Joffrey Ballet cancels 2020-21 season …

In 'painful' decision, Joffrey Ballet of Chicago cancels 2020-21 season

 

In 'painful’ decision, Joffrey Ballet of Chicago cancels 2020-21 season
The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago announced Thursday that it has scrapped the remainder of its 2020-21 season at the Lyric Opera House, through the end of next spring. (Cheryl Mann photo)

The canceled programing includes the world premiere of Cathy Marston’s “Of Mice and Men” and the Joffrey premiere of George Balanchine’s “Serenade” (slated for Feb. 17-28, 2021), as well as the Chicago premiere of John Neumeier’s “The Little Mermaid” (April 21-May 2, 2021). Previously, Joffrey had canceled this fall’s production of Kenneth MacMillan’s “Manon” (Oct. 14-25) and the first staging at the Lyric of Christopher Wheeldon’s “The Nutcracker” (December 5-27), typically a huge source of revenue for the company and a highlight of the holiday season in Chicago, drawing tens of thousands to the Loop.

The Joffrey said that the decision, sparked by the COVID-19 crisis, will cost the non-profit institution in excess of $9 million at the box office. A philanthropic fund, dubbed the Joffrey Crisis Stabilization Fund, has been set up to address the disparity and cover basic operations costs through the fall of 2021. The ballet said the fund currently has raised about $9 million toward its $12 million goal. The company has not laid off its company of dancers, guaranteeing their existing contracts through next May.

As is typical with such announcements in this pandemic, the Joffrey also announced a new virtual programming initiative, the Joffrey Studio Series, designed to invite audiences to the studios at Joffrey Tower in Chicago’s Loop for interviews and behind-the-scenes content. Additionally, the Joffrey said it was beginning a new “25 for 25,” a year-long series of “free performances, programs, and partnerships with peer organizations” from around the city, celebrating 25 years since the company arrived in Chicago. Further details of what that means are yet to come.

Those efforts are possible due to the Joffrey’s company returning to its studios, but they hardly compare with the loss of such major performances showcasing the city’s premiere ballet company. In a statement, artistic director Ashley Wheater called this “yet another painful decision, especially for the artists.”

“Robert Joffrey founded this company based on innovation,” Wheater also said. "We will carry on that legacy and bring art to the world regardless of the circumstances.”

 

 

Chris Jones
The Chicago Tribune
October 1, 2020