Alexandra Meister-Upleger photo by Ray Nard Imagemaker

By Linnea Swarting for Pointe Magazine February 2, 2021

When our Nutcracker performances got canceled at Los Angeles Ballet, I, of course, had to deal with the emotional reaction. But I also had to worry: How was I going to pay my rent?

The pandemic has opened my eyes to financial wellness—it took a crisis for me to understand that I wasn’t prepared for one. With the pandemic, I realized that I had not been saving and spending in a way that was thoughtful. I was paying bills and whatever else came up in the moment, but I had no eye on saving for the future or in case of emergency.

Knowing that many dancers live paycheck to paycheck, I wondered how artists I know have sustained long-term careers, or how they’ve made big financial moves, like buying a house. It seemed impossible to me! Considering everyone, especially now, has different situations with expenses and income, I wanted to find out how some dancers have made their budgets work for them in order to save, even amid long layoffs or while working gig to gig.

Getting Started

Many dancers start working at a young age, and often haven’t lived on their own before or accounted for their own expenses. Chelsea Paige Johnston, a freelance dancer in Los Angeles and a former soloist at Los Angeles Ballet, began learning how to budget when she became a trainee at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. “I was paid only in pointe shoes and performance stipends,” Johnston says. Her parents, who had to help her cover living expenses at the time, taught her how to organize her finances into categories, including rent, utilities, health care, gas, groceries and savings. She’s maintained this practice throughout her career, even as her income and expenses have fluctuated.

Rebecca Eve Selkowe, financial wellness counselor at The Actors Fund and author of Dominate Your Debt: A Work & Play Book, recommends starting as Johnston did to collect as much information as possible about your income and spending habits—while staying judgment-free and patient with yourself. “I keep artists who work with me in the gathering-information phase for as long as possible,” she says. “We create a profit-and-loss sheet by looking at our spending history for the last six months, assigning a category for every transaction, and then finding the average for every category. Then you would do the same for your income sources.”

Grand Rapids Ballet dancer Alexandra Meister-Upleger uses an Excel spreadsheet to create an expected budget and to log her expenses each month. This allows her and her husband (also a dancer) to see exactly how much money they’re spending and where it’s going. They sought additional budget guidance from money-management expert Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course. “It takes a lot of time to get good at creating an accurate budget,” says Meister-Upleger. “At first, we were often underestimating how much everything costs. Now I have a much better idea.”

After tallying your expenses and income comes the harder work of balancing the two: Do you have enough money to cover your expenses and meet a personal-savings goal? Balancing your profit and loss can help you prevent missing bill payments and accumulating debt. Of course, the pandemic makes doing so more challenging, with many dancers facing furloughs and pay cuts.

Some have addressed this is by cutting costs, such as moving in with roommates or their parents. Meister-Upleger says that while she was collecting unemployment over a stretch of the pandemic, “we made a very conscious effort to save anything we didn’t use on expenses. We tightened the budget up and weren’t buying anything we didn’t need.”

Others have pivoted to find other sources of income while keeping expenses low—for example, I started freelance writing and performing in virtual gigs. Johnston has booked online performances while also working as a demonstrator for virtual classes. This is where Selkowe’s advice about being patient with yourself becomes key, since we all know it is frustrating to work hard and still struggle to close the gap.

Financial Wellness

The Actors Fund’s Financial Wellness programs incorporate education on budgeting, investing basics and taxes, as well as exploring the mental side of financial security. “The ‘wellness’ piece has to do with your relationship with money,” Selkowe says. “Are you engaging with your money? When it comes to your finances, are you practicing all the things it takes to be in a good relationship, like kindness, patience and honesty with yourself?” Because of the pandemic, all The Actors Fund’s programming, which is specifically tailored to artists, is now offered online and is free for performing arts professionals. Dancers nationwide can sign up for single-session workshops and six-week programs, including the Psychology of Money and Managing Cash Flow.

Having a realistic gauge of your finances can help lower anxiety related to it. “I can’t express how much less stressed I am from keeping our budget,” says Meister-Upleger. After a serious concussion, she was able to stay afloat and pay medical bills thanks to an emergency fund she had built up. “It was very sad to see the savings account emptied, but it was such a relief we didn’t have to worry about how to pay the bills. I was able to focus on getting better.”

Johnston reevaluated her budget after leaving company life to become a freelance dancer. “Before, I used to add up and portion out by month my total anticipated earnings for each season to set up my budget for the year,” she says. “Now, I have to plan ahead more and be open to a cycle of saving and seeking financial support.” She uses a mobile app provided by her bank to stay in touch with her spending—most major banks allow you to view your monthly statements and set budget alerts.

Other Resources and Savings

The pandemic has made a lot of dancers think about other financial resources. “[As a freelancer,] I’m paid inconsistently and unpredictably,” Johnston says. “Now, with jobs canceled or indefinitely postponed and the changing availability of government assistance, I’ve had to take things week by week instead of planning further out into the future.”

Some steps towards finding assistance include filing for unemployment insurance, if eligible, and applying for emergency-relief-fund grants from private organizations like Artist Relief and Artist Relief Tree. The American Guild of Musical Artists is offering COVID-19-related assistance to its members. The Actors Fund also offers emergency relief for dancers, in addition to its educational programs.

As a dancer, your budget most likely will be cyclical, but in the thick times, make sure to put some money in savings. Even putting aside $5 a week is a step in the right direction—it sets the intention of saving, and you can adjust the amount as you get used to the practice. A well-maintained savings account could work in tandem with aforementioned assistance during a crisis, and hopefully lead to stability in the future. “You can take hold of your own financial destiny,” says Meister-Upleger, “if you start to save what you can and try to keep your expenses low.”

By Lisa McNamara for Frame.io

While a global pandemic may have changed the way we celebrate the holidays this year, some traditions remain sacrosanct, even essential, to the Christmas season.

So when the Grand Rapids Ballet was determined to produce a virtual staging of The Nutcracker, they turned to local creative production studio, SALT, to help them create a uniquely intimate experience that would delight viewers from ballet aficionados to newcomers.

In this special installment of Made in Frame, we’ll peek behind the curtain to see how SALT used Blackmagic cameras, the beta version of Resolve 17, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Frame.io to deliver some much-needed holiday magic to the ballet company—and to a community challenged by the events of 2020.

A shared creative vision

SALT, the production company founded by director Sloan Inns and his wife, producer Jenna Inns, are neither strangers to dance films nor to rallying around their community.

In 2017, they created a new style of dance movie with Dust. Their lead dancer performed tirelessly throughout the 18-hour shoot, and in the following year of post-production, Sloan carefully retimed the performance to a new musical score. The result? A mind-bending viewing experience as the dancer appears to dance in both real time and slow-motion while staying on beat.

The artistic vision for the film was intended to inspire those struggling through life. That’s why it’s no surprise that when the pandemic hit Grand Rapids hard, SALT, along with Cre8gency, jumped in to document the community’s heroic response in a film they called GR Strong. Brewers went from making beer to hand sanitizer. West Michigan companies like Whirlpool manufactured ventilators instead of kitchen appliances. Restaurant owners fed the many people who were out of work while church volunteers delivered food to the elderly. And Sloan and Jenna armed themselves with masks and hand sanitizer to capture the historic effort.

The Grand Rapids Ballet website succinctly states a similar mission: Michigan’s only professional ballet company is committed to lifting the human spirit through the art of dance. That’s why it’s also no surprise that GR Strong contains clips of the dancers demonstrating their appreciation for the many frontline workers by creating uplifting performances delivered via Zoom.

The Ballet had already committed to keeping the season going in some form, and Jenna and Sloan had previously worked with them on one performance. “Then, in May or June, they contacted us to discuss how we could do The Nutcracker,” Sloan says. “We had to figure out not just how to create a show that would be fresh and new for at-home viewers, but also how to stay true to the essence of the ballet without being able to have all the dancers together on stage.”

the corps de ballet

 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with The Nutcracker, it’s a splashy whole-company affair with party scenes and children, and lots of dancers occupying the stage while performing highly athletic moves—not at all conducive to social distancing.

Sloan and Jenna, both dance lovers, were familiar with the way shows like So You Think You Can Dance and The World of Dance take the approach of showing not just the performances but also going behind the scenes to document the dancers’ lives, their practices, their challenges. “You get to know the dancers as people,” Jenna says, “and you form a connection with them that goes beyond dance.”  “It makes you feel like you’re rooting for them,” Sloan adds.

Partnering with Artistic Director James Sofranko, the like-minded creatives settled on a similar performance/documentary approach for this production, going backstage with everyone from the dancers to the choreographers and stagehands and wardrobe people. But the biggest challenge was creating the illusion that all the dancers were on stage together, performing a large-scale ballet while remaining safely distanced.

Intricate choreography

As a director-editor who actively seeks out new creative challenges, Sloan worked with Sofranko to devise an ingenious approach. There was no real way to prepare for this extraordinary production, but the Ballet had a recording of a 2019 rehearsal that they shared with SALT to help them work through the methodology.

pod recording

The stage was divided into distinct zones, and the dancers were grouped into “pods” of four or five dancers each, with each pod bubbled separately throughout the rehearsal period and the shoot. Each pod performed their portion of the dance in their delineated zone, never interacting with others. After all the pods performed their parts, they would be composited together to create the illusion that they were all dancing together on stage.

Using Blackmagic Design 4K cameras, Sloan and Jenna captured five different views and angles. One camera was mounted directly over the stage to capture the bird’s eye view; one was locked down in the auditorium to capture the wide master shot; one captured a medium shot; one was attached to a slider; and one was set up for the close angles.

pod pre composite

“We had five cameras rolling over the course of seven days,” Sloan says. “It took a long time, because when each pod was done we had to take a 15-minute break to ventilate the air before the next pod could come in. The Nutcracker is all about having a lot of people on stage for the big numbers, and we were only able to do small groups at a time.”

compositing in resolve

Because of the need to keep the pods separate, there are whole dance numbers that had to be broken up across several days of shooting, meaning that post-production would require meticulous choreography, as well. And then there was the behind-the-scenes component, directed by Jenna, which they shot with a Blackmagic Pocket 4K and a GoPro 7. “There are moments when the dancers are coming off the stage, breathing heavily, and we wanted to be able to capture that immediacy and get a snippet of how they’re feeling,” Sloan says. Jenna also felt it was important to capture the love and respect the dancers share with one another, and how it imbues their artistry with magic. “Those bits really added some gold in the edit,” Sloan says.

the corps 2

You can’t have a ballet without music, so the team also needed to film the Grand Rapids Symphony. “The only way we could do it safely was without the dancers so that the orchestra could spread out onto the stage [rather than in the close quarters of the pit] and we filmed them for two days and captured two takes of the entire score. In the final program, we cut back and forth between the dancers and the orchestra, so that they’re a part of the performance, as well.”

Sloan Inns, producer

An athletic process

The first challenge was to organize the nearly 9 TB of footage. Sloan had editor Chad Kramer working remotely on Adobe Premiere Pro to focus on the BTS footage, while he concentrated on building the performance. Because they’d shot in 4K RAW 5:1 (to give themselves the ability to reframe or zoom in) and the files were so massive, Sloan decided to work with the beta version of Resolve 17 for its new support of proxy workflows during the offline, and then graded and mastered HD deliverables for the 60-minute show.

made in frame

As Sloan assembled the performance segments, he’d upload them to Frame.io for Chad so that he could then build the narrative around the performance. “It’s not just a continuous block of dancing. For example, we have one section where the men are warming up for the Russian dance,” Sloan says. “They’re pushing their bodies and jumping and lying on the floor and we really get a sense of  the amount of effort and training it takes—because when you just see them performing it, you can’t fully appreciate how incredibly athletic it is.”

Essentially, we built the whole show in Frame.io

Which, in a way, describes the painstaking process of editing this program. Sloan shared all the performance footage with Sofranko and the Ballet through Frame.io so they could pick the best bits. “Frame.io has been incredibly helpful with this,” he says. “I’m not able to be there with the Ballet, but I can share every single take with them. They’re able to leave very specific comments on the actual performance. Things like, ‘This doesn’t quite work because her arm isn’t in the proper position.’ Working on the snowflake dance, for example, we had 110 notes on just that sequence. They’re very particular about the way the dancers are edited, so it’s been a really good system for us.”

collaboration in frame io

That sequence also required a lot of compositing, which Sloan was able to easily achieve in Resolve without having to do any frame-by-frame rotoscoping. “We used Power Windows and feathering to isolate and track, say, a foot that may have crossed over into another pod’s, and just by moving the window around it worked out really well.”

Sloan never actually sat in the room with Chad, and only had one in-person edit with Sofranko during the post-production process, so they relied heavily on the Resolve and Premiere integrations in Frame.io to exchange everything from assets to cuts. “Essentially, we built the whole show in Frame.io,” he says.

A storybook ending

It almost, but not quite, goes without saying that staging one of the most elaborate ballets in a company’s repertoire during COVID is a monumental undertaking. But what Sloan and Jenna also wanted to convey was just how high the stakes were for the Ballet as a company and for the dancers as individuals.

“There are bigger companies than the Grand Rapids Ballet who shut down the whole season,” he says. “A lot of people don’t know this, but The Nutcracker is the biggest single source of ticket sales for most ballet companies, so it’s essential to funding the rest of the season.”

Another reason why the Grand Rapids ballet wanted to be able to keep their dancers fit and working is that the career of a dancer is short, and losing out on a full season (or potentially more) could be devastating to them professionally. “These are elite athletes who had to find ways to stay in peak form during quarantine,” Sloan explains. “Without having the ability to go to the studio for classes or to gyms they had to stay in shape by having classes over Zoom, basically, in their living rooms.”

physically demanding

On a personal level, the lives of dancers can be somewhat isolating to begin with—the long hours of classes, rehearsals, and performances are far from the standard 9-5 job—so the company often functions as a kind of family or community, especially for dancers who come from other countries. “These dancers aren’t from Michigan,” Sloan says. “They’re from Cuba and Japan and the Dominican Republic and San Francisco. To be further isolated by being quarantined or bubbled makes it even harder for them.” And yet, the joy they experienced by being able to participate in this production came through in this piece. “There was one dancer who didn’t know if this would be her final season as a result of COVID, so she was so happy to have this opportunity to perform again,” Sloan says.

orchestra

In the end, The Nutcracker video production serves as a metaphor for what every ballet company experiences on a daily basis. The dancers look so perfect, the productions so lush. Non-dancers who attend ballets have little idea of how hard the dancers train, the discipline and focus the profession demands, the sacrifices they make for their art.

Watching this Nutcracker, you would have no idea how carefully this was planned, how challenging the performance was to execute, how much material Sloan and the team had to cull down, how he was only once in the same room with his client after shooting concluded, and how seamlessly it all came together.

If there’s anything that 2020 has demonstrated, it’s that creatives will find ways to create—and that innovators will find ways to use technology to create new experiences and establish new traditions.

grand rapids ballet nutcracker experience
grand rapids ballet nutcracker experience

Grand Rapids Ballet School Director Attila Mosolygo and student Maya Olthouse; photo by Scott Rasmussen

By John Ferraro, Company & Facilities Manager

With our theaters dark this year, we needed to find another way to bring the holiday magic of The Nutcracker to the families of West Michigan. To paraphrase Nelson Mandela: “We never fail; we either succeed or we learn.”

This year we did both.

First, we established protocols for safety and we instituted cleaning and sanitizing regimens for our facilities at Peter Martin Wege Theatre and Meijer-Royce Center for Dance.

We divided the dancers into small, exclusive groups of two to five people and we began to rehearse, in separate studios, via Zoom throughout the day. It was beginning to come together. The dancers learned to perform the beloved choreography of Val Caniparoli wearing masks and everyone was admirably diligent maintaining safety and sanitization protocols.

When it finally came the time to film this unique production with our amazingly talented video partners at SALT Creative Production Studio, it may not have been the same energy that normally accompanies the opening of The Nutcracker, but it was most certainly exciting.

We laid out nearly 1,000 feet of cable connecting computers, four cameras, switchers, and audio. We designed lighting specifically for filming which is very different than lighting for a live performance.

Company dancer Sarah Marley; photo by Scott Rasmussen

The dancers learned how to put themselves in the story and stay in the moment even though the choreography may have been out of order and broken into short little sections they did over and over. As I sat behind a camera for a week of filming, I watched the dancers adapt, adjust, and rise to the challenge—as dancers do—to make the best production possible. Their commitment and determination was inspiring.

With a skeleton film crew, masked and distanced from the dancers, they were able to perform on stage with their pod mates without masks so we could capture all the emotion in their faces. Movie magic brings the scale and splendor of The Nutcracker Experience to life on our small stage.

Through all the trials and challenges, we learned new ways to do things, new techniques, and technologies that will undoubtedly serve us well in the future even when things are ‘”back to normal.” That is the gift of The Nutcracker Experience this year. The things we are learning and the skills we are developing as a company and individually so we can continue to bring ballet, our passion and our mission, to the people who support Grand Rapids Ballet. Enjoy and happy holidays!

“Tickets” are only $15 and you can watch the performance online as many times as you like December 18-27. Purchase access today here

Presented by Meijer  |  Hosted by WOOD-TV eightWest’s Rachael Ruiz & Jordan Carson  |  Choreography by Val Caniparoli  |  Set and production design by Chris Van Allsburg & Eugene Lee  |  Music composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky  |  Music performed by Grand Rapids Symphony

 

As citizens in a non-profit organization serving West Michigan, we believe justice means accountability for our actions from our community, our leaders, and ourselves. The death of Breonna Taylor—a Grand Rapids native—demonstrates the need for this accountability. We stand with her family in their quest for justice and with the countless others who have been the targets of systemic racism and police brutality.

Grand Rapids Ballet denounces white supremacy in all its forms and pledges to do our part to end systemic racism in our community. Our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee is comprised of board members, staff, and dancers, and is committed to examining our efforts, seeking out all voices in our community, and creating actions to be a more inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible cultural organization.

If you’d like to join us in voicing this strongly held belief — that Black lives matter — here are some excellent resources to help you engage. Thank you.

  • • Donate to the official GoFundMe for Breonna Taylor, set up by her family. Though they’ve already far exceeded their goal of $500,000 (they’ve fundraised more than $6.7 million to date), every dollar raised in her honor counts. 
  • • Donate to the Louisville Community Bail Fund to help provide bail assistance for those who are unjustly arrested as they take to the streets to protest her death.
  • • Donate to the Loveland Foundation, an organization that aims to prioritize access, opportunity, and validation for young Black women and girls across the country.
  • • Visit JusticeForBreonna.org to see a list of more actions you can take. The website also lists demands for the city of Louisville, from dropping charges against Taylor’s boyfriend to eliminating no-knock warrants. 
  • • Learn more about the Black Lives Matter global movement.
company auditions grand rapids ballet michigan

We hope you and your loved ones are well. As we continue to adjust course due to COVID-19, here are some very important updates.

  • • First, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to postpone the 2020-21 season until 2021-22. That said, we will present a season of virtual performances and we will inform you as details become available. If we are able at any point throughout the season to safely bring patrons back to our theater for in-person live performances, we will do so.
  • • Second, if you purchased a 2020-21 season subscription, it will automatically be shifted to the 2021-22 season with no price increase or loss of preferred seating. You will also receive the new virtual 2020-21 programming at no charge as a thank you for your continued support. Additionally, you will receive the first opportunity to purchase any in-person live programming we are able to present this season.
  • • Third, if you purchased tickets to Junior Company’s Aladdin (March 13-15 & 21-22, 2020) or the Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (April 24-26 & May 1-3, 2020), we would greatly appreciate you donating the full transaction ticket value by sending us an email with your name, phone number, and the performance dates(s) and time(s) by Friday, July 31. However, if we do perform either of these two productions in the future, a new ticket purchase will be required. You may also request a refund by sending us an email with your name, phone number, and the performance date(s) and time(s) of your tickets also by Friday, July 31.
  • • Fourth, Grand Rapids Ballet School continues to evaluate plans for resuming classes in the fall taking into consideration all local, state, and federal safety guidelines. Read more here.
  • • Lastly, please save the date for our virtual season gala on October 1 in partnership with our friends at A.K. Rikk’s. More details to come soon on this exciting innovative event.

In the next few weeks, we will announce the structure of the new reimagined 2020-21 season, including information on how to purchase a subscription or individual tickets.

While this season will not bring what any of us expected, we are eager to tackle the challenges and opportunities we are presented with today. Never has our world — much less a dance company — been faced with such an unprecedented set of hurdles. We pledge to be innovative, collaborative, and creative to find our way through the unknown toward a path of purpose and pride.

We are so grateful for all of the support we have received from the community. If you wish to help, the best thing you can do is to donate back any unused tickets or consider a donation to sustain us through this time, which will help us maintain health benefits for our dancers and staff.

Also, to better craft a new season of virtual programming with you in mind, please take a minute to respond to a short survey here.

As always, we appreciate your patience, understanding, and support of Grand Rapids Ballet, Grand Rapids Ballet School, and Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company.

Glenn Del Vecchio, Executive Director
James Sofranko, Artistic Director
Attila Mosolygo, School Director

grand rapids ballet summer intensive michigan

We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy during this difficult time. Grand Rapids Ballet School remains responsive to the unfolding COVID-19 conditions, keeping the health and safety of our students, staff, and community as first priority.

At the direction of Michigan Governor Whitmer’s state-wide order for schools to close for the remainder of the semester, we have suspended all operations and the reopening of Grand Rapids Ballet School until it is deemed safe to do so. As such, it is with greatest regret that we announce the cancellation of our 2020 Summer Intensives and Summer Camps.

To request a refund, email us:

We look forward to our return to the studios as soon as possible to continue to bring professional ballet instruction to our community. In the event it is safe to reopen mid-summer, and we have the time and resources to prepare, we will post information about the opportunity for summer classes on this page. Thank you for your continued support of Grand Rapids Ballet School.

Attila Mosolygo, School Director

 

 

 

 

 

renew 2020-21 season grand rapids ballet 20-21 michigan dance

We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy during this unsettling time. Grand Rapids Ballet remains responsive to changing COVID-19 conditions as we keep the health and safety of our dancers, staff, and community as our first priority.

In compliance with federal, state, and local government recommendations, it is with the greatest of regret we announce the suspension of all remaining performances of the 2019-20 season, including Christopher Stowell’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (April 24-26 and May 1-3).

The good news? We are working diligently to bring you these performances at a later date; there’s nothing we’ll need more in the future than to have our human spirits lifted through the art of dance.

Additionally, Spring Break for Kids: Little Red Riding Hood (April 6-10) is cancelled and refunds are currently being processed and Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company’s Aladdin (March 13-15 & 21-22) will be postponed until a later date, as well.

We commit to providing you timely updates via email, our website, and social media. Due to the closure of Meijer-Royce Center for Dance and Peter Martin Wege Theatre, our administrative and box offices are not open, so please direct your questions to boxoffice@grballet.com or 616.454.4771 x10 and we’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.

Our motto is “What moves you?” Let us say we at Grand Rapids Ballet have been deeply moved by your sincere outpouring of concern and support. That’s why we continue to explore creative ways to stay connected with you while remaining in close discussions with West Michigan’s vibrant arts and culture community.

Thank you.

 

 

 

Glenn Del Vecchio, Executive Director

 

 

 

 

 

James Sofranko, Artistic Director

 

 

 

Attila Mosolygo, School Director

 

grand rapids ballet coronavirus michigan

Grand Rapids Ballet has been monitoring the global outbreak of COVID-19 and planning for a variety of contingencies as the virus has spread. Our highest priority is to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of every audience member, dancer, student, parent, staff member, volunteer, and our West Michigan community. We are also reviewing guidance from government authorities at the federal, state, and local governments. Ensuring health and safety now means taking actions to limit potential exposure to the virus and create social distancing.

We encourage you to learn more about the virus, free virtual screening, symptoms, ways to prevent transmission, and more from our friends and partners at Spectrum Health.

Effective Friday, March 13, the following performances have been postponed:

  • MARCH 13 | Aladdin | 7:30pm | Peter Martin Wege Theatre
  • MARCH 14 | Aladdin & Jasmine’s Royal Tea | 11am | New Hotel Mertens
  • MARCH 14 | Aladdin | 2pm | Peter Martin Wege Theatre
  • MARCH 15 | Aladdin | 2pm | Peter Martin Wege Theatre
  • MARCH 21 | Aladdin | 2pm | Peter Martin Wege Theatre
  • MARCH 22 | Aladdin | 2pm | Peter Martin Wege Theatre

The following performances have been cancelled:

  • APRIL 6-10 | Spring Break for Kids: Little Red Riding Hood | 11am | Peter Martin Wege Theatre

TICKET POLICY FOR POSTPONED PERFORMANCES
Aladdin and Aladdin & Jasmine’s Royal Tea have been postponed. New dates to be announced and no refunds are being issued at this time.

TICKET POLICY FOR CANCELLED PERFORMANCES
For Spring Break for Kids refunds, contact our box office via email at boxoffice@grballet.com. Please provide your name, performance date, # of tickets purchased, and contact number and we will get back to you as quickly as possible with options.

GRAND RAPIDS BALLET CLOSURE DATES
Effective Friday, March 13, Grand Rapids Ballet administrative and box office staff will be working remotely and the office will be physically closed through Sunday, April 12.  However, we will have the ability to answer ticket inquiries and requests by phone on a limited basis and will get back to you as quickly as possible. In the meantime, tickets may always be purchased online at grballet.com.

GRAND RAPIDS BALLET SCHOOL CLOSURE DATES
Effective Friday, March 13, Grand Rapids Ballet School offices will be closed and no classes will be held through Sunday, April 5. You will receive updates via email should this date change.

We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your understanding. Thank you for your continued support of Grand Rapids Ballet and Grand Rapids Ballet School.

Glenn Del Vecchio, Executive Director

James Sofranko, Artistic Director

Attila Mosolygo, School Director

 

 

 

Photo by Isaac Aoki

A conversation with Marketing Director Michael Erickson

Next up in conversation with the nine choreographers of Jumpstart 2020 is trainee Sophia Stefanopoulos. You can read her full bio here.

Q:  Hi, Sophia. Tell us about your piece for Jumpstart 2020. What’s the title?

A. My piece is entitled Chroma.

Q: What inspired you?

A: Whether you’re looking at art in a museum, noting people’s fashion as they walk past you, or seeing what’s outside your window, the colors of every day things we see can provoke thoughts. Simple but beautiful colors can connect qualities with matching tones. Red for passion, yellow for happiness, blue for sadness, etc. Everyone has their own interpretation and association of colors with specific qualities that can make them feel a certain way. I wanted to explore that concept in a neoclassic ballet piece where the girls resemble colors and let that influence the way each one moves. Although they have unique sets of characteristics, they can all work together in harmony, just like a work of art.

Q: How does this message translate into your choreography? 

A: Choreographically, all the Jerome Robbins, George Balanchine, and Gerald Arpino pieces I’ve learned and performed have influenced me in the creative process. They are artists that have always inspired me as a dancer and especially have as a choreographer for this piece.

Q: Tell us about your musical selections.

A: I have two pieces: Three Romances Without Words Op. 17: No. 2 Allegro Molto, composed by Saint Saëns, and Sonata for Cello and Piano in A Major, FWV 8: IV Allegro Poco Mosso, composed by Franck. Both pieces are played by Julian Steckel and Paul Rivinius.

Q: Is your piece contemporary or classical?


A: I would call this neo-classical (which refers to the 20th-century style of classical ballet exemplified by the works of George Balanchine).

 

Q: So, you’re choreographing this piece on your fellow dancers. Is that a satisfying process? 


A:
I’ve loved bringing my piece to life! Seeing the progress through every rehearsal was so exciting and gratifying, but it also challenged me to keep going and creating. I really enjoyed working with each of the girls in my piece. Just as they are learning the choreography from me, I’ve been learning from them as well.

Jumpstart is our annual showcase of emerging talent featuring the dancers of Grand Rapids Ballet as both choreographers and dancers. Artistic Director James Sofranko provides this platform for them to explore their artistic vision and bring their inspiration to life by creating short works for the people of West Michigan while gaining valuable experience as choreographers.

Jumpstart 2020 is March 6-8 at Peter Martin Wege Theatre. For tickets, visit our website, Ticketmaster, or call 616.454.4771 x10 today. 

grand rapids ballet jumpstart 2020

grand rapids ballet jumpstart 2020

Photo by Isaac Aoki

A conversation with Marketing Director Michael Erickson

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to sit down with as many of the choreographers of Jumpstart 2020 as I can. Mind you, there are nine—yes, nine!—this year, so I’ll do my best. The show is March 6-8 at Peter Martin Wege Theatre and tickets are available here.

Jumpstart is our annual showcase of emerging talent featuring the dancers of Grand Rapids Ballet as both choreographers and dancers. Artistic Director James Sofranko provides this platform for them to explore their artistic vision and bring their inspiration to life by creating short works for the people of West Michigan while gaining valuable experience as choreographers.

First up is James “Jimmy” Cunningham who joined the Company in 2019. You can read his full bio here.

Q:  Thanks for your time, Jimmy. Tell us about your piece for Jumpstart 2020. What’s the title?

A. Of course. My piece is entitled Butterfly Walking.

Q: What inspired you?

A:  Initially, I stumbled across a motivational podcast as I was scrolling through my social media feedThe message centered on not fearing change when that very change may give you the potential to become something better than what you currently are. The podcast used a lot of metaphors to make its point, but there was one about a butterfly which really resonated with me: Don’t be the butterfly that merely walks. Butterflies have big beautiful wings and they are meant to fly!

Q: How does this message translate into your choreography? 

A: Well, first, I knew I didn’t want to create something literal and have the dancers flying around the stage like actual butterflies (laughs); I wanted something deeper.  So I took the ideas of flight, fear and hesitation, and change and growth; threw in different kinds of relationships; and I took it to the studio. Hopefully, the audience will find the end result poetic and moving. I do. 

Q: Obviously, music plays a big part in the creation of any work. What about yours?

A: My piece has four different sections featuring the beautiful music of three female cellists/composers:  Julia Kent, Zoë Keating, and Hildur Guðnadóttir. (Listen to their beautiful music on Spotify below.) 

Q: Anything about the set, lighting, and costume design on which you’d like to elaborate?  


A: I made a sketch for the costume design and was lucky enough to work directly with our amazing costume shop manager, Ron Altman, to make my vision come to life. As for any set design, I plan to keep it simple by utilizing the black curtain and white backdrop that exists at Peter Martin Wege Theatre.
Hopefully, I can get the dancers to emerge from the light in an interesting, dramatic way, but that’s still a thought in progress.

 

Q: Is your piece contemporary or classical?


A: Classical lines and coordination w
ith a contemporary freedom, and some quirky shapes.  I like to build the use of momentum into my choreography.  With classical ballet everything can sometimes seem calculated, manufactured, refined, and delicate.  I find there is a special kind of poetry in the movement when you give into the force of it or add momentum.  The recovery tells a different story and makes the dance exciting to watch.  To me it can appear more human and evoke or emulate emotion. 

 

Q: So, you’re choreographing this piece on your fellow dancers. Is that a satisfying process? 


A: The dancers have been great to work with — so open to my ever-changing ideas.
They ask questions and provide constant inspiration with their thoughts and their natural coordination. I appreciate their patience, too; I know from being on the other side that it’s hard when the plan changes or suddenly the choreographer changes your favorite step.  I also tend to create in a cut-and-paste kind of way. My creativity isn’t consistently linear. They are on board with me and for that I am so grateful. Thank you!

Jumpstart 2020 is March 6-8 at Peter Martin Wege Theatre. For tickets, visit our website, Ticketmaster, or call 616.454.4771 x10 today. 

 

 

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