Celebrating its 50th anniversary in the coming 2021-22 season, the Grand Rapids Ballet remains committed to lifting the human spirit through the art of dance. A proud recipient of the ArtServe Michigan Governor’s Awards for Arts & Culture, Michigan’s only professional ballet company has a rich history marked by steady growth, a commitment to excellence, and strong community support.
In 1971, the Grand Rapids Civic Ballet began under founding Artistic Director Sally Seven. Summerfest School of Grand Rapids, a conservatory school for development of professional dancers, began in 1983 and later merged with the Grand Rapids Civic Ballet. Subsequently, the two reorganized to form the Grand Rapids Ballet Company along with the School of the Grand Rapids Ballet Company (GRBC). Under the artistic direction of Charthel Arthur, GRBC moved into regional status and joined the Midwest Regional Ballet Assoc./Regional Dance America. During the early 1990s, professional dancers were placed under contract for the first time.
Through the generosity of an arts-conscious community, The Next Step Campaign allowed the Company to transform an old abandoned bus garage into a well-designed dance rehearsal space and school facility. Since its opening in 2000, this permanent home has allowed the Ballet to add new opportunities for the community such as the popular Dancers’ Theatre Series, an expanded school schedule, and a popular field trip for students, “Escape to the Ballet,” where children learn what it takes to run a professional ballet company.
Responding to the demand of the Dancers’ Theatre Series and tremendous growth of the Company and School, GRB announced another exciting $7.5 million expansion in September 2006. Stage 2: A Campaign for Ballet included the addition of the 300-seat Peter Martin Wege Theatre adjacent to the current facility, creating the Meijer-Royce Center for Dance. The LEED-Certified theatre opened in September 2007 and houses the Company’s Dancers’ Theatre Series, as well as performances by the students of the School of the Grand Rapids Ballet Company. The 300-seat design keeps the intimate feel of the Dancers’ Theatre Series that audiences have come to love, while also allowing access to the Series for more patrons.
Today, the professional company consists of over 30 dancers, apprentices and trainees from around the world, under the leadership of Artistic Director James Sofranko; Grand Rapids Ballet School has an enrollment of over 270 students taught by instructors from professional dance backgrounds; more than 1,500 students receive free introductory classes through the Dance Immersion program; and the educational programs GRB offers to the community are outstanding ways to foster the connection between the arts and education.
Grand Rapids Ballet performs regularly at its own Peter Martin Wege Theatre, DeVos Performance Hall, Forest Hills Fine Arts Center and various tours throughout the state – totaling over 50 performances per season. The Company has performed in Quebec, Canada, Lansing, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Boyne City, Midland, St. Joseph and more; and with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony, Opera Grand Rapids, the Jackson Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Midland Symphony, and West Shore Symphony, among others.
Presenting the best in classical and contemporary choreography, the Grand Rapids Ballet remains committed to artistic excellence. With artists invested in the community and a community that supports the arts, GRB has created a flourishing arts center for all of Michigan, and continues to provide the highest level of excellence in dance theatre and education for all individuals.