National ballet company predicts largest audience in years for return after Covid stop

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The American Ballet Theater — the nation’s national ballet company — has announced it will return to the stage in New York City in October, a year after the suspension of indoor performances due to Covid.

“We can’t wait to see ABT in the Lincoln Center theaters that are our home,” ABT director Kara Medoff Barnett told CNBC’s “Worldwide Exchange” on Friday. “We know our New York fans are eager to see ABT’s performers take the stage again.”

ABT just completed a nationwide tour that took 20 of its 84 dancers, along with 28 supporting crew, to eight different states. The company performed outdoors, in socially distancing venues, and Barnett said it will learn from the protocols it developed this summer to ensure a safe season indoors in the fall.

“We want to continue our commitment to keep our artists, staff and audience safe,” Barnett said. “That was definitely what we thought of when we planned our outdoor tour, keeping the public out while we have the summer sun.”

Since the last fall season in 2019, ABT had to cancel its in-person performances and switch to digital programming, like many ballet companies across the country and the world.

Barnett said the pandemic has been a time of adjustment and learning for the entire company. “We always think, especially in the last year and a half, what is plan B, plan C,” she added. “We are agile in more ways than one.”

During the Lincoln Center season, which will take place in the last two weeks of October, performances may require proof of vaccination or a Covid negative test, subject to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The tickets will be refunded until 12:00 on the day of the performance, in case of last minute changes for audience members.

“We work very closely with our Lincoln Center locations. We work closely with our medical advisor. And we are determined to find ways to continue the mission of this company that has been bringing extraordinary art to the public for 81 years.” pursue,” Barnett told CNBC.

This season’s performances will include the classical ballet “Giselle” as well as three of the 22 works developed over the course of last year, while dancers were broken up into 11 creative bubbles.

“We’re bringing three of the works created in these residency bubbles to the New York public for their live onstage premieres,” Barnett said. “They’ve had digital premieres, they’ve had outdoor premieres across the country — but now we’re bringing them to Lincoln Center.”

The performances of “ABT Across America,” which concluded Wednesday in New York City, were largely free. But for a company that saw 36% of its revenue come from ticket sales in 2018, the return of a full program is integral to future success and longevity.

Barnett is not worried about the recovery period and says he is very optimistic about the demand for live performances. “I think there’s so much pent-up demand for the performing arts, so much pent-up demand for collective activities and experiences and the joy of celebrating together. I really think we can predict that we’re going to have the biggest audience we’ve seen in years. “

“We had 6,000 people, 8,000 people in these parks watching ballet under the stars,” Barnett added, referring to the cross-country tour. “I think the public is ready, they missed us and are eager to come back.”

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