Despite COVID-19, American Ballet Theatre Dancers Are Keeping Busy

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a lover of the arts, you are aware that the arts are in a holding period while nations grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. And it seems as we contend with a second round of COVID-19 infections, it appears that stage performances in New York City and other international capitals are postponed or have very limited access until late spring 2021. That’s right no Broadway shoes, music concerts, and as we move to the holiday season, no “Nutcracker.”

That said; international artists are not sitting on their laurels waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine. Principal dancer Misty Copeland earlier in the year launched a relief fund for ballet dancers that were out of work due to COVID-19 pandemic. This GoFundMe campaign, ”Swans for Relief” is raising $500,000 for unemployed dancers. (Contrary to popular belief, ballet dancers do eat food.)

“In these unpredictable times, ballet companies—like many organizations—are fighting to survive,” Copeland and co-founder Joseph Phillips wrote in a joint statement. “Ballet companies are largely dependent on revenue from performances to pay their dancers and fund their operations, but we are now confronting the uncertainty of when we will return to the stage and once again fill performance venues.”

“Art brings people together to provide a beautiful escape, and ballet in particular is a very unifying experience both on and off the stage, filled with history and imagination,” Copeland said in a statement. “Throughout my career, it has been very important for me to bring more attention and awareness to this art form. The theater thrives on people coming together to experience a performance. Because of the coronavirus, the livelihood and careers of dancers are in jeopardy, and this will continue to have massive effects even after we start to re-open our cities.”

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Misty Copeland is not only ballet dancer keeping busy. (And in case you are not in the know, Misty Copeland 3.1 million-dollar Upper Westside apartment, you missed an elegant treat. During ABT’s layoff, Copeland had time to decorate her apartment, that she purchased in 2018 and have it photographed for Architectural Digest.) American Ballet Theatre soloist Gabe Stone Shayer has partnered with CHANEL to launch “Pas de Deux,” a limited documentary series exploring the intersection of dance and other diverse art forms.

Coco Chanel was big ballet fan, creating costumes for the Ballets Russes’ ballets “La Chatte” and “Le Train Bleu.” And we know that Coco Chanel had an affair with Igor Stravinsky, the composer of the music for the ballet “La Chatte.” In that respect, Coco Chanel was a true collaborator.

Gabe Stone Shayer at the Apollo Theater, courtesy of Gabe Stone Shayer. Alicia Keys by James Bailey.

The limited documentary series “Pas de Deux” are short 15-minute episodes takes viewers into the homes and workspaces of each dancer and collaborator, allowing these diverse creators the opportunity to connect virtually for an exchange of ideas. Pas de Deux is inspired by one of those nights in New York City where you meet interesting people who inspire you,” said Shayer.  “The idea first hit me when thinking about how I could continue to create in quarantine.  I wanted to highlight the innovation that is magnified by an artist feeling stifled.  I’m obsessed with multimedia collaborations and felt this was the moment where we could explore the intersection of art and artists.”

Creative pairings include:

  • ABT Principal Dancer Isabella Boylston with master chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson
  • ABT Principal Dancer Cassandra Trenary with Kat Sullivan, Artist in Residence at RLAB, New York City’s virtual and augmented reality lab
  • ABT Soloist Luciana Paris with visual artist Chloe Wise
  • “Pas de Deux” creator and ABT Soloist Shayer with Grammy Award®-winning singer, songwriter and actor Alicia Keys. Additional dance footage for this episode was directed and filmed by Pierce Jackson.

The first in this series of mini documentaries aired on October 29 on American Ballet Theatre’s YouTube channel and IGTV.

—William S. Gooch




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