Dancing with the Stars. As a contact sport, COVID-19 doesn't make it easy on the art of dance.
The spectrum of artists and genres of dance are all being affected and there is no way to stop the hemorrhaging unless there is a national plan. A national strategy to stop COVID-19 and a national strategy to save the arts. Until then, the bleeding continues.
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