Ballet Kelowna feeling the impact of COVID-19 shutdowns

CEO said dancers are channeling efforts, energy to keeping community active

They were supposed to be rehearsing for their first full-length commissioned performance ‘Macbeth’.

But right now, Ballet Kelowna dancers are all staying home like many residents, waiting for the pandemic to ease.

The company’s artistic director and CEO Simone Orlando said they stopped operations on March 17, while rehearsing for ‘Macbeth’.

“(Macbeth) was supposed to be the final production of our 2019/2020 season. It was very heartbreaking not only for the dancers, but for the choreographer, myself, and the whole organization,” she said.

“We had such high hopes for this piece and the work that had been done on it was absolutely amazing. We are hopeful that we will produce the work in the future. We’re just not too sure when yet.”

Much of the dance company’s revenue comes from ticket sales, donations, as well as the adult ballet classes they offer. Once ‘Macbeth’ was postponed and the classes were suspended, Ballet Kelowna lost that revenue.

“We’re all trying to figure out how to get through this. Earned revenue is a big part of our budget and once ‘Macbeth’ was postponed, it left a big gap in our revenue for the year. And of course, not knowing when we can do a performance in the future makes it extremely difficult to look ahead and plan.”

Despite cancelling in-person classes, Orlando said her artists chose to continue teaching from their homes for free, so they can give back to the community during this time.

“We’ve been able to make a bit of an adjustment there so our dancers are hosting the classes on Zoom and it’s really made our program participants happy because it keeps them engaged and connected with everyone,” she said.

“We really wanted to do something to try to help out. We know everyone is at home. We also have instructors from all over the country joining in, with instructors from Montreal and Edmonton and even New York.”

She added the dancers have also launched a ‘Choreographing from Home’ project, where they choreograph for each other through online conference calls.

“I’m really excited to see what they all come up with, mostly because they’re in their kitchen and are holding onto counters, chairs, and tables. It’s a very different type of space and experience.”

As for when ‘Macbeth’ will premiere, Orlando said they hope to have it open their 2020/2021 season in November. If not then, she said they may push it to fit their spring program next year.

Orlando said many performing arts organizations are feeling the hit, and are all adjusting to the circumstances in their own way.

“We all need the support of our community to help us along… yes, there are tools and emergency funding that we can use to help us in the next six months, but if things go beyond that, that’s when things are going to get very very difficult.”

“I’m optimistic, but we all really need the support of our communities,” she added.

To donate to Ballet Kelowna, visit their website.

READ: Central Okanagan politicians join forces to ensure economic strength following pandemic

READ: Ballet Kelowna explores love in Valentine’s Day show

Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
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