American Ballet Theater is one of the largest dance companies performing in some of the most famous venues around the world. But, this summer is different. Returning to ABT’s touring days of the 1940s and 1950s, the company will hit the road this summer, traveling by bus to places like Nebraska and St. Louis.
Yes, 20 dancers and 25 support teams take six production buses and three trucks to eight cities spanning 3,100 miles across the United States. Louis, Minneapolis, Charleston, Middleburg, Virginia and New York. At each stop, ABT will present a 50-minute show with no intermission.
ABT will perform at a range of venues from Pearson Park in Nebraska, The Citadel in Charleston, to Shakespeare Glen in St. Louis, while traveling, living and sleeping in triple berth buses (and some hotels). In most cities, dancers will perform on a huge truck that unfolds onto a stage. Most performances will be free to the public, and tour stops will include community engagement activities such as master ballet classes and family programs.
“Last year we had 9.9 million views of our digital content, which included 21 new works created in 10 NBA-style bubbles,” Kara Medoff Barnett, executive director, told me. “However, we recognized two things. First, not everyone has access to a high-speed internet connection. And we recognize that the power and magic of the live performance experience is irreplaceable and important and crucial in bringing people together. communities after this year of isolation. ”
So at the same time that ABT was focused on increasing its digital audience, it also wanted to reach the widest possible audience for live performance in the safest way possible. And that’s how the idea of the bus tour was born.
“The outside was the resounding response,” Barnett said. “Our general manager, David Lansky, said, let’s go on a bus and truck tour and play outside. Let’s take our stage with us. Let’s make that happen. And so that was his brilliant idea.”
He was inspired by the history of ABT in the forties and fifties. When the company started, it actually had a bus called “The Pioneer”, and the bus traveled to 70 cities across America each year. “The performers were on the bus for months, which sparked the enthusiasm for ballet and the appreciation of ballet nationwide in those early decades,” Barnett said.
Of course, while ABT is used to touring, this is an entirely new experience. Dancers will travel with up to 35 costumes and 600 pairs of pointe shoes. And a washer / dryer will be packed in a road box for laundry needs.
“There have been a lot of times I’ve played in tights, and it’s 55 degrees. So in terms of performance outdoors, I feel comfortable,” dancer Cory Stearns told me. “But getting on a bus and not having a shower and all that luxury is going to be interesting. I’m excited.”
He added: “We’re all so excited on tour to be playing in front of the crowd again after so long. So whatever the conditions I think most of us are just thrilled to give what we’ve trained. to do it all our life. “
The first performance was in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the tour will end on July 21 with a performance at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. For a full itinerary and tickets, go to here.