Downtown Devil: Ballet Arizona returns for a revived 36th anniversary season

Downtown Devil: Ballet Arizona returns for a revived 36th anniversary season

Ballet Arizona returns for a revived 36th anniversary season to bring shows to a large, live audience once again with a full lineup beginning this holiday season.

The ballet’s 2021-2022 season features a world premiere of a new ballet, “Juan Gabriel,” and innovative choreography and works under the artistic direction of Ib Anderson, a former dancer of the New York City Ballet, to bring its audience the performances they have always remembered and introduce them to new ones.

Ballet Arizona is Arizona’s professional ballet company that was founded in 1986 with its facility located in downtown Phoenix. It employs 30 professional dancers, and is also home to the School of Ballet Arizona for individuals aged 4-20.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, the arts community across the nation felt its effects to a large extent, unable to put on shows or exhibits, and fearful of where their businesses and entities would end up in the future.

Ballet Arizona, a company with almost half of its revenue coming from ticket sales and donors, greatly felt these financial concerns caused by the pandemic.

“When the pandemic hit, we had to stop doing everything like every other business,” Samantha Turner, executive director of Ballet Arizona, said. “We had to stop rehearsals and stop performances — we saw almost a total of $4 million of our $8 million budget just stop.”

Within this $8 million budget, Turner says almost $3.5 million comes from ticket sales of the ballet, and another $1.4 million from the school’s tuition and revenue.

Like all other organizations and schools during this time, the ballet moved to virtual classes for both its professional dancers and its students. During its 2020-2021 season, in August 2020, the professional dancers were able to rehearse on-site with physical distancing, sanitization protocols, and mask wearing.

The company also held small, intimate shows during this previous season at its on-site Dorrance Theatre on Washington Street where no more than 50-60 guests were in attendance. Some of these performances were filmed and able to be live streamed for free or at a small-ticket price for the audience, according to Turner.

“In the overall arts community, [the pandemic] drew all of us together to collaborate where we could support each other,” Turner said. “How it affected our dancers and our employees, we all just appreciate [each other] so much more the opportunity to do what we do, and we are grateful for all of the support around us.”

The ballet received “extraordinary government support” during this time, from grants and forgivable loans, and donor contributions that kept its organization going. One donor organized a fundraising campaign that raised $1.3 million throughout the pandemic for the ballet.

“We are still very much feeling the effects of the pandemic, and with the health threat still being out there,” Turner said. “We really had to shift and find ways to make sure everyone is safe and healthy, and manage dealing with all the health and safety protocol for the dancers, backstage, and for patrons and our employees [for the upcoming shows].”

Ballet Arizona opened its season on October 29, with its first show “Contemporary Moves: An Evening of Three Short Ballets.”

For the holidays, Ballet Arizona returns to open its beloved “Nutcracker” show on December 10, and it will run through December 24 at Symphony Hall with live music from the Phoenix Symphony.

Related: The Phoenix Symphony celebrates 75 years

“The audiences can expect to see the show they remembered — all the production values and all the dancers will look as they always have, and the audience can expect to go back to normal a little bit,” Turner said.

In addition to their holiday shows this season, Ballet Arizona will be opening the world premiere of a brand new ballet, “Juan Gabriel,” on May 5 right here in the Phoenix under Andersen’s artistic direction, and inspired by the iconic Mexican singer, songwriter and composer Juan Gabriel.

“We’re really excited because it’s going to add an entirely different new perspective to ballet as it’s focused on an artist from Mexico,” Turner said. “It’s an opportunity to connect with a new community that may not typically consider entering the ballet.”

“Juan Gabriel” will run from May 5-8.

Other shows of Ballet Arizona’s 2021-2022 professional season include “Romeo & Juliet,” “All Balanchine,” and concluding with “An Evening at Desert Botanical Garden.”

Tickets can be purchased directly on Ballet Arizona’s website or here.

Contact the reporter at jnwatso4@asu.edu.

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