We’ll miss you, Sugar Plum Fairy. This morning Houston Ballet announced major changes to its 2020-2021 season—including the cancellation of its annual production of Tchaikovsky’s beloved The Nutcracker.
The cancellation is a major blow to the Ballet, which, according to the press release, lost $1.3 million in revenue when it was forced to cut its 50th anniversary season short earlier this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. A staple in the company’s season and one of Houston’s biggest holiday shows overall, The Nutcracker, originally slated for November 27 through December 27, 2020, generates $5 million for the company, per the release.
While the news is sure to disappoint Houstonians young and old who make the fantastical fantasy ballet a tradition each holiday season, the cancellation is not exactly shocking. Other major ballet companies, including Joffrey Ballet, New York City Ballet, and Pennsylvania Ballet, have all scrapped their own Nutcrackers, the Washington Post reported at the beginning of this month. But it’s a blow either way; a production of the Christmas ballet can generate upwards of 45 percent of a company’s revenue.
Nutcracker isn’t the Ballet’s only 2020-2021 season show that’s had the curtain closed on it. Season package repertories, Love Letters (September 11–20) and Mayerling (September 24 through October 4) have also been cancelled. Instead, the Ballet hopes to begin its in-person season with the Margaret Alkek Williams Jubilee of Dance in December. The company also announced that approximately 30 percent of its full-time staff have been laid off until further notice, and those who remain have seen salary cuts. Dancers and orchestra members have also been put on extended leave without a specific return date. In the meantime, the Ballet has launched a $5 million fundraising campaign to restore its artists and staff.
Though all this news is sure to hurt arts lovers throughout the Bayou City, the Ballet isn’t going anywhere, its leaders reassure. After all, the company has faced similarly trying times before, as recently as Hurricane Harvey. “We are not finished creating,” Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch said in a statement. “We’ve demonstrated that time and time again. While the future is uncertain, this is not. We can and will bring high-quality art to this city through dance, whether you see it from the house of a theater or your living room couch.”