Visiting the Arboretum: All members and visitors need to make a reservation in advance of their visit to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. We hope to see you soon!
ABT Across America, presented by Northrop
5 p.m. and 8 p.m. July 10 & 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. July 11
Outdoor Event Lawns, Farm at the Arb, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
by Kari Schloner, director of Northrop
How does American Ballet Theatre, America’s National Ballet Company® (ABT), come to perform outdoors at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum? To fully grasp the significance of this moment, it’s important to start at the beginning.
In March of 2020, the world as we knew it came to a screeching halt. We were sent home from our offices, all scheduled performances were cancelled, and Northrop’s stage went silent.
Over the course of several weeks it became apparent that life in the foreseeable future would look different. We would have big choices to make and new paths to forge.
But Northrop is not defined by the confines of our building. The moment the doors closed we began to reinvent what it means to be a performing arts presenter during a time when we could not gather together in person. We had to be nimble, and adapt to any number of external and even unforeseeable forces. We brought in partners to help us do innovative work in creative new ways. We commissioned a dance film, we live streamed pipe organ concerts and dance performances, and we connected audiences and artists over Zoom. All the while, we expected to bring audiences back to the theater spring 2021. But COVID-19 had other plans in mind.
Northrop and the University have a long and special relationship with American Ballet Theatre. They first performed at Northrop almost 70 years ago, they performed at the celebrated reopening of the newly renovated Northrop building in 2014, and they have been with us many times in between and since. When COVID-19 forced the cancellation of their spring 2021 tour, including their Northrop performance, the disappointment was allayed by the promise of something “big” in the works.
“Big” was an understatement. It was December 2020 when we learned that ABT was planning to hit the road with a portable stage built into a semi-truck to tour the nation with a fully self-contained outdoor ballet performance. I knew immediately that this was something that Northrop wanted to be a part of. We needed to bring this very special tour to our Twin Cities community, as a safe and joyful welcome back to live performances. But we needed the perfect location.
I wanted to keep this performance connected to the University of Minnesota. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum immediately came to mind. I vividly remember my first experience at the Arb during a Northrop staff retreat just a couple of years ago. It was spring, the tulips were just winding down and the azaleas were in their full glory. As a lover of birds, I remember my delight in seeing a bluebird (a rarity!), a scarlet tanager, and a rose breasted grosbeak. And above all, I recall the feelings of peace, calm, and connection to the world around me.
Nature and the arts have much in common. They both show beauty, strength, and resilience while giving hope, joy, and a source of healing. When Northrop’s technical director and I visited the ABT site for the first time, there was snow on the ground, but our imaginations immediately took over. As we approached the Red Barn, I could picture what it would look like in early July with the vegetable gardens producing, the pollinator plants blooming, the lawns fully green, and the corn growing knee high. And we knew that this would be the site where ABT would perform Northrop’s first dance performance for a live, in-person audience since March 2020. We are so proud to be working with the incredible team at the Arboretum to bring you this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
There has been much darkness in the past fifteen months. But I believe in the power of the arts to shine light into darkness. So come early. Stroll the grounds. Breathe deeply. Then join me July 10 or 11 for the beauty that is American Ballet Theatre. When you leave the Arboretum after the performance, it is my wish that you walk away with a profound sense of awe, renewal in your spirit, and hope for tomorrow.