New York City Ballet cancels New York winter and spring seasons

David Mead

While there are a few small-scale live performances reappearing in New York City, such as New York Theatre Ballet’s present run at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means that large-scale indoor gatherings remain prohibited. For New York City Ballet, which has not presented live performances since March, that has now led to the cancellation of its winter and spring 2021 seasons at the David H. Koch Theater. The company now plans to return to the stage of the theatre, its home at Lincoln Center, for its 2021-22 season on September 21, 2021.

“After already cancelling 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. The financial ramifications related to the ongoing pandemic have been staggering with projected losses of more than $45 million in ticket sales alone,” said Executive Director Katherine Brown.

The auditorium of the David H. Koch Theater, which will not be welcoming patrons to watch New York City Ballet until September 2021Photo Jon Simon
The auditorium of the David H. Koch Theater, which is unlikely to welcome patrons to watch New York City Ballet until September 2021
Photo Jon Simon

Acknowledging that more than a year off the stage is an eternity for dancers whose careers are already short, Artistic Director Jonathan Stafford had a glimmer of good news in that the company has recently begun to take small steps towards a return, with rehearsal studios now reopened for dancers to begin conditioning on their own. He added that they hope to expand studio access to small groups of dancers in the coming weeks.

Brown and Stafford added that if circumstances change and allow for some kind of live performance activity sooner than next September at an appropriate venue that is safe for artists and audiences alike, NYCB will explore those opportunities.

In the meantime, the company plans to maintain an online presence through performance streaming, interactive virtual classes, educational workshops and other content.

The 2021-22 Season

Sara Mearns and New York City Ballet in George Balanchine’s SerenadePhoto Paul Kolnik
Sara Mearns and New York City Ballet
in George Balanchine’s Serenade
Photo Paul Kolnik

The 2021-22 Season will be the first fully planned by the NYCB’s new artistic leadership team, with programming curated by Associate Artistic Director Wendy Whelan working in collaboration with Jonathan Stafford and Resident Choreographer and Artistic Advisor Justin Peck. They promise, “a very exciting and moving year of performances by our amazing company of artists.”

The season will include six world premieres, including new works by Sidra Bell, Andrea Miller, Justin Peck, Jamar Roberts, Silas Farley and Pam Tanowitz.

Although details of the repertory have still to be announced, the September 21 opening night will be a special celebration of the company’s return to the David H. Koch Theater. The following Thursday, September 30, will see the annual Fall Fashion Gala and the Bell and Miller premieres.

Justin Peck’s new ballet will premiere on January 27 as part of the annual New Combinations Evening, on a program that will also include Merce Cunningham’s Summerspace. Jamar Roberts’ new work, to music by Kyle Preston and that was originally announced for the 2020 Spring Season, will now premiere on Thursday, February 3.

Highlight of the 2022 Spring Season will be a two-week celebration of the 50th Anniversary of NYCB’s legendary 1972 Stravinsky Festival, from May 3-15. The celebration will feature ballets to Stravinsky’s music by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Justin Peck, as well as two orchestral works performed by the New York City Ballet Orchestra.

The anniversary celebration will also include the world premiere of a ballet created in tribute to Stravinsky and Balanchine’s landmark works by former NYCB dancer Silas Farley, who recently retired from dancing to pursue other educational and artistic opportunities. The score for the new ballet will be created by composer and writer David K. Israel and based on a 1946 musical exchange between Balanchine and Stravinsky, in which Balanchine wrote an acrostic poem in Russian as a gift for Stravinsky’s 65th birthday and set it to a simple melody. Stravinsky then harmonized the melody as a gesture of gratitude for Balanchine. The new Farley ballet will premiere on May 5 as part of the annual Spring Gala.

The 2022 Spring Season will also feature the world premiere of a new work by Pam Tanowitz set to composer Ted Hearne’s Law of Mosaics for string ensemble, which was originally scheduled to premiere during the 2020 Spring Season, and will now premiere on April 22.

The same performance will also include the company premiere of Tanowitz’s Gustave Le Gray No. 1, a quartet that was originally created in 2019 for Ballet Across America at the Kennedy Center and featured dancers from Dance Theatre of Harlem and Miami City Ballet.

The 2021-22 Season will also feature farewell performances for three of the NYCB’s long-time principal dancers. Ask la Cour will make his final appearance on October 9 after 19 years with the company, while Maria Kowroski will take her final bow after more than 25 years on October 17. Gonzalo Garcia’s last performance will be on February 27, 2022, after 14 years with NYCB.

Joining the company as soloist for next year is Chun Wai Chan, formerly a principal dancer with Houston Ballet.

Complete programming for the 2021-22 Season will be announced at a later date, but in addition to the new works, repertory highlights for the Fall Season will include George Balanchine’s Serenade, Agon, Symphony in C, Chaconne, Western Symphony, and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue; Jerome Robbins’ Glass Pieces and Opus 19/The Dreamer; Alexei Ratmansky’s Namouna, A Grand Divertissement; Christopher Wheeldon’s Mercurial Manoeuvres and After the Rain (pas de deux); and Justin Peck’s Rotunda.

After the usual Nutcracker season, from November 26 to January 2, the 2022 Winter Season will also include: Balanchine’s Diamonds, The Four Temperaments, Mozartiana, La Valse, Pavane, Prodigal Son, Walpurgisnacht Ballet, and ‘The Unanswered Question’ from Ivesiana; Robbins’ Moves and Andantino; Tanowitz’s Bartók Ballet; Peter Martins’ Swan Lake; and Wheeldon’s DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse.

The 2022 Spring Season will also include Balanchine’s Agon, Apollo, Orpheus, Firebird, Symphony in Three Movements, Rubies, Duo Concertant, Divertimento from ‘Le Baiser de la Fée’, Le Tombeau de Couperin, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Divertimento No 15, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Robbins’ The Cage, Circus Polka, Afternoon of a Faun, and Piano Pieces; and Peck’s Pulcinella Variations and Scherzo Fantastique.