Hancher Announces Collaboration with Joffrey Ballet

Eight years and $176 million has led to the architectural feat that is now Hancher.

Hancher during its construction in April.
Hancher during its construction in April.

In 2008, Iowa City was crippled by the flooding of the Iowa River. The high waters devastated everywhere from Downtown to Lower City Park, where the old Hancher resided. Flood damages accounted upwards of $750 million. Student dorms, roads, and the theatrical center of Iowa City, Hancher, all took severe hits during the flood.

Historically, Hancher has hosted a variety of shows, including Hamelot and other works of art.
The razing of Hancher in 2008 offered a new canvas for theater in Iowa City. The University did not shy away from the project to rebuild Hancher. Chuck Swanson, the Hancher Executive Director, is very excited about the rebirth of Hancher.

“It’s going to be a world class facility,” Swanson said, “We’re creating history on this stage.”

On Tuesday, April 12th, Chuck Swanson held a press conference concerning Hancher’s near completion.

The world class facility will be host its premier show, The Nutcracker, on December 7th as part of its partnership with the Joffrey Ballet, a world-renowned performance group based out of Chicago, to create this $4,000,000 performance.

Ashley Wheater, Joffrey Ballet artistic director, announced the collaboration between Joffrey Ballet and Hancher Auditorium alongside lead Joffrey dancer April Daly, and Hancher executive director Chuck Swanson.

Wheater has danced for The Nutcracker for a total of 50 years, starting at the small role of “The Naughty Prince”, and working his way up to lead roles such as the “Nutcracker”.

Joffrey and Hancher’s relationship started in 1974, when the tour, initiated by the National Endowment for the Arts, first introduced the Joffrey Ballet Company to Iowa City. In addition, the ballet company also performed The Nutcracker on Hancher’s original stage in 1987.

“You have always had a world class theater and world class art,” Wheater said of Hancher.

This December, the brand-new Hancher stage–facing 1,800 seats–will host The Joffrey Ballet Company’s The Nutcracker, directed by Christopher Wheeldon. Wheeldon is a well known choreographer throughout the theater community. He most recently won a Tony Award for choreographing An American in Paris.

According the Wheater, in addition to the intricate choreography by Wheeldon, a sophisticated set will also be created — featuring an enormous Christmas tree, snow, and around 400 local children.

“There are other magical things that I’m not allowed to talk about,” Wheater said.

April Daly is the leading Joffrey artist for the production. Daly performed The Nutcracker in the original Hancher as her ballet career was just beginning, starting in a small background role and working her way up to lead roles, such as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and now, the lead artist.

“I’m excited for new dancers to experience this [production],” Daly said. “[Iowa City] has always been so kind to us. Being here and thinking about the future is very exciting.”

Tickets for The Nutcracker will be for sale to the general public on June 10th.