Inside ABT’s Cross-Country Bus Tour, Part III: St. Louis, Charleston and Middleburg
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 shared her experience as she and 19 other dancers performed across the country. (Check out her previous posts here and here.) Below, she documents the tour’s final stops.
Saint Louis, Missouri
We had an early start today since the bus ride to Saint Louis is nine hours. Before we departed, I stopped at Target to stock up on some more coffee and snacks for the upcoming days. Nine hours seemed painfully long, but hanging out with my bus mates in the lounge, napping and reading made the time pass faster. We also spent a lot of time sharing a pair of Normatec compression boots (for muscle relief). I like to joke that it was like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, because we couldn’t get enough of their magical effect on our sore legs.
Class wasn’t until the late afternoon, so I took advantage of the morning by going to the Missouri Botanical Garden. After yesterday’s bus ride, I was desperate to walk around, stretch my legs and breath in some fresh air. Jacob Clerico (fellow corps member and best friend) came with me, and we filled our camera rolls with hundreds of flower photos.
Today we had two performances in Shakespeare Glen at Forest Park. It was definitely the most challenging day for me, by far. The temperature was in the high 90s, and the stage was in direct sunlight for both class and the first show. I’m sensitive to the heat, so I was doing my best to keep my body temperature down and replenish with electrolytes. Julie Daugherty (the company’s physical therapist and superhero) gave everyone Sqwinchers to help us stay hydrated and energized.
The stage was so hot from the sun that our stage manager, Danielle [Ventimiglia], had the crew throw ice on it before the first show started. It was an intense day, but the audience members clapped enthusiastically throughout the performances, and I felt very accomplished when we were done.
On hard days, I find inspiration by watching my colleagues perform. Betsy McBride and Tyler Maloney danced Let Me Sing Forevermore, by Jessica Lang, and I felt overwhelming admiration for their strength and artistry. The mutual support and encouragement the company dancers share with one another has created a really special bond.
Day off today! We passed through Nashville on our way to South Carolina and needed to give our bus drivers a break. We had eight hours to make the most of it, so we explored some of Nashville’s boutiques and then made our way to the city’s bustling Broadway Street. Cowboy boots were purchased, good food was eaten, live music was heard and before we knew it, we were back on the road! Next stop, Charleston.
Charleston, South Carolina
After class this morning, most of the dancers made their way to the beach. A group of us went to Sullivan’s Island and spent the afternoon swimming in the warm, salty ocean and soaking up the sun on the gorgeous white sand. It felt like we were on vacation!
Today, I taught a ballet class to some baby ballerinas at the Charleston Gaillard Center. The kids were so talented and super-cute; we spent the hour learning ballet basics and dancing along to Swan Lake. A lot of them attended the performance that night at The Citadel’s Summerall Field and waited to get autographs afterwards. I think the crowd favorite was Catherine Hurlin and Sung Woo Han’s performance of the fiery pas de deux from Don Quixote.
Another long bus ride today, to Virginia. Unfortunately we got caught in some traffic, so the journey ended up being over 10 hours. We were itching to get off the bus, but also sad because this was the last stop for our tour bus. We packed up all our snacks, blankets and pointe shoes and settled into our rooms at the Salamander Resort & Spa. The Salamander is a stunning hotel with horses, gardens, fire pits, pools and trails to explore. The stage was set up right on the property, and I could see it from my hotel-room balcony. It is the perfect venue for our final performances.
I woke up early and enjoyed a nice, big breakfast of eggs, bacon and freshly baked croissants (and coffee, of course). Afterwards I went to the fitness center to do some strength training, pet the horses in the stable, and then took a dip in the pool. I almost forgot that I had to perform later!
The final performances were full of mixed emotions. Everyone was having a blast onstage, but we were also aware that this was the end of ABT Across America. I made sure to really take in the moment. After the show, we had a pool party to celebrate the end of our tour. Tomorrow morning, we will all pack into a coach bus and head back to New York City. We have one last performance at Rockefeller Center on July 21, but the ballet I’m in, La Follia Variations, is not on the program, so I won’t be dancing. But I still plan on watching the show.
This tour was a brand-new experience for me, and I’m so lucky to have been surrounded by an amazing group of people. Every dancer poured their heart and soul into each performance, and the crew worked tirelessly to make sure everything ran smoothly—not to mention our stage manager, physical therapist, company manager, hair and makeup stylist, wardrobe team and more. I’m so appreciative. I’ll miss the crazy ups and downs of this bus tour, and treasure the memories for years to come.