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The surge of the Delta variant has prompted many dance companies to retool the holiday favorite. At New York City Ballet, there will be no performers under 12.There will be dancing snowflakes, spirited sword fights and a visit to the Land of Sweets.But in November, when New York City Ballet performs its first live “Nutcracker” in two years, one staple will be missing: children under 12, who typically fill the stage playing angels, mice, revelers and candy canes, and are often cast in the starring roles of Marie and the Prince.As dance companies around the country prepare for a new season amid a resurgence of the coronavirus, many are retooling “The Nutcracker,” the holiday classic that each year draws large audiences of children and their families.Some are imposing restrictions on performers and audience members under 12, who remain ineligible for vaccines. Others are trying to minimize contact between young artists and other dancers, by holding auditions over Zoom or equipping costumes with face masks.New York City Ballet announced Thursday it would limit its cast to performers 12 and older as part of safety protocols for its 47-show run of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker,” which opens the day after Thanksgiving and ends in January. Children under 12 will still be allowed in the audience, though they will have to provide negative virus test results.“This is really the only way we can get this production on safely,” Jonathan Stafford, the artistic director of New York City Ballet, said in an interview. He said the company is redesigning costumes to accommodate older, bigger children and casting taller adults in some scenes to ensure a visible height difference. The company has also hired an epidemiologist to consult on “The Nutcracker” and other productions.Children under 12 will not be allowed at other shows during the company’s season, only “The Nutcracker.” City Ballet, like many dance companies, is asking that audience members over 12 provide proof of vaccination to gain entry to “The Nutcracker” and other performances this season; they are also being required to wear masks.The party scene in New York City Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” in a 2016 performance.Andrea Mohin/The New York TimesThe stakes for “The Nutcracker” this year are especially high. The show will be a test of whether dance companies, which halted indoor performances for much of the pandemic, can operate safely.After enduring steep losses, many companies are hoping for a comeback with “The Nutcracker,” a financial lifeline in normal times. New York City Ballet, for example, typically receives about $15 million in ticket revenue from the show, almost half its yearly total.“We cannot go another year without this type of event that brings families into the theater, that provides a glimpse of what the world of ballet is like in an accessible way,” Stafford said.As theaters and concerts halls reopen, arts groups have struggled with how to handle young performers and audience members.Some children’s choruses and musical groups are on indefinite hiatus. Many performing arts venues, including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera, have announced plans to exclude children under 12 from attending performances until a vaccine is available.Concerns about the spread of the virus have forced arts leaders to be creative.The Met decided to cast an older, vaccinated boy in the role of a young Charles Blow, an Opinion columnist for The New York Times whose memoir is the inspiration for the opera “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” which opens in September. The Met is also having sopranos augment the voices of its children’s chorus in some productions, such as Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov,” since under-12 chorus members are not currently permitted inside the opera house. “Children are a major part of the Met experience, both as part of the audience and as performers,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager. “But that part of the Met is going to have to ease its way back as the vaccinations become more widely available.”An 11-year-old Athan Sporek rehearsing the battle scene for City Ballet’s 2018 production.Vincent Tullo for The New York Times“The Nutcracker” is especially challenging in a pandemic. Productions vary, but can involve casts of more than 100 children, in addition to dozens of adult dancers, musicians and stagehands. In many productions, children are a fixture, in scenes like the Christmas Eve party and the battle between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King.Crowding backstage is inevitable, and dressing rooms can feel like petri dishes.“It was hard during normal times to make it through ‘The Nutcracker,’ if we were attending 33 performances, without getting a little bit of a cold or something,” said Greg Cameron, president and chief executive of the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}To protect against an outbreak, the Joffrey is not having performers under 12, is enhancing cleaning protocols, and will be washing costumes more frequently. “We’re cautiously optimistic that it’s going to work,” Cameron said.Many companies, eager to maintain the family spirit of the show, have decided to allow children under 12 in the audience, though only with test results. It is unclear, however, if parents will go through the hassle of arranging tests for their children to attend the show.Arts leaders worry ticket sales could suffer amid the new rules.“It’s the thing that wakes me up at night,” said Shelly Power, executive director of the Philadelphia Ballet, which will require audience members under 12 to provide test results. “I want to bring the traditions back and at the same time keep people safe.”In some places, the restrictions have provoked pushback from parents. The Kansas City Ballet came under fire recently when it announced it would not allow children under 12 to attend. The company is also reducing its “Nutcracker” cast of children by 65 percent.“Our ultimate goal, of course, is to try and get everyone — both students onstage and audiences in the theater — to be able to come and see not only our ‘Nutcracker’ production, but everything we’re doing this year,” said Jeffrey J. Bentley, the ballet’s executive director.In Kansas City, “The Nutcracker” is a tradition that dates back more than three decades, though it was canceled last year, along with productions across the country. Parents with young children said they were disappointed they would not be able to partake again this year.Adam Travis, an accountant in Kansas City, had hoped to take his two daughters, who are 9 and 4 and taking ballet classes, to see the show. The production is a family tradition: They get dressed up, go out to dinner and sit in the same seats each year.“It was kind of a letdown,” Travis said. “We are just starting to get to a return-to-normal phase.”In New York and other large cities, where auditions for “The Nutcracker” are fiercely competitive, children under 12 will likely be disappointed to miss another opportunity to perform in the show. Many spend years awaiting a chance to perform in it, and it’s a rite of passage for aspiring dancers. The spotlight will fall this year instead on teenage dancers, who are often overshadowed in the production by their younger, more squirrelly counterparts.“There are parents who have an 8-year-old kid, a 9-year-old kid, a 10-year-old kid, who know that this is the window for their kid to be in ‘The Nutcracker,’” said Stafford of City Ballet. “It’s going to be tough and they’re going to have to work through that with their kids, who will also be disappointed that they won’t get a chance at it this year.”Despite the extra vigilance, many dancers said they were excited to have the chance to return to the stage.The Louisville Ballet held auditions late last month, with strict rules about masks and a grid on the floor to remind young dancers about social distancing. Eighty children auditioned, down from about 150 before the pandemic.“You could tell some of them were a bit deer-in-the-headlights about it, but still very happy and excited,” said Helen Daigle, who oversees the children’s cast.She said the company was committed to staging “The Nutcracker,” despite the pandemic, though she said safety would be the priority.“If we end up with half a cast of soldiers because somebody gets sick and we have to go through quarantine protocols, we will do it,” she said. “We will manage as we need to.”Continue Reading

A finance leader and Michael R. Bloomberg’s partner, Ms. Taylor is the first woman to chair the company’s board.Appointing a new leader to guide the company through its much-awaited reopening, the New York City Ballet voted to approve Diana L. Taylor — a finance leader and the partner of the former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — as the new chair of its board of directors, the company announced on Wednesday.Ms. Taylor will be the first woman to assume the role in the company’s 73-year history.As Mr. Bloomberg’s companion throughout his three terms as mayor, Ms. Taylor performed the typical duties of a first lady (such as attending City Ballet galas) while also leading her own career in government and finance. During Mr. Bloomberg’s tenure, she served as the superintendent of banking for the State of New York in Governor George E. Pataki’s administration, then as a managing director for a private equity firm.As for dance, Ms. Taylor recalls that her parents had a subscription to City Ballet and she would attend with her mother, but involvement in the art form is mostly new to her.“I’ve always liked the ballet; I don’t know that much about it, but I’ve liked it,” Ms. Taylor said in an interview. “I’ve never really been involved in the arts except as a spectator.”Mr. Bloomberg, on the other hand, was known as an arts-focused mayor, mostly because of his own personal giving. During his tenure, he gave more than $200 million to arts and social service groups around the city. (City Ballet lists Bloomberg Philanthropies as one of its midlevel donors, having contributed between $25,000 and $49,999 during this fiscal year.)It came as a surprise to Ms. Taylor when a member of the City Ballet search committee approached her to ask whether she would be interested in the position.“I practically fell off my chair and said, ‘Well, why me?,’” she said. “I went back and thought about it and said, ‘Wow, what a great experience.’ It’s such a well-respected ballet company; it’s one of the oldest in the world; it’s arts and culture in New York City, which is going to be so important in bringing us back from the pandemic.”Ms. Taylor’s experience in finance and nonprofit leadership were no doubt of interest to City Ballet as it seeks to bounce back from the pandemic, which led to the cancellation of four consecutive seasons and the 2020 “Nutcracker.” In a news release, the outgoing board chair, Charles W. Scharf, called Ms. Taylor a “formidable business leader” and the “ideal person to drive and guide the company forward into a thriving future.”Ms. Taylor — who briefly contemplated a run for public office — adds this role to a list of other board positions on her résumé, including at Citigroup and Accion, a microfinancing nonprofit.Leading City Ballet at this juncture will involve advising the company on numerous pandemic-related issues, including decisions around mask mandates and testing protocols as the season progresses. City Ballet says that it lost about $50 million in earned revenues because of the pandemic, but Ms. Taylor said the company entered the pandemic on solid financial footing and has remained in “pretty good shape” after cost-cutting and adapting to pandemic restrictions.City Ballet is set to return to the stage on Sept. 21 with a program featuring George Balanchine’s “Serenade.”Continue Reading

For the dancer, choreographer and director Francesca Harper, an “Ailey baby,” this new role is also a homecoming.Ailey II, the second company of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, has a new artistic director, Francesca Harper, the company announced on Wednesday.Harper, a dancer, choreographer and director, whose career has spanned the worlds of ballet and Broadway, may not have danced with either Ailey company, but she is no stranger to the organization. Her mother, Denise Jefferson, directed the Ailey School from 1984 until her death in 2010. Harper didn’t just attend dance classes at the school; she practically grew up there.“I’ve always admired how she navigated her career, sort of coming up as an Ailey baby but then charting her own course,” said Robert Battle, the artistic director of the Ailey company, who with Bennett Rink, the executive director of the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, chose Harper for the role. “She’s an inspiration for being bold and trying different things. The other part of it is just her as a teacher: She has that nurturing quality that is so important. I think she has the right amount of empathy, but discipline, to impart.”As a young dancer, Harper, who begins her new job on Sept. 7, was drawn to ballet. Alvin Ailey, who knew her since she was a toddler, encouraged her. “He used to walk around in socks, which was really fun,” she said. “He would come into the student lounge and he would ask us how we were, how our grades were all the time. I remember complaining about my feet being too big. And he says, ‘Francesca, the better to balance on. Don’t ever be self-conscious of your feet.’”Harper went on to become a member of Dance Theater of Harlem and William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt. She said Ailey told her: “‘You always have a home waiting for you.’ And here I am. Isn’t that something?”Harper, whose Broadway credits include “Fosse,” “All Shook Up” and “The Color Purple,” has taught at the Ailey school for more than two decades; she has choreographed two works for Ailey II and one for the main company. Since 2005, she has directed the Francesca Harper Project, but will be giving that up.During the pandemic, she has kept busy, but working behind the camera: She produced 16 virtual films.Harper first became interested in film in Frankfurt when Forsythe incorporated it into his work. “That’s also been one of my passions,” she said. “I could sit and edit at the computer for hours. It’s similar to choreography for me.”Battle said he was attracted to that breadth of artistry. “As we start to expand on this digital footprint into collaborations with different kinds of artists and companies and platforms,” he said, “she has already been leaning into that.”Harper succeeds Troy Powell, who was forced out of his job last summer amid allegations of “inappropriate communications” with adult students in the company’s training program.Ailey II will return to the stage in December with the Ailey company’s annual season at New York City Center, in which it will perform in Ailey’s “Memoria” and will present its own 2022 New York season March 23-April 3 at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, as well as a U.S. tour.While some members of Ailey II go on to join the main company, there aren’t spots for all. Harper, who called herself a “contact queen,” has relationships in all facets of the dance world. Connecting dancers with directors and companies is part of the job that she relishes.“That’s what I also saw my mom do, and she just got such pleasure,” Harper said. “I think that’s really just making these dreams happen. You fall in love. I know I’m going to fall in love with these company members and I want to make sure I take care of them.”Continue Reading

The digital season will include the premieres of four commissioned pieces and new duets by Kyle Abraham and Liz Gerring.Baryshnikov Arts Center will hold another free online season before welcoming audiences back to its theaters in spring. Mikhail Baryshnikov, who founded the institution in 2005, said the main reason for remaining virtual was a long-planned replacement of its building’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, which is to get underway in fall.The coming season will include the premieres of commissioned pieces by River L. Ramirez, a comedian and musician (Oct. 18 to Nov. 1); the dancer Sooraj Subramaniam (Nov. 1-15); Jordan Demetrius Lloyd, a New York City dance artist (Nov. 29 to Dec. 13); and the dance duo Molly Lieber and Eleanor Smith (Jan. 10-24).This is the second round of new work that the center has supported during the pandemic. The first was streamed during its spring 2021 season, and featured pieces by Stefanie Batten Bland, Mariana Valencia and Bijayini Satpathy.“Instead of doing virtual galas, we decided to celebrate artists and their creativity,” Baryshnikov said of the choice to focus on commissioning. This emphasis, he added, is in keeping with the center’s primary mission, which is to help artists develop and experiment “without commercial pressure.”The choreographers Kyle Abraham and Liz Gerring will also present new dances through the center this fall. Each has made a duet in response to Merce Cunningham’s “Landrover” (1972). Their contributions, commissioned by the center and the Merce Cunningham Trust, will stream Sept. 20-30 in an online program alongside solos and duets from Cunningham’s work performed by Jacquelin Harris and Chalvar Monteiro of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.Two filmed solos by the Swedish choreographer Mats Ek (streaming Oct. 4-14); and “Pigulim,” a filmed dance-theater work by Ella Rothschild, an Israeli choreographer and former Batsheva Dance Company performer (available Dec. 13-23), round out the announced slate.For Baryshnikov, it has been “a pleasant surprise” to see that the performing arts can be successfully created, shared and enjoyed in digital forms. “Thousands of people have been watching the online programming and we got so many responses from all over the world,” he said.There are creative benefits to filming work that would otherwise be presented live onstage as well. “We gave artists the opportunity to really be in charge of their own presentation,” he said. “It’s a new medium — you have to be a cameraman or a director besides being a choreographer or a composer or an instrumentalist or a singer.”Continue Reading

La merda d'artista diventa digitale

A sessanta anni dalla celebre serie Merda d’Artista di Piero Manzoni, la sua idea rivive in un’opera d’arte digitale, $HT Coin. L’idea è di White Male Artist, che ha realizzato 33 gif di lattine, ognuna certificata via NFT e dedicata a un famoso artista (rigorosamente maschio). Le lattine sono ‘prodotte’,Continue Reading