Most of the time, they got used to travel life enough to complain a little about equality. (In St. Louis, the distribution of touring swag upset them again.) Usually, touring dancers have to adjust to a different stage in each city, but since they brought their own this time, it was always familiar – bouncy, if sometimes hot.
It was more difficult to place this stage. At the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, where the changing room at the Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center was next to the red barn, the floor sloped away from the stage to block the view of the dancers’ feet. In St. Louis, placing the stage at the base of an amphitheater-like canyon avoided that problem, but it was a worryingly close shave to press it in place.
Despite the company’s desire for ABT Across America to mirror the troupe’s transcontinental touring in the 1940s and 50s, it was a much less strenuous proposition. During the war, in the 1943/44 season, the troupe performed in 73 cities, 48 of which were one-night stands. The tour 10 years later was similar: four months, 20 states on buses and trains, mostly a different city every day.
But if ABT Across America was shorter and more comfortable, it was significantly smaller and cheaper than the company’s touring model of recent years. “Even before the pandemic,” McKenzie told me, “the moderators were left at the expense of 130 people and hiring an orchestra.” A new touring model similar to ABT Across America’s could “add another arm to our mission,” he said . “Dancers will register. That would be extra work. “
Certainly the tour opened up space for younger dancers. “It seems like we’re pretty evenly represented in every piece,” said Carlos Gonzalez, a corps member. “It’s a great opportunity to dance and be seen and have experiences that we normally don’t get.”
And it felt good, says Teuscher, to reach an audience that Ballet Theater normally does not reach: “We are America’s company, so it is important to bring ballet to America.”