Dancers from a nationally touring ballet troupe plan to offer free, outdoor performances in four Iowa cities this month. It continues a decades-long tradition at the University of Iowa to bring top-flight ballet to Iowa. Jacob Yarrow, spokesman for the U-of-I’s Hancher Auditorium, says residents of the towns are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and picnics to make for an enjoyable evening.

“We’re really excited about sharing dance, ballet in particular, with all of the communities involved,” Yarrow says. “A professional ballet company is not something any of us have a chance to see with a lot regularity, so that’s one of the driving concepts behind the project, trying to share ballet with as many people as possible.” Besides the public performances, he says the ballet troupe will perform in schools in all four cities, introducing the next generation of dance fans to the art form.

“Ballet West II will visit elementary schools in all four of our host communities,” Yarrow says. “We’ve sent teachers preparatory materials to give students a bit of background information before the dance company comes and they’ll get a Ballet 101 class.” The ballets will be performed in city parks in Fairfield on Friday (September 17th), Iowa City on Saturday (September 18th), Kalona on Sunday (September 19th) and in Muscatine on September 22nd. All four performances will begin at 6 P.M.

Yarrow says this month’s effort furthers the university’s three-fold mission, which involves teaching, research and service. “With the school performances as well as offering performances for free in public spaces, that helps to reach our teaching mission and we also have a mission to serve the entire state,” Yarrow says. “We try to get out and invite people to Iowa City but also go and see people in their hometowns.”

The Utah-based troupe is made up of 11 dancers — six women and five men. The program will feature dances in a range of styles by a variety of choreographers. Learn more at “www.hancher.uiowa.edu“.