NEW YORK - With arts organizations around New York City struggling with indefinite closures and layoffs, a pre-eminent dance company is defying the odds.

Despite cancelling its spring and fall season, American Ballet Theatre is busier than ever.

What You Need To Know

  • American Ballet Theatre cancelled spring and fall seasons, tours, but keeps entire company busy and employed

  • 90 dancers, 65 musicians, 70 administrative staff, 15 production crew members among those part of fundraising, development department

  • All dancers took class on how to create videos for TikTok, including soloist Skylar Brandt, who has hundreds of thousands of views

  • With short career spans because of the physically grueling nature of ballet, it is devastating for dancers to lose an entire year

Ok, it’s not Swan Lake, but American Ballet Theatre (ABT) dancer Skylar Brandt has trained for this new role. In fact, all of ABT’s dancers have taken a class on how to create TikTok videos.

"I've been bonding a lot with my sister Taylor, we've been doing TikToks together,” said Brandt, a soloist. “I've got my parents involved and, you know, it's a riot.”

It’s been a hit with some getting half a million views. The entire ABT team has kept busy during the coronavirus pandemic that forced performing organizations to cancel their seasons. Everyone in the organization was asked to submit a list of skills and contribute in new ways, creating content for social media, teaching, there’s even a cookbook in the works.

Everyone — 90 dancers, 65 musicians, 70 administrative staff, 15 crew — is now part of the fundraising department.

"We have to shift right now. It's not a live production paradigm right now. We are creating intimate content. All of our traditional revenue source is gone, right? No ticket sales, no touring fees. We need to really strengthen our fundraising efforts," Executive Director Kara Barnett said.

Dancer Connor Holloway is excited to lead a robust social media campaign but worries about the future, as dancers often have short career spans.

"I felt like at the age that I'm at, the place that I'm at in the company, I was really building up and getting stronger and getting new opportunities,” Holloway said. “It's just disappointing to lose that sort of momentum.”

For soloist Calvin Royal III, this was to be his year.

"I was going to be making the title debut as Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet” alongside Misty Copeland,” Royal said. “It was going to be huge and historic night. It was kind of like one of those career-defining moments for me.”

Still, they continue to train and dance in the virtual realm.

"Of course nothing beats a live audience and that's something that I'm really, really missing, but in the meantime to be able to make a video that honestly lives on forever as a performance, which is such a fleeting moment in time, there's a lot of satisfaction and gratification in that," Brandt said.


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Main story image: Skylarbrandt/Instagram


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