For Colorado dancers like 41-year-old Yosvani Ramos, COVID-19 has taken away vital chances to perform, particularly with the cancellation of every 2020 Colorado Ballet performance post-February. But the pandemic has also given something to dancers: A renewed perspective on the importance of every moment in their careers.
“Having lost the whole of 2020 was a difficult pill to swallow. For dancers, every production, every month, every year counts,” Ramos said. “I don’t want to fade out in the middle of a pandemic. I want to finish on my own terms and enjoy the last years of my dancing career.”
Now, he and his fellow dancers are just hoping that next season, there will be a Colorado Ballet for them to come back to.
By the end of 2020, Colorado Ballet will have lost almost $4 million in revenue since the beginning of the pandemic, said the ballet’s artistic director, Gil Boggs — and as a result, the nonprofit furloughed 51 dancers at the beginning of September. As the dancers navigate unfamiliar territory, they’re also working with the community to save the ballet through the Colorado Ballet’s Relief and Recovery Fund. Launched in September, the campaign asks the community to help fundraise $3 million to keep the nonprofit alive.
“The arts are really the heart of Denver, and it’s important we continue to have that,” dance apprentice Ever Larson said. “Being furloughed was heartbreaking but I am hopeful that we can continue to get funding for the arts.”
Many dancers, including Ramos and dancers Francesca Martoccio and Nicolas Pelletier, have started their own fundraising teams to raise money for the fund. Some of the teams have set fundraising goals as high as $25,000, Boggs said.
“It’s been a long period of time where we’ve had to manage and find new ways to be comfortable that don’t involve performing, which is what we’re used to,” Pelletier said. “I know a lot of dancers who are looking elsewhere for anything they can get. We definitely need support now more than ever.”
If all goes according to plan, the ballet plans to bring back the dancers in January 2021. Through its reserve funding, the nonprofit is currently able to provide dancers with a supplemental unemployment benefit, even while the dancers are no longer receiving a salary.
Meanwhile, some of the dancers are also finding virtual opportunities to keep performing, including through the organization’s Where Ballet Meets You virtual performance series, HOPE. The first original piece in the series came out on September 25 and starred Martoccio and Pelletier.
“Right now, people would not feel safe going to a theater. The more of these projects we do, the better,” Martoccio said. “This is the longest a lot of us have gone without dancing regularly. The arts are an integral part of all of our lives, and that’s all the more reason to support our dancers.”
In addition to the fundraiser, community members can support the ballet by purchasing tickets for one of its 2021 shows. The ballet’s next in-person show, The Great Gatsby, is scheduled to open February 5 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver. Tickets go on sale December 1.
Learn more about the Relief and Recovery Fund or make a donation here.
Update: On October 6, the Colorado Ballet announced that a couple, who has asked to stay anonymous, has awarded a matching grant to the ballet. The couple will match all donations made to the ballet from October 1 to November 15 at a 2:1 ratio, up to $250,000 in donations. If $250,000 is raised in that timeframe, the matching grant will add to that amount for a total of $750,000.