New York City Ballet is set to resume live performances in 2021, but not until the fall. On Friday the company announced the cancellation of its winter and spring seasons and shared its plans to return to the David H. Koch Theater in September with a robust slate of programming that includes the debuts of new work by Sidra Bell and Andrea Miller.
The company also announced that three principals, Maria Kowroski, Ask la Cour and Gonzalo Garcia, would be retiring during the 2021-22 engagements.
“We’re deeply sad and we’re disappointed that we have to keep ourselves off the stage for this much longer,” Jonathan Stafford, the company’s artistic director, said in an interview. “Live performance is why we do what we do, to be in front of an audience with an orchestra behind us playing beautiful music.”
City Ballet is not the first major performing arts organization in New York to extend its shutdown deep into next year. Broadway theaters will remain closed until at least May 2021 and the Metropolitan Opera isn’t planning to return to Lincoln Center until September.
“It takes a long time to build up to a season,” said Katherine Brown, City Ballet’s executive director. “Looking at the trajectory of the virus and the advice from health care professionals, we would not be able to have the time to ramp up, even if it’s possible to perform in the spring, which it just doesn’t look like it’s going to be.”
After their long layoff, the company’s dancers will have more time than usual to train so that they can safely meet the rigors of performing again regularly. “They can’t just go from being at home trying to stay somewhat fit to being on onstage performing our rep at the highest level,” Mr. Stafford said. “It would be irresponsible of us to ask them to do that and it would lead to injuries.”
Despite the scheduling setback and ongoing uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, the leaders of City Ballet have set their sights high for the 2012-22 season. In addition to the Bell and Miller premieres in the fall and regular performances of the company’s sterling repertory, the season’s winter portion will also include a ballet by Jamar Roberts that was originally supposed to debut this spring and a new work by Justin Peck, the company’s resident choreographer.
Two more world premieres will follow in the spring of 2022: one from the former City Ballet dancer Silas Farley and the other a previously announced piece by Pam Tanowitz set to Ted Hearne’s “Law of Mosaics.”
Ms. Kowroski and Mr. la Cour will dance their farewell performances in October, and Mr. Garcia in February. The departures are offset by the addition of Chun Wai Chan, a former principal dancer with the Houston Ballet, who will join the company as a soloist next year.
While the fall may feel a long way off, the company is already beginning to prepare for its return. Dancers have started to use studio space on a single occupancy basis and the hope is that their ability to train in person will soon increase further.
Mr. Stafford said, “We are working on getting the studios in a place where the dancers can safely take class every day, work out, work through some of the rep, and stuff that they would want to practice so that they can keep their bodies conditioned.”