116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Hancher is pirouetting back into live performances — outdoors, masked and socially distanced — in its first collaboration with Ballet Des Moines.
Hancher has danced its way across the state before, taking the Joffrey Ballet on a River to River tour in the summer of 2007 and Ballet West II on an Eastern Iowa tour in September 2010.
It’s time to tour again, with free performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Waterworks Park in Des Moines; 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the Hancher Green in Iowa City; and 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Riverside Park in Muscatine.
The family-friendly program covers a wide range of ballet styles, from modern to classical and Brazilian, with performances by Ballet Des Moines, the University of Iowa Dance Department, and the “Don Quixote” pas de deux featuring former Ballet Des Moines member Carlos Quenedit and his Miami City Ballet partner, Katia Carranza.
The music also is wildly eclectic, ranging from recordings by Philip Glass and the Hawkeye Marching Band to live music by the Roseman Quartet based in Ames.
What: Tour collaboration between Hancher Auditorium and Ballet Des Moines
Admission: Free; bring seating; masks and social distancing mandatory
Des Moines: 7:30 p.m. Friday (4/30), Lauridsen Amphitheater, Water Works Park, 2201 George Flagg Pkwy.
Iowa City: 7:30 p.m. Saturday (5/1), Hancher Green, 141 E. Park Rd.
Muscatine: 5:30 p.m. Sunday (5/2), Riverside Park, 101 W. Mississippi Dr.
Details and programming: hancher.uiowa.edu/upcoming-events
It’s a “something for everyone” program, said Chuck Swanson, Hancher’s executive director.
It’s time to reunite artists and audiences.
“We wanted to be early on, as a way to show that the arts can help rebuild communities,” he said. “The arts can be powerful. I hear all the time, `I miss being together with others, I miss that common experience.’
“So we took a leap with `Dance into Spring.’ We decided, let’s go.”
He also loved timing it around May Day, a celebration full of fond memories from his childhood. “It’s always been a special day in my heart,” he said.
“This is a way of hopefully coming back — that’s what I’m really hoping,” he said. “And I hope the weather, of course, stays with us.”
It’s time to get artists back onstage.
Ballet Des Moines dancers haven’t performed in-person since December 2019, so this three-city tour is a way to feed off the energy of an audience again, and draw a paycheck in the process, said Blaire Massa, the organization’s executive director.
Swanson began thinking about collaborations last summer, when it became obvious the pandemic wouldn’t be over as quickly as everyone initially thought. So he put the notion out through a Zoom call with Iowa cultural leaders, and said Massa was the only one who jumped at the chance.
“I was trying to figure out how to keep those dancers here in Iowa, keep them working, keep them out in front of our community,” Massa said. “And also, to bring some of the joy of the performing arts to our community in an inclusive and accessible way.
“So that was the impetus for the conversation,” she said, “and Chuck was the one that took the idea and ran with it — and got very excited about bringing the potential performance around the state in a broader way.
“We clicked when we started talking about how important we both feel the arts are to recovery, and a deep desire to ensure that we have safe and joyful ways to gather this spring and summer,” she said, “so we wanted to get out ahead of that and give folks the opportunity to look forward to something.”
After planting the seed in the fall, their efforts began in earnest over the winter to develop the programming, work out the logistics of the tour, find the sites and secure funding for what Swanson said will be about a $100,000 venture.
Hancher has developed a long-standing friendship with Muscatine, so performing there, as well as in Des Moines and Iowa City, was a natural.
“Muscatine is one of my favorites, in terms of partnering communities,” Swanson said. “It’s close, for one thing, and there’s audience that we bring to Hancher, too. But they really roll out the carpet. You go to meetings over there for planning for what we need for this outdoor event, and 12, 14 people show up, and they’re all so excited. They’re all willing to roll up their sleeves and be part of it.”
The Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine also is a supporting sponsor, with funding in memory of the late Dick and Mary Jo Stanley, who lived there. They also were such key supporters of the arts that Hancher’s second-floor Stanley Cafe was named in their honor.
“Their memory lives on,” Swanson said. “It shows you can make your mark, and they really have. In their memory, this is going to make (the performance) even more special.”
It’s also going to be special for the UI students in the performing spotlight, he said.
“They’ve been taking class at Hancher for the last year,” he said, turning what has been called “the university’s largest classroom” into a dance studio, with classes meeting in Hancher’s Black box Strauss Hall and on the auditorium’s Hadley Stage.
“It seemed natural to include students,” Swanson said. “This is part of their education and Hancher can provide that opportunity. They haven’t had a chance, either, to perform, and to be able to perform with a professional dance company like this — what an educational experience that is for students at the University of Iowa. Hancher is happy to be able to facilitate something like that. To me, that’s part of the education, part of the experience that creates and helps with student success.”
He also sees it as a way to inspire young dancers in the audiences who dream of being on a big stage someday — and he hopes to connect others to Hancher, as well.
“We’re out there to build friendships and make a difference in people’s lives,” he said.
“I love bringing people together. We miss it so much that we really want this to be a source of things returning slowly — where once again we can all be together for all these great common experiences and celebrate life. We need it now. There’s a lot of sadness out there.”
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