Coronavirus forces Sacramento Ballet to cancel season, artistic director laid off

Laveta Brigham

The Sacramento Ballet has canceled its performances for the 2020-21 season and announced its artistic director will be leaving her job, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the local arts community. The Ballet canceled its upcoming season because of “public health concerns and the widespread economic impact” of COVID-19 […]

The Sacramento Ballet has canceled its performances for the 2020-21 season and announced its artistic director will be leaving her job, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the local arts community.

The Ballet canceled its upcoming season because of “public health concerns and the widespread economic impact” of COVID-19 on the Sacramento region, according to a news release issued Friday afternoon.

Sacramento Ballet Board Co-President Suzanne Rogers said they had to make difficult decisions to ensure the Ballet’s sustainability.

She said they were deeply saddened to cancel the upcoming season, as arts organizations both in the Sacramento region and nations face “unprecedented pressures and detrimental economic challenges.”

“Because of public-health concerns, we were unable to perform in March and May, and with COVID(-19) continuing to compromise opportunity and close down theaters, we do not have the ability to perform this upcoming fall or winter,” Rogers said in the release.

Canceling the Ballet’s holiday performance of “The Nutcracker” created a huge financial challenge, since it’s the organization’s single-largest source of revenue.

Without it, the Ballet doesn’t have the money to support its artistic and production staff and its facility costs, according to the release. So, the ballet cannot perform from January to June 2021.

Amy Seiwert, who first joined the Sacramento Ballet as a dancer in 1991, will be departing from her role as artistic director. Without ticket revenue, the Ballet could not continue to employ Seiwert despite its best efforts, according to the release.

“The last two years in Sacramento have been a tremendous gift, and I thank the dancers, collaborators and designers with whom I have had the opportunity to create,” Seiwert said in the release. “Also, gratitude to the children and parents involved in my new The Nutcracker. It was a tremendous undertaking and could not have happened without the support of such a strong community.”

Seiwert began working as artistic director in 2018, when she was just the seventh woman to lead a professional ballet company in the United States, according to the Sacramento Ballet. Officials said the Sacramento Ballet grew under Seiwert’s leadership, gaining national status for presenting works from some of the most sought-after choreographers in the country.

The Sacramento Ballet expects to resume performances in its 2021-22 season, including “The Nutcracker” and “Beer & Ballet.” The ballet will maintain its School of Sacramento Ballet, which serves more than 500 youths and adults online and its studios, when possible.

The ballet’s subscription, called the SacBallet Fansters Pass, will continue. It includes access to virtual performances and discounts on online dance classes. The online service also offers streamed archived performances.

Seiwert oversaw the Ballet’s switch to virtual programming after the coronvirus pandemic started in March. The Ballet maintained a performance presence with the virtual programming, and it provided safe and socially-distanced dance classes to children, adults and seniors.

The Sacramento Ballet’s Board Co-President Alyssa Paoletti said she’s confident the organization will “emerge stronger than ever” in the following performance season.

“We feel for our beautiful dancers, whose finely tuned careers have hit this pandemic roadblock,” Paoletti said in the news release. “And we are extremely sorry to see Amy Seiwert move on. She has had such an extraordinary impact on the company, our artists and the art form.“

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