Hancher returns with a new season after getting over budget cuts and temporary shutdown due to COVID-19.
Hancher is making an unrestricted return with a new lineup of performers after cutting his 2020-21 season short due to the pandemic.
The new season kicked off with a July 4th performance by the American Ballet Theater (ABT). Hancher Executive Director Chuck Swanson said he was excited to plan and attend the event.
“ABT is one of the best ballet companies in the country, and we were the first place they contacted for their tour,” Swanson said. “I think this is a testament to Hancher’s reputation and Hancher’s impact on the University of Iowa and the arts on campus.”
Swanson said Hancher’s core value is “people first” because he believes the arts can and should create a more connected community. He said he felt that sense of connection during the ABT event in a way he hasn’t had since before the pandemic hit the United States.
“There was so much joy in the air that night, and it was Independence Day. It was like a sign that the community was healing, ”he said.
After the performance, the lineup for Hancher’s new season was made public. Swanson said he hopes the season will further connect the Iowa City community and encourage discussion and self-reflection.
Swanson predicts that Illuminated hancher, Step Afrika !, and the success of Broadway Waitress will generate a conversation within the Iowa City arts community.
“The arts are a way for people to understand themselves better and to understand others better as well,” he said. “When you experience art together, you have the opportunity to discuss.
Swanson said he had always viewed Hancher as a place of learning. UI junior Katherine Shamdin, who is pursuing a BFA in dance, said she was able to use Hancher as a learning space during the school year while it remained closed to the public.
“Before [the pandemic], I think I took the power that a space can have for granted, ”Shamdin said. “I have always danced in a studio or on stage, so being removed from that space has added such an uplifting element to my classes.”
After the campus closed in the Spring 2020 semester, Shamdin went from in-person dance training to a pirouette at home under the guidance of a Zoom instructor.
The following semester, Hancher opened its doors to the dance department at UI, so that students had room to practice social distancing while dancing.
Shamdin said she was thrilled with the opportunity.
“I think my classes at Hancher really gave me that motivation and that excitement to keep dancing,” she said. “It also made me feel really valued as an artist because sometimes I feel like, ‘Why is that important? How can I make sense of what I’m doing? ‘ and being at Hancher, where there’s such dedication to work to get back on stage, that was really special.
The director of the Hancher house, Paris Sissel, said she was happy to see a return to normalcy. Sissel, who graduated in May, started working for Hancher as a bailiff in his first year.
“Working for Hancher not only gives me the skills I will need in my future career, but it has also allowed me to bond with professionals in the industry and put me on the right track,” said Sissel.
Swanson said the UI cut funding for Hancher when it closed, forcing the auditorium to rely on funding from donors and small private events.
While Hancher’s financial future remains uncertain, Swanson said Hancher will move forward with the needs of the community at the forefront.
“It will certainly be a challenge, but Hancher is there,” he said. “Hancher is committed to the work we do, and we will do our best, as we always have.”