The American Ballet Theatre (ABT) has officially resumed touring after performances were put on hold last year due to the pandemic.
The 2021 summer tour, dubbed ABT Across America, will make stops in 8 major U.S. cities over 21 days. According to ABT’s website, “From its starting point in Lincoln, Nebraska, ABT Across America will cross the United States in a caravan of 6 sleeper buses and 3 production trucks. 20 ABT dancers and 28 support crew will travel across 14 states, for a total of 3,100 miles.”
While the sheer size and scope of the Across America tour are impressive, most notable is its pop-up shop style. Instead of the typical glamour of theatres and evening wear, each performance will be held outdoors on a custom-built stage folded out of an 18-wheeler truck. The sets will be less complex, the weather uncontrollable, and the work hard, but artistic director Kevin McKenzie has high hopes.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” said McKenzie in a company newsletter. “With most indoor performing arts centers still closed, these outdoor settings will allow ABT’s dancers to share their artistry, excellence, and optimism… With ABT Across America, we will go beyond the digital divide to provide access to live performance experiences. The planning of this tour has galvanized our staff and company, and we hope that these performances will be joyful and uplifting for communities nationwide.”
While unconventional for more modern times, the tour is reminiscent of ABT’s beginnings. Founded in 1939, the group was soon considered one of the greatest dance companies worldwide with their unmatched repertoire and innovative—yet classic—style. They toured across the country in the 1940s and ‘50s, and over 80 years later this season’s troupe finds themselves following in their footsteps. In fact, the last performance for Across America will be held in NYC’s Rockefeller Center, where the company hosted its first-ever public performance in 1940.
ABT Across America launched on July 1 at Pioneers Park—over 6,000 attended with lawn chairs and blankets—and will conclude on July 21. Shows are free to the public in most cities, and community engagement programs such as fitness classes and family activities will be offered at each stop. Dancers scheduled to participate include a diverse cast with performers such as Lauren Bonfiglio, Jacob Clerico, Michael de la Nuez, Carlos Gonzalez, Kiely Groenewegen, Sung Woo Han, and Anabel Katsnelson.
McKenzie expressed the company’s gratitude to be able to perform again in an interview, saying, “It feels like a little bit of poetic justice that’s going to be a nice prelude to a very new and different future for us.”