2019/20 AGM: The National Ballet of Canada Posts Modest Deficit in Season Cut Short by COVID-19

October 29, 2020… Karen Kain, Artistic Director of The National Ballet of Canada, and Barry Hughson, Executive Director, today announced that the 2019/20 season concluded with a deficit for the first time since 2009, a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Annual General Meeting was held today at 7:00 pm virtually from Toronto.

Cornell C.V. Wright, Board Chair of The National Ballet of Canada, reported that the COVID-19-adjusted company revenues were $32.8 million with expenses at $33.1 million resulting in a deficit of $303,000.

“The 2019/20 season brought immense success and opportunity before closing prematurely due to COVID-19. We are enormously grateful for our donors, audiences, artists and staff for setting us in good stead to weather this storm and for continuing to stand with us as we work to create a bright future for this much-loved organization,” said Mr. Wright.

“2020 has been a year for the record books and not in the way we had planned. It was to be a year of celebrating Karen Kain’s 50th anniversary. While it breaks my heart that we didn’t get to finish this very special season, there are still many things to celebrate,” said Mr. Hughson. “Prior to March 12, when we gave our last performance, we were on track to meet or exceed box office and fundraising goals and operational expenses were right on target. From March to June, we moved from theoretical resilience to the real thing and I am so proud of how every member of this company rose to the truly unprecedented challenges of this pandemic. Despite box office losses of $4.9 million dollars, through cost cutting, government wage subsidy, performance interruption insurance and the support of our donors and subscribers, we were able to pay our dancers and musicians, as well as the majority of our administrative and production staff, fully to the end of the fiscal year on June 30. We ended the season with a modest deficit, our first since 2009. We know the most challenging part of this journey is not behind us but ahead of us and we will need the continued support of our donors, subscribers and government partners to get to the other side. But it is my belief that the arts will see an exciting renaissance in the years following COVID-19. People will flock back to theatres once again because they will know what the world feels like without theatres, live performances and shared human experiences. We just have to get there and together, we will.”

Mr. Hughson’s Full Message >

“When we reflect on the 2019/20 season, what inevitably comes to mind are the significant, ongoing challenges brought on by the pandemic. But nothing can diminish what The National Ballet of Canada achieved, both onstage and off, leading up to that moment in March when everything closed,” said Ms. Kain. “The 2019/20 season performances were some of the finest and most memorable of my career as Artistic Director. There were many highlights including the realization of a 10-year dream of mine to have Crystal Pite return to the company. Her breathtaking creation, Angels’ Atlas, is a ballet as rich in beauty, mystery and human yearning as anything that I have seen. The company also dazzled audiences and critics alike in Washington D.C. in performances of The Sleeping Beauty with Sarah Kaufman of The Washington Post hailing our production: ‘I have seen many “Sleeping Beauties,” but never a finer one than this moving and beautiful production.’ We also performed a mixed programme of William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude and Approximate Sonata 2016 with Alexei Ratmansky’s Piano Concerto #1 and Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort. The Toronto season featured the exciting world premiere of Orpheus Alive by Choreographic Associate Robert Binet and outstanding performances by our Principal women in the title role of Giselle. We also said farewell to Principal Dancer Greta Hodgkinson in the company premiere of Marguerite and Armand after a stellar 30-year career. We had just begun a run of performances of Alexei Ratmansky’s Romeo and Juliet when things came to a halt as performance venues closed. Since then, the world as we knew it has changed. We have been faced with challenges unforeseen and still unfolding and we don’t know what the future holds, but I am so proud of this organization for the resiliency and spirit that everyone has brought to facing these challenges.

Ms. Kain’s Full Message >

The National Ballet presented 2,878 performances and community events, plus many digital initiatives, with a total overall reach of 5,553,239.

Prior to the cancellation of performances due to the pandemic, there were 56 performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts with 94,262 in attendance. The company held 2,810 live and digital community events reaching 195,328 people. The National Ballet’s virtual initiatives including video, social media and email campaigns had a total reach of 5,247,705.

On tour, the National Ballet performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and Fall for Dance North at Meridian Hall in Toronto for a total of 10 performances and 15,684 audience members.

YOU dance, the company’s flagship community engagement programme, reached 6,660 students in the Greater Toronto Area through workshops and performances. The company provided a Relaxed Performance at the Betty Oliphant Theatre with 255 attendees and 4 digital workshops with 80 participants. Dance About, the National Ballet’s in school programme, reached 2,100 students through 7 performances, making classical ballet more accessible to young people. Through the Ministry of Education’s Specialist High Skills Majors programme, 100 students attended 1 workshop and performance. There were 3 Student Matinees with 615 students in attendance.

Due to the pandemic, the annual YOU dance livestream and residency was unable to take place, however the company was able to creatively reach 136,148 people in the community, including essential service workers, through digital initiatives such as Gratitude Classes, Sharing the Stage and Ballet Fun for Kids.

The National Ballet’s Share the Magic programme continued to provide free access to youth and families who could not otherwise attend a ballet performance. Last season, Share the Magic brought the joy of dance to 2,990 audience members at no cost through 3 special performances. 200 members of the community also attended 2 ballet performances for free through Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts’ citySPECIAL programme, arranged through 128 social service agencies.

CreativAction, an initiative to share The National Ballet of Canada’s resources, aims to develop Canadian choreographic talent and support the dance community in Toronto. The 2019/20 season included 1 Choreographic Workshop with 50 attendees. There was 1 micro-commission and through Open Space, the National Ballet provided 891 hours in the company’s studios for free to 25 independent choreographers.

In Studio, the National Ballet’s dance and fitness programme for adults and teens, provided 2,178 live classes, workshops, dance intensives and master classes to 24,710 participants. During COVID-19, In Studio moved online providing 377 classes over Zoom for 2,163 participants.

The National Ballet celebrates charitable giving at every level and is grateful for the 4,424 community members who generously donated in 2019/20. In total, donors and volunteers raised $8.74 million to support the company’s priorities. Donors are recognized through special programmes including The Producers’ Circle, Dancers First, Patrons’ Council and Friends’ Corps, as well as our international affiliates American Friends of The National Ballet of Canada and the UK Friends of The National Ballet of Canada.

The National Ballet of Canada is grateful to The Volunteer Committee, The National Ballet of Canada for its continued dedication and support. Last season, the committee helped fund the world premiere of Angels’ Atlas and has pledged support to the world premiere of Swan Lake. In total, the Volunteer Committee has supported 54 new works to date through their vital Build-a-Ballet Fund.

The National Ballet of Canada, Endowment Foundation fund balances were $77 million as of June 30, 2020, a modest decline of $2.1 million resulting from significant market volatility, offset by robust contributions during the year. The Endowment Foundation made a grant of $3.7 million to the National Ballet in 2019/20.

Mr. Wright welcomed new board members Sandra Odendahl, Vice President, Social Impact & Sustainability, Scotiabank, and Nichole Anderson Bergeron, Former President & CEO, Business for the Arts. Mr. Wright recognized and thanked retiring board members Ryan McNally, Head of Private Wealth Management, National Office, TD Bank, Rebecca Mooney, Head of Marketing, Vanguard, Karen Sparks, President of the Volunteer Committee, The National Ballet of Canada, and Director, Wealth Planning at BMO Wealth Management, and Dan Sullivan, Volunteer/Corporate Director.

Gold service pins are awarded yearly to employees of The National Ballet of Canada who have been with the company for 20 years. Ms. Kain awarded long service pins to Principal Dancer Jillian Vanstone, Second Soloist Tiffany Mosher who retired from the stage in June 2020, Mark Dharmaratnam, Trumpet, Lynn Kuo, Assistant Concertmaster, Johann Lotter, Viola, and Master Carpenter Paul McNamara.

Sophie Letendre, Manager, Artistic Scheduling, Angela Rudden, Viola, Charles Seminerio, Wig and Make-up Supervisor, and Henry Martins, Building Maintenance Supervisor, were recognized for 25 years.

Principal Dancer Sonia Rodriguez, Derek Conrod, Horn, Jayne Maddison, Violin, Veronica McLellan, Associate Director, ADS, Lucie Parent, Principal Harp, Hans Preuss, Principal Bass, and Wendy Rogers, Violin, were honoured for 30 years with the National Ballet.

Maurizio Baccante, Principal Cello, Elizabeth Gowen, Bassoon, and Gary Kidd, Clarinet, marked 35 years of service.

David Archer, Trombone, was recognized for 40 years with the company.

Artistic Director Karen Kain celebrated her 50th anniversary with the company. Principal Character Artist Tomas Schramek marked 50 years the previous season, however celebrations recognizing this milestone during Romeo and Juliet were cancelled due to the pandemic.

The 2019/20 season marked the retirement of Principal Dancer Greta Hodgkinson. Ms. Hodgkinson joined the company in 1990 and was named Artist-in-Residence in 2019. Principal Character Artists Lorna Geddes and Hazaros Surmeyan retired after 60 and 53 years, respectively, Second Soloist Brent Parolin after 6 years, Ron Mah, Violin, after 37 years, Stephen Mosher, Principal Bassoon, after 44 years and Paul Langley, Bass, after 31 years with the company.

After 10 years with the National Ballet, Principal Dancer Francesco Gabriele Frola will dance full-time with English National Ballet as a Lead Principal, appearing as a Guest Artist with the National Ballet in future performances. Principal Dancer Elena Lobsanova, who joined in 2004, and First Soloist Hannah Fischer, who joined in 2012, have departed the company to join Miami City Ballet as Principal and Principal Soloist, respectively. Corps de Ballet members Jimmy Coleman, joined in 2015, Nicholas Rose, joined in 2018, and Ethan Watts, joined in 2013, have departed to join The Royal Danish Ballet, Wayne McGregor’s Reset 2020 and The Royal Swedish Ballet, respectively.

2019/20 Selected Financials >
2019/20 Attendance Statistics >

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BMO Financial Group presents the 2019/20 Season.

Giselle was produced as a memorial to the late William P. Walker and was made possible through the courtesy of many generous friends of the National Ballet.

Lead philanthropic support for Orpheus Alive is provided by The Producers’ Circle. 

The Producers’ Circle: Gail & Mark Appel, John & Claudine Bailey, Inger Bartlett & Marshal Stearns, Laura Dinner & Richard Rooney, Gail Drummond & Bob Dorrance, The Thor E. and Nicole Eaton Family Charitable Foundation, Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan, Kevin Garland & Roger Garland, C.M., Ira Gluskin & Maxine Granovsky Gluskin, The William & Nona Heaslip Foundation, Anna McCowan Johnson & Donald K. Johnson, O.C., Judy Korthals & Peter Irwin, Mona & Harvey Levenstein, Jerry & Joan Lozinski, The Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain, C.C., Julie Medland, Sandra Pitblado & Jim Pitblado, C.M., Susan Scace & Arthur Scace, C.M., Q.C., The Harry & Lillian Seymour Family Foundation, Gerald Sheff & Shanitha Kachan and The Jack Weinbaum Family Foundation. 

Lead philanthropic support for Piano Concerto #1 is provided by an anonymous friend of the National Ballet and The Producers’ Circle. 

Lead philanthropic support for The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude and Approximate Sonata 2016 is generously provided by Sandra Simpson, an anonymous friend of the National Ballet and The Estate of Douglas Gardner, with additional support from The Producers’ Circle. 

The Sleeping Beauty is made possible by generous contributions from Margaret Fleck & Jim Fleck, C.C., The Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation, Sandra Pitblado & Jim Pitblado, C.M., Gretchen Ross and Nancy Pencer & Michael Benjamin.

Philanthropic support for Angels’ Atlas is generously provided by An Anonymous Donor, Rosamond Ivey, Ira Gluskin & Maxine Granovsky Gluskin, The Producers’ Circle, The Volunteer Committee of The National Ballet of Canada and The Gail Hutchison Fund. 

Lead philanthropic support for Romeo and Juliet is provided by Sandra Pitblado & Jim Pitblado, C.M., with additional generous support from Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan, The Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation, an anonymous friend of the National Ballet and Walter Carsen, O.C.

Tricon Capital Group presents Swan Lake.

Lead philanthropic support for Swan Lake is provided by The Walter Carsen New Creations Fund, with generous underwriting from Richard M. Ivey, C.C., an anonymous friend of the National Ballet, Susan Scace & Arthur Scace, C.M., Q.C., The Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation, Gail Drummond & Bob Dorrance, Nancy Pencer, Sandra Pitblado & Jim Pitblado, C.M., The Lawrence Schafer Foundation, Gretchen Ross & Donald Ross, O.C., Anne-Marie Canning, Anna McCowan Johnson & Donald K. Johnson, O.C., Tim & Frances Price, Kevin Garland & Roger Garland, C.M. and Aaron & Heather Regent. Additional support provided by The Producers’ Circle.

The National Ballet also acknowledges support for Swan Lake provided by Judi Conacher, Sherry and Edward Drew and Julie Medland. 

Jillian Vanstone is sponsored through Dancers First by George & Kathy Dembroski.

The National Ballet of Canada’s CreativAction programme is made possible by the generous support of Robyn McCallum & Stephen Delaney.

Dance About is sponsored by Scotiabank.

Share the Magic is sponsored by Sun Life and generously underwritten by Ada Slaight.  

The National Ballet of Canada’s Education and Community Engagement programmes are generously supported by the Anna McCowan Johnson Dance Accessibility Fund at The National Ballet of Canada, Endowment Foundation. 

YOU dance is supported by Ballet Club Relevé, J.P. Bickell Foundation, Maxine Goldberg, the Steve and Sally Stavro Foundation, Beth & Brent Wilson, The Woodbridge Company, and One Anonymous Donor. 

The National Ballet of Canada’s Relaxed Performances and the accompanying Visual Guide are made possible through the generous support of an Anonymous Lady.

Expansive Dances is made possible by the generous support of The Delaney Family Foundation and Sans Limites.

The National Ballet of Canada Presents
Expansive Dances
In partnership with Evergreen  

Lake Maligne and In Between Filmed at Evergreen Brick Works
Supported by Bank of America as part of Evergreen’s 2020 Cultural Performing Arts Series  

The National Ballet of Canada gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Ontario Arts Council; the City of Toronto through the Economic Development & Culture Department; the Government of Canada – Department of Canadian Heritage, through the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism; and the Government of Ontario through The Honourable Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport.  

Artists of the Ballet in Angels' Atlas. Photo by Karolina Kuras.

For more information, please contact:

Belinda Bale
Director, Marketing and Communications
416 345 9686 x314
bbale@national.ballet.ca
national.ballet.ca
Catherine Chang
Senior Communications Manager
416 345 9686 x302
cchang@national.ballet.ca
national.ballet.ca

Contact Information

media@national.ballet.ca