Coronavirus: Northern Ballet 'loses £1m due to pandemic'

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image copyrightNorthern Ballet
image captionNorthern Ballet said the health and safety of employees, audiences and venue staff was paramount

A ballet company says it has lost £1m after its 50th anniversary celebrations were hit by the coronavirus crisis.

Northern Ballet had just launched a new show which opened for one night before being cancelled as the UK went into lockdown.

Dancers from the Leeds-based company have been furloughed and are currently training at home.

Performances are being shown online on a "pay as you feel" basis but it is unclear when live shows will return.

Chief executive Mark Skipper said he had carried out financial modelling to see if shows would be possible in half full venues and it would be "quite challenging".

He said: "If social distancing has to continue in theatre auditoriums you might be reducing a capacity of a 1,000 down to 200 - that really doesn't make things financially viable."

image captionThe dancers are eager to perform again when it is safe to do so

Even if performances did go ahead, there are potential issues around choreography, with dancers lifting, holding and guiding each other.

At this point in a performance season, dancers would usually be taking to the stage eight or nine times a week with training and rehearsing on top of that.

However, they are having to make do with training at home and taking classes on Zoom.

Northern Ballet's premier dancer Antoinette Brooks-Daw said: "You can only do so much in a small space - as a dancer, you want to run, you want to leap, you want to travel.

"At the moment you're dancing on a one- or two-metre square piece of flooring which is better than nothing but it comes with its own challenges."

image captionDancer Gavin McCaig has been using his mantelpiece in place of a ballet bar

The company had been due to tour its 50th anniversary production of Geisha, which premiered at Leeds Grand Theatre just before lockdown.

With theatres closed it has put on a digital season instead with members of the public asked to support the company through donations.

People with tickets for cancelled shows have been asked to avoid claiming a refund if they are able to.

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