American Ballet Theatre performs lively show at Hancher

The American Ballet Theatre danced at Hancher Auditorium on Saturday, May 6, with four separate pieces: “Songs of Bukovina,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Swan Lake,” and “ZigZag.” Each piece added depth and diversity to the show for all who attended.


Marty Sohl/American Ballet Theat

Scene from Songs of Bukovina. Photo: Marty Sohl.

Grace Westergaard, Arts Reporter

The American Ballet Theatre performed to a full house at Hancher Auditorium on Saturday. The audience buzzed with anticipation as the lights dimmed, allowing the dancers to take the stage. 

An internationally known company, the American Ballet Theatre resides in New York City and has only danced at Hancher twice in the past 10 years. Saturday night’s performance was the third. 

Aaron Greenwald, the programming and engagement director for Hancher Auditorium and the University of Iowa’s Office of Performing Arts and Engagement, aids in the programming of all the shows at Hancher. 

“They [American Ballet Theatre] bring a wonderful mixed repertoire program, bringing numerous different pieces that I think will showcase the company and the company’s dancers really beautifully,” Greenwald said. 

Greenwald mentioned how the company is mighty in size, with up to 20 dancers on stage at different points in the show. 

“We’re thrilled to have them. It’s a rare privilege to host such a famous and fabulous ballet company,” Greenwald mentioned. “Probably the most important touring ballet company in the United States.”

Other Iowa City residents were extremely excited to attend this show. Alyssa Alber, a UI senior studying dance and on the pre-physical therapy track, said she was looking forward to it. 

“I have followed many of their dancers and company in general on social media for a while, and their company is amazing to watch,” Alber said. It was Alber’s first time seeing the American Ballet Theatre dance. 

Hayden Jensen, a UI junior studying dance, had also never seen the American Ballet Theatre perform, but knew of the company long before the event. 

“I am excited to see all of the dancers, especially Isabella Boylston and Aran Bell. They are some of my personal favorite dancers right now,” Jensen said. 

The concert began with the piece “Songs of Bukovina.” Ten total dancers comprised the piece, moving off and on stage in a complex series of movements. The dancers were divided into five partnerships, paired with a live pianist for a dynamic performance. 

After an intermission, the famed “Romeo and Juliet” occurred next. A massive staircase set appeared on stage. The dancer playing Juliet quickly made her way up and down the stairs at different points in the piece. 

RELATED: Hancher to present ‘Pilobolus’ dance company for both of their 50th anniversaries

Romeo sported a long cape when he first appeared, another prop that added excitement to the piece. This piece used only the two dancers, weaving in flawless lifts and other moves throughout the duet. 

“Swan Lake,” another well-known composition in the dance world, came next. This piece also only used two dancers; the “Black Swan” wore a sparkling black dress, a large tutu fanning out. Her prince sported an all-black outfit to match. 

The dancers began onstage together, leaving and entering back onstage at certain points in the piece, each performing shortened solos throughout. Both dancers seemed as though they could turn endlessly, the Swan doing so en-pointe. 

After the last intermission, “ZigZag” closed out the show. This piece was lively and different from what many think of as traditional ballet, often theatrically using humor within the moves and different costumes. 

Among the 14 dancers, one wore all white, four wore all black, and the remaining women wore polka dot dresses or long, colored garments that were either blue, yellow, or pink. 

“ZigZag” was complex, with formations and dynamics that challenged the eye. Songs like “When I Lost You,” “What the World Needs Now,” “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” “Spring in Manhattan,” “Smile,” “Blue Moon,” “How Do You Keep The Music Playing,” and a few other classics played throughout the piece. 

The backdrop of this piece continually changed, parroting different colors and a city skyline, a nod to New York City. 

Eloy Barragán, a UI associate professor of dance specializing in ballet, was similarly ecstatic that the American Ballet Theatre was coming to Iowa City. Barragán has seen them several times throughout his life.

“ABT is the company of the nation,” Barragán said. “Their reputation, their history, their quality is really remarkable.”