Colorado Ballet has furloughed all of its dancers

“It’s a lot of emotions… I’m 41. So I’m enjoying the last few years of my career. So 2020 hasn’t been a great year.”

Michelle and Rebecca, who dance with the Colorado Ballet Academy, perform at CultureHaus: Art of the Figure in the Denver Art Museum, Feb. 17, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Michelle and Rebecca, who dance with the Colorado Ballet Academy, perform at CultureHaus: Art of the Figure in the Denver Art Museum, Feb. 17, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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After a hiatus of several months, it looked like Colorado Ballet was finally ready to jump back into rehearsals. The dancers met over Zoom, learning choreography for their 2021 shows from their own bedrooms, living rooms, garages and basements. Yosvani Ramos, a dancer at the Ballet, even bought a piece of shower pan liner to put on his floor to keep himself from slipping while he rehearsed.

These virtual rehearsals had been running for five weeks when Ramos got the news: Colorado Ballet’s PPP loan had run out, and he and the rest of Colorado Ballet’s dancers were being furloughed.

“It’s not until you get told the news is confirmed that you realize that it’s really, really happening,” Ramos said.

He said that it was a complicated thing to process, knowing how many arts organizations are suffering in Denver and beyond.

“It’s a lot of emotions. I, myself personally, I’m 41. So I’m enjoying the last few years of my career. So 2020 hasn’t been a great year.”

This week, Colorado Ballet announced that it was furloughing all of its company and studio company dancers in response to COVID-19. The organization has also reduced the salaries of staff members at all levels within its administrative, art and teaching departments. These changes will hold until at least January 2021, when rehearsals for the Ballet’s next season are scheduled to resume.

Artistic Director Gil Boggs said that while the decision to make these changes wasn’t easy, it was necessary to remain viable as an organization.

“The decision process was very painful,” Boggs said. “When I say we want to be viable coming out of this, it’s realizing that we’re taking those hits, we need to preserve our reserves as best as possible so that we can keep people employed to whatever extent is possible, but also keep this organization alive. So that when we come out of this, we can keep our employees here and working.”

Boggs said the dancers are guaranteed 20 weeks of work, so that come January, they’ll be paid regardless of whether or not they’re allowed to perform.

Colorado Ballet had previously been forced to cancel all performances through 2020 in response to the pandemic, a move that’s proven very challenging, as ticketed live performances had been the company’s main source of revenue. Boggs said they’d received a PPP loan that carried the company through to August 31. Now that that’s up, Colorado Ballet currently stands to lose close to $4 million from 2020’s canceled shows.

The Ballet recently launched a Relief and Recovery fund to make up for its losses, with a goal of raising $3 million. Ramos said he and other dancers are using social media and online platforms to try to engage audiences and raise money for the fund. Ramos himself has already raised close to $3,000.

“I’m someone that personally when when you know something difficult happens, I try not to spend too much time being down about it,” Ramos said. “Just like, OK, this is what happened, and what can we do about it?”

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