For the American Ballet Theater, the way back to New York City stretches 3,100 miles and winds through 14 states. The company announced Monday that it will embark on a tour of the United States this summer that will conclude with a performance in Manhattan on July 21.
“We missed our 80th anniversary celebration, but we’re going to end this tour at Rockefeller Center, where we had our first performance on Jan. 11, 1940,” said Kevin McKenzie, artistic director of the Ballet Theater, in an interview. “It sounds like a bit of poetic justice that’s going to be a nice prelude to a very new and different future for us.”
The company’s journey will begin at Pioneers Park in Lincoln, Neb., On July 1. From there, the troop will travel – in six sleeper buses and three production trucks – to Iowa City; Chicago; Minneapolis; Saint Louis; Charleston, South Carolina; and Middleburg, Virginia. The final show in New York will be the first time the Ballet Theater has staged a stage in the city since October 27, 2019, the end of its fall season at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.
The idea for the tour originated with David Lansky, the company’s chief executive, when it became clear to Ballet Theater executives that the pandemic was not going to be resolved quickly. He was inspired, McKenzie said, by the band’s beginnings. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the Ballet Theater often toured the country by bus. But it wasn’t until the company determined it could keep its dancers, staff, and crew safe with residency “bubbles” sequestered in the second half of 2020 that traveling and performing. again have become a real possibility.
Performances during the tour will take place outdoors on a custom-built stage designed to take place from an 18-wheel truck. At each stop, 20 members of the company will present a 50-minute show comprising four pieces: “La Follia Variations” by Lauren Lovette, “Let Me Sing Forevermore” by Jessica Lang, “Indestructible Light” by Darrell Grand Moultrie and a two classic. McKenzie said the programming has been “thought through to touch a very wide range of interests.”
During the pandemic, the Ballet Theater had to cancel four tours that would have taken its dancers to Abu Dhabi, Detroit, Chicago and Duke University in Durham, NC
The engagement on tour this summer will not be the first live performances of the company since the start of the pandemic. The Ballet Theater performed inside the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., Last week; and small groups of the company’s dancers are expected to dance outdoors at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park in Tivoli, NY, in May and in Los Angeles and Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, in June.