Inside ABT’s Cross-Country Bus Tour: First Stop, Lincoln, Nebraska

July 27, 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.

Corps de ballet dancer Abbey Marrison documented her experience as she and 19 other dancers performed across the country. She kicks off the tour below; be sure to read more about her journey here and here!

The ABT Across America tour bus. Courtesy Abbey Marrison

Lincoln, Nebraska

Monday, June 28

Today is the day! After a week of rehearsing in our studios in New York City, we are off on our road-trip adventure. The ABT Across America Tour has been in the works for a year now, and I know that everyone is eager to get back onstage and perform for live audiences. This morning, 20 of us dancers plus a few members of the artistic staff flew to Lincoln, Nebraska, to kick off the first leg of our Midwestern tour. I am Canadian, so my knowledge and experience in the Midwest is slim to none. Tonight, after settling into our hotel, we attended a donor dinner and explored Lincoln’s spooky Robber’s Cave. Now, after a long day of traveling and sight-seeing, I’m ready for a heavy night’s sleep. Tomorrow will be the first time we see the portable outdoor stage that will host our performances over the next three weeks. The hype is definitely building! 

ABT dancers tour Lincoln’s historic Robber’s Cave. Courtesy Marrison

Wednesday, June 30

Words cannot describe how excited we felt when we all laid eyes on the stage yesterday. It stood tall in a beautiful open meadow in Pioneers Park Nature Center, where an audience of 6,000 would gather to watch us dance in a couple days. (For comparison, the Metropolitan Opera House, where ABT performs every season, only seats about 3,800 people. This would be the largest audience that any of us have performed in front of!) The stage looked ready for a rock ’n’ roll concert, not an evening at the ballet. It takes the crew over four hours to build from all of the parts inside the truck trailer. Then, tech and lighting have to be set up. After much sweat and effort from the crew, a trailer becomes a fully fledged stage! 

Marrison poses in front of ABT’s touring stage in Lincoln’s Pioneers Park Nature Center. Courtesy Marrison

We had a quick little dance party to break the floor in and then got ready for class. Dancing in an air-conditioned studio is one thing, but taking class in 90-degree heat under a blazing sun is another. We need to prevent heat exhaustion and dehydration, so everyone has been drinking lots of water, replenishing with electrolytes and fueling our bodies.

We’ve had two days of tech rehearsals, and anticipation for tomorrow’s performance is at an all-time high. I will be performing in Lauren Lovette’s La Follia Variations. It’s an energetic and joyous piece that incites connection and community between the dancers. I can’t help but smile while dancing this ballet, and I hope the audience will feel the same watching. 

Thursday, July 1

Show day! The first performance of our tour is complete, and it was so incredible. Pioneer Park was packed—it became apparent that the audience was just as thrilled for the live performance as we were. This tour is so wonderfully unique in that tickets are free to the public. Instead of fancy dresses and velvet seats, audiences will be wearing sun hats, munching on kettle corn and camping out on picnic blankets. Ballet should be accessible for all to enjoy, especially after such a difficult and art-deprived year.

ABT’s outdoor stage at sunset. Courtesy Abbey Marrison

When the show began at dusk, the sky glowed pink, yellow and orange. The temperature cooled and a slight breeze danced along with us. The scene was beautiful, and I hope that the audience found this evening as memorable as I did. My favorite moment was when I saw a couple of kids out in the field trying to mimic the steps we were performing onstage. It’s touching to see our dancing inspire a younger generation and bring smiles to the audience. All of the dancers and staff were so grateful for the enthusiastic welcome we received in Nebraska and we are looking forward to the next stop: Iowa City.