Metropolitan Opera Says it Has Disbanded its Ballet Corps

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The Metropolitan Opera's resident ballet company is no more. The company has decided to disband the troupe, which has been dwindling in numbers, from 16 in 2011 to eight presently. The remaining dancers have accepted buyout packages and left the company, said their union, the American Guild of Musical Artists.

The company will now be hiring dancers on a per-project basis.

General manager Peter Gelb presents the decision as a cost-saving measure as well as a practicality since the company now features a wider array of dance styles.

“There will always be a significant performance of dance on our stage,” Gelb told the New York Times. “But it’s hard to imagine that we will have a single, resident company because we are using an eclectic group of choreographers who have very specific styles and needs and who want to choose their own dancers. It’s impossible to have a company that suits all these styles.”

The Times reports that the Met actually used more dancers this past season – 128 – than it did when it had a resident ballet troupe of 92 during the 2005-06 season.

Still, the decision may not be welcomed by all, particularly given that the troupe’s origins date to 1883. Writing on Operavore in 2011, Fred Plotkin noted the diminishing presence of ballet at the Met.

"The world’s great opera companies have ballet companies whose artistic profiles and followings are as high or even higher than the opera troupes. When you look at the season calendars of companies like London, Paris, Copenhagen, Vienna, St. Petersburg and Moscow, ballet evenings are regular features that attract huge audiences.

Plotkin added: "Has anyone in recent memory even mentioned the Metropolitan Opera Ballet? Is there such a thing, or are they just the corps de ballet who show up in Aïda, La Traviata, La Gioconda, Eugene Onegin and other standard repertory works that have dance sequences?"

Throughout its early decades, the Met would feature divertissements – one-act ballet programs that followed shorter operas but were not related to them. More recently, the company has attempted to bolster its ballet troupe’s profile with separate performances, but as the Times indicates, those efforts have waned in recent years.

What do you think of the decision? Please leave your comments below.