Inside ABT’s Cross-Country Bus Tour, Part II: Iowa City, Chicago and Minneapolis

July 28, 2021

This summer, American Ballet Theatre went on a major road trip. On June 28, the company embarked on its ABT Across America Tour, chartering six sleeper buses and three production trucks to travel to eight U.S. cities, concluding in New York City on July 21.

Corps de ballet dancer Abbey Marrison documented her experience as she and 19 other dancers performed across the country. Check out her first post here, and tune in throughout the week for more of her journey!

A group of six young women smile for the camera on a tour bus that's been outfitted with bunk beds on either side. Three pose on the upper bunks, while three sit on the lower bunks.
Marrison (far right, in blue leggings) and her bunkmates on ABT’s tour bus. Courtesy Marrison

Iowa City, Iowa

July 4

We arrived in Iowa City today after a four-and-a-half-hour bus ride. We left early in the morning so that we’d have time for ballet class before our show. The last time I was in Iowa was in 2018, when ABT performed Whipped Cream, so it’s comforting to be somewhere familiar.

The Hancher Auditorium is a very impressive theater, and our stage was set up just outside of it. I spontaneously taught a short Intro to Ballet class onstage, filling in for one of my colleagues. Lots of children and several adults joined me as I led them through some basic movements. I also did a Q&A and let the kids touch my pointe shoes, which sparked a lot of excitement (even though they reek of feet!).

It was very hot and sunny outside, so the company took class in sunglasses and layers of sunscreen. Luckily, the temperature cooled down as the sun began to set, just before showtime. Since today is the Fourth of July, we all ran onstage during bows with sparklers bursting in our hands. It was a great way to celebrate our second performance—10 more to go!

A group of 14 young dancers wearing street clothes pose and smile in a clump at a bowling alley, holding bowling balls.
Bowling night! Courtesy Abbey Marrison

July 5

After sleeping on the buses (parked behind the theater and surprisingly comfortable, I must add), we had our first full day off! We took advantage of Iowa City’s charming restaurants and shopping, and also went bowling. It took a while, but I eventually got a strike. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to spend time with my colleagues outside of the studio, so today was the perfect opportunity to bond and have some good old-fashioned (if somewhat competitive) fun.

Chicago, Illinois

July 8

We’re in Chicago! Everyone is really pumped for this performance because we will be dancing at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, which can hold up to 11,000 people. Luckily, class wasn’t until the late afternoon, so we had some time to explore the city before going to work. A group of us had lunch at an adorable café called Goddess and the Baker, where I also enjoyed a delicious apple-butter latte. A few of us took a stroll along the river and then walked under Chicago’s famous Bean sculpture.

There was a slight chance of rain, but luckily it held off, and our performance was very well attended. I couldn’t help but appreciate how cool it was to be dancing outdoors on this amazing stage, where you can see the audience members’ faces, hear the chirping birds in the park, and see the clouds float across the sky. Such a drastic difference to looking out into the usual pitch-black house and blinding stage lights. It’s easier to connect and feed off the audience’s energy when you can see their expressions and reactions.

Four young women in street clothes sit in red chairs in front of a large, modern-looking stage.
At the Pritzker Pavilion at Chicago’s Millennium Park. Courtesy Marrison

Minneapolis, Minnesota

July 10

Hello, Minneapolis! Yesterday, we drove about six and a half hours and then settled into hotel rooms. As cozy as the bus is, my muscles are happy to stretch out on a real bed for the next few nights. This weekend is the most mentally and physically challenging leg of the tour because we have two double-show days in a row. Tonight, our performances were at 5 pm and 8:30 pm, so there wasn’t much time to rest and recover in between. The piece I’m in, Lauren Lovette’s La Folia Variations, is about 13 minutes long and I’m doing grand allégro for most of it. It’s a lot of fun since I love to jump, but my muscles are usually pretty fatigued by the end. That said, double-show days are always very rewarding.

Our stage has been set up in the gorgeous fields at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, where blooming gardens, bumblebees and a picturesque red barn surround our stage. After the performances, we shuttled back to our hotels in the city and passed along the communal compression boots before resting up for another busy day tomorrow.

A group of male and female dancers in various costumes and stage makeup gather together and pose casually for the camera with big smiles. Behind them is a white, filmy curtain.
The touring company onstage in Minneapolis. Courtesy Marrison

July 11

It’s the second day of performances at the Arboretum, and it’s a hot one! I began sweating as soon as I took my first plié at barre, and I spent most of my spare time chugging electrolytes. A few friends of mine came to see the matinee, which gave me extra motivation to push through any fatigue. The last show was the best one for me because I was relaxed. I stopped overthinking and trusted my feet to carry me through the ballet. Afterwards, I had sushi for dinner, and I am pretty sure I will pass out before my head hits the pillow tonight.

Next stop, Saint Louis!