the nutcracker grand rapids ballet michigan

By Jade Butler

The countless intricate details in The Nutcracker all come together seamlessly every December to create West Michigan’s favorite family holiday tradition seen by over 50,000 people since its premiere in 2014.

  • • This season, there are 14 performances including four shows at Midland Center for the Arts in Midland, Michigan and 10 at DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids.
  • • In each performance, there are 68 Grand Rapids Ballet School students and approximately 40 company dancers—most of whom are doing multiple roles. In fact, any company dancer can do up to five separate roles per show!
  • • There are 149 original costumes with 58 of those being tutus which require over 5,000 yards of tulle.
  • • There are three Sugar Plum Fairy tutus, five Marzipan Castle scene tutus, 19 snow scene tutus, 15 Waltz of the Flower tutus, two Spanish tutus, 10 harlequin tutus, and two Dream Clara tutus.
  • • It takes seven full-size semi-trucks to move the entire production to DeVos Performance Hall.
  • • It takes seven days to assemble the Broadway-quality sets designed by Tony Award winner Eugene Lee based on the illustrations of The Polar Express author Chris Van Allsburg.
  • • There are 15 toy soldiers and seven mice in each fight scene including one infamous Mouse King.
  • • There are 12 individual snowflakes in the snow scene and 12 pink flowers twirl with one Sugar Plum Fairy in the Waltz of the Flowers.
  • • In each performance, 30+ crowns and tiaras are worn: 12 snow scene crowns, 1 Dream Clara tiara, two Sugar Plum Fairy tiaras, and three Marzipan Castle crowns. Talk about glamour!
  • • Clara’s Nutcracker Party is attended by 400 happy children, parents, and grandparents.
  • • The company and school both spend at least two months rehearsing Val Caniparoli’s gorgeous choreography including two dress rehearsals.

All of this adds up to one spectacular show that you and your family won’t want to miss. Tickets are available at 616.454.4771 x10 or on our website.

festival of the arts grand rapids ballet michigan

Festival of the Arts is excited to announce its honorary co-chairs for the event’s 50th year – Glenn Del Vecchio, Executive Director for Grand Rapids Ballet and James Sofranko, the new Artistic Director for Grand Rapids Ballet. The two were selected to celebrate the link to the very first Festival of the Arts when the Ballet performed on Calder Stage nearly 50 years ago.

“I am excited to collaborate with Glenn and James to create a celebration of Festival’s 50 years that will be memorable and special for the entire community,” said David Abbott, Executive Director for Festival of the Arts. “We have already begun the work of highlighting the relationship during next year’s 50th celebration, and we look forward to sharing something amazing with the region!”

Glenn Del Vecchio serves Grand Rapids Ballet as Executive Director, and serves on a number of executive boards in the community including Vice Chair at Michigan Dance Council and Operations committee of the Convention Arena.

“Grand Rapids Ballet is thrilled to play a part in planning Festival of the Arts’ 50th celebration,” said Del Vecchio.  “Our team has had a natural connection with Festival over the years and I am humbled to have been selected as honorary co-chair for such a momentous celebration.”

James Sofranko is the new Artistic Director at Grand Rapids Ballet and has been a soloist dancer with the San Francisco Ballet.  He has danced in numerous works and world premieres by world-renowned choreographers. He is a choreographer himself and has founded and produced numerous dance projects during his time in San Francisco.  He is excited to bring his experience and expertise to the Grand Rapids Ballet.

“I am honored to be welcomed into the Grand Rapids arts community with such an important appointment,” said Sofranko.  “I am excited to share the Grand Rapids Ballet with the city through Festival of the Arts. The arts are all inclusive and should not discriminate against those who cannot afford to pay for it, so bringing high quality artistic performances to this completely free festival is something I strongly believe in.”

The Board of Directors of Festival of the Arts recently decided to follow a new process for honorary co-chairs starting with Del Vecchio and Sofranko in 2019. In order to re-connect with the arts institutions of the region, Festival will look to select leaders from partnering arts institutions in future years. The honorary co-chairs will serve as ambassadors to the community encouraging engagement for the event and also serve as conduit to all the other arts institutions in the region for solicitation of performers and artists.

David Abbott, executive director at Festival of the Arts, joined the organization in April of 2018 in an interim basis and is now charged with leading the vision of the organization into its 50th year and beyond as the organization’s first full-time executive director.  He is working to bring the historically all-volunteer run event to a new level, offering consistent leadership year-to-year.

Festival of the Arts takes place the first full weekend of June every year, and is celebrating its 50th anniversary on June 7, 8 and 9 in downtown Grand Rapids.

About Festival of the Arts

In 1969, Alexander Calder’s La Grande Vitesse was installed in front of City Hall in downtown Grand Rapids. The 43-foot-tall, vibrant red stabile, which became known as “The Calder,” inspired a celebration – one that’s grown to encompass most of downtown Grand Rapids.

Festival of the Arts, always the first full weekend of June, will celebrate its 50th year in 2019 on June 7, 8 and 9 in downtown Grand Rapids.  The three day event family friendly remains free and features several stages of performances taking place all day, a juried arts exhibition, and dozens of food booths run by local non-profit organizations. Festival also offers creative activities for children and adults to enjoy with opportunities to make your own art or purchase art from many West Michigan artists. For more information visit or check out Festival of the Arts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

new dancers grand rapids ballet michigan

By Jade Butler

As our 2018-2019 season draws closer, we’d like to introduce you to the newest additions to this growing company. We are so excited to expand our ranks, and continue to bring excellent dance to West Michigan as the stat’es only professional ballet company.

new dancers alexander meister

Alexandra Meister

First up we have company member, Alexandra Meister-Upleger from Aurora, Ohio. Most recently she was a company member with Nashville Ballet. A native of Ohio, Alexandra began training at Sharron’s School of Dance. She continued her ballet training under Ana Lobe and various teachers throughout northeast Ohio as well as summer programs at Nutmeg and Houston Ballet. In 2008, she was invited to join Nashville Ballet’s second company, NB2. In September of 2010 she was offered an apprentice contract, and in the same season was promoted to company member. In the summer of 2016, Mrs. Meister-Upleger represented the USA at the 27th International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria Alexandra. She enjoys traveling and golfing with her husband and family. She loves working with young artists and sharing her passion for art. Fun fact: She owned a small business weeding gardens in Nashville called the Wacky Weeders.

new dancer emily reed

Emily Reed

Next up we have company member Emily Reed from Monee, Illinois joining us. Emily began dancing when she was three at Faubourg School of Ballet followed by the Ruth Page Center of the Arts, where she trained under beloved ballet master Larry Long. Emily attended various summer intensives across the country on scholarship and was one of the first trainees for Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. Emily spent 2010-12 in the Milwaukee Ballet II program where she performed a wide range of repertoire with MBII and in the main company productions. She spent six seasons with Minnesota Ballet and danced such roles as Lucy in Dracula, Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, in Salvatore Aiello’s Clowns and Others, and in George Balanchine’s Who Cares? and Tarantella. Emily has also performed in the Lake Arts Project in Milwaukee, WI, as well as guested for the St. Lucie Ballet in The Nutcracker as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

grand rapids ballet dancers

Josue Justiz

Josue Justiz from Cuba is also joining us as a company member. He was born in Cuba where he started studying ballet at the age of nine in his hometown of Santiago de Cuba. When he was 14, he entered the National Ballet School of Cuba in Havana under the guidance of masters Fernando Alonso and Ramona de Saa. During his time there, he was a successful competitor in the International Ballet Competitions of Havana winning one silver and two gold medals. After graduation, he entered the National Ballet of Cuba under the direction of Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alicia Alonso. After only two years with the company, he earned the title of soloist. He came to the United States permanently soon after where he joined the Studio Company of the Washington Ballet. In 2014, he joined the former Ballet San Jose under the direction of ballet legend Jose Manuel Carreño. Jose is a founding member of Dimensions Dance Theatre where he collaborated with well-known choreographers such as Septime Webre, Tara Reid, Vicente Nebrada, and Yanis Pikieris.

nathan young

Nathan Young

Our 4th company member to join us this season is Nathan Young from Little Rock, Arkansas. Nathan began his training at the age of 13 at the Arkansas Academy of Dance under Mark Bush, Melinda Tobian, and Rebecca Miller-Stalcup. In 2013, Nathan graduated from the University of Oklahoma, where he received a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Ballet Performance.  After college, Nathan moved to Nashville, Tennessee, dancing for the Dance Theatre of Tennessee for one season and Nashville Ballet for four seasons.



israel garcia chenge

Israel Garcia Chenge

Next to join us is apprentice Israel Garcia Chenge from Mexico. Israel began his ballet training when he was 17 years old at Fomento Artístico cordobés – PROVER with Adria Luz Velázquez and Martha Sahagún in Córdoba, Veracruz. In 2010 Israel joined the trainee program at Orlando Ballet School. Israel joined the Milwaukee Ballet II in 2012 where he performed soloist roles and did works by George Balanchine, Michael Pink, Tim O’Donnell, and Petr Zahradnicek. In 2013, Israel had the honor of being invited to perform as a guest artist at the Youth America Grand Prix Gala in Mexico. The following year, he joined the Joffrey Ballet studio company in Chicago, IL, performing a variety of classical roles and was featured in works by Jennifer Archibald, Stephanie Martinez, Christian Denice and Mariana Oliveira.

nicholas bradley gray

Nicholas Bradley Gray

Nicholas Gray is joining us this season as an apprentice. He is a recent graduate of Indiana University Jacobs School of Music with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ballet and an Outside Field in Theatre and Drama. Nicholas grew up in Milwaukee, WI, studying at the First Stage Theatre Academy from 2006-2013 and beginning his classical ballet training at the Milwaukee Ballet School in 2010. Nicholas then moved to Torrington, CT in 2013 to continue his classical training with the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory. In his three years at IU Nicholas performed in works by world-renowned choreographers including Martha Graham, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, and Paul Taylor, and studied under ballet legends such as Violette Verdy, Kyra Nichols, Carla Korbes, and Michael Vernon. He had the privilege of performing in featured roles with the IU Opera Theatre and the IU Department of Theatre and Drama. 

william shearstone

William Shearstone

Finally, William Shearstone from Atlanta, Georgia will be joining Grand Rapids Ballet as a trainee. William began his dance training at 14 years old at the Cobb County Center for Excellence in Performing Arts at Pebblebrook High School where he trained in ballet, jazz, modern, music, acting, and musical theater. He joined Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education Academy’s pre-pro division his senior year. After graduating high school, he earned a Trainee position at BalletMet and spent two seasons dancing there.


Welcome, everyone! We’re all very excited to see how your talents continue to elevate the art of Grand Rapids Ballet. You can learn more about all of your favorite dancers here.

summer intensive grand rapids ballet
grand rapids ballet summer intensive

Photo: Jade Butler

By Jade Butler, Grand Rapids Ballet Apprentice

Often daunting, always exciting, summer intensives are of the utmost importance for the training of a pre-professional dancer. Most are between three and five weeks, jam-packed with learning, dancing, and making new memories. All professional dancers started as students much like you, attending summer intensives and feeling excited and nervous. As a student, I found that the summer intensives I attended ended up being some of the most transformative years of my training toward become a professional dancer. Whether it be the stellar training, diverse repertoire, adventurous weekend activities, or friendships I made, I never regretted attending a single one of them. Regardless if you’re attending a shorter three-week program or even a longer seven-week program, here are some tips to help you survive and thrive during your summer intensive.

Tip #1: BE NICE

  • • As in life, this applies to everyone at your intensive. These are your peers, contemporaries, and teachers. You will run into them again, so always have a smile and a kind word. 


  • • Make sure you’re in shape before you arrive; do not take time off leading up to an intensive. Up to two weeks before you arrive, you should be taking class every day to ensure your body is in good condition.
  • • Pack the right things in your suitcase. Of course, start with ballet clothes that follow your school’s dress code, but be prepared to spend time outside the studio exploring your host city. For example, Grand Rapids gets quite warm in the summer but it occasionally has a cooler rainy day (this is Michigan, after all—if you don’t like the weather, just wait an hour). So, you should pack summer clothes and a rain jacket. And don’t forget things like a sewing kit.
  • • Stay positive. Remember teachers only give corrections because they are trying to help you, so don’t allow yourself to get into the mindset one teacher doesn’t like you. And please don’t fret about your level placement; you are placed in the level in which the school faculty knows you will succeed.
  • • Work hard and your effort to improve will be noticed. Give everything your best effort; there’s no time like the present to work hard.
grand rapids ballet summer intensive

Photo: Jade Butler


  • • The need for a dancer who is able to do both classical ballet and contemporary dance is growing. so it’s important to start as a student—be open to trying new styles.
  • • You may be scheduled to take classes you don’t normally take at your home studio like character, hip-hop, or Pilates. These classes are all great ways to grow and learn as a dancer and they were included in the curriculum to help you. And you might just end up loving it.
  • • Remember, your teachers might teach a step slightly differently than they do at your home studio. That’s OK. Different styles of ballet steps (Vaganova, Cecchetti, Balanchine) have differences and it does not mean they are teaching the step incorrectly. As a professional dancer, the choreographer wants you to do their step their way—not your way, mom’s way, or your home studio’s way. Again, you will learn something new, which is always a good thing. Trust them. 

“One of the best things about a summer intensive is all of the new information you receive. Whether it’s learning from new students attending an intensive at your home studio, or attending a summer program at a different school, my advice is to be as open as possible. Hold on to everything you know about ballet lightly, and see what matches up based on what you see and what you are taught. If something doesn’t ring true, you can discard it when you go back to your normal training in September, but challenge yourself to try new things for the entire time you are in the new environment.” —Steven Houser, Grand Rapids Ballet Company Dancer and Ballet Master 

grand rapids ballet summer intensive

Photo: Jade Butler


  • • I think you know what I am going to say here: Follow the dress code that is a given to you to the letter. Remember,  you’re asked to wear a black leotard or pink tights so your teacher can see your lines well. You’re only at this school for a short number of weeks, so you want to put your best foot forward figuratively and literally.
  • • Show up ready to shine with your hair done nicely and pulled away from your face with no holes or runs in your tights (remember that sewing kit I referenced earlier?)
  • • Dancing 4-6 hours a day means a lot of sweat, so wear deodorant and shower regularly. This is common sense. 


  • • Make sure you’re eating enough to sustain how much dancing you’re doing every day. When you’re craving a snack, have one, but make sure it’s nutritious, sustainable, and minimally processed. And it goes without saying: water, water, and more water. 
  • • Sleep six to eight hours per night (maybe even more, if possible). There’s nothing like a full night’s sleep to prepare you for a full day of dancing and working hard.
grand rapids ballet summer intensive

Photo: Jade Butler

Tip #6: HAVE FUN

  • • Enjoy yourself! Go on those weekend activities; I promise you will make memories that will last a lifetime.
  • • Connect with your new friends…Instagram, email, Facebook, phone numbers, Snapchat. Keep in contact and continue to grow your dance network. You may find yourself next to many of them at the barre in the future and a friendly face is always a nice thing to see.

 “During a summer intensive you spend the entire day dancing which can take a toll on your body. I try to spend time every morning before class rolling out and time after the day is over to stretch. I’ve found that this is the best way to prep my body for the long day ahead and also relax after a whole day of dancing.” —Sophia Brodin, Grand Rapids Ballet Summer Intensive student

James Sofranko Artistic Director Grand Rapids Ballet Michigan


From the Grand Rapids Magazine July 2018 issue. Available on newsstands now or via subscription.

The Grand Rapids Ballet welcomed accomplished dancer, choreographer and artistic entrepreneur James Sofranko as its new artistic director on July 1. In this capacity, Sofranko is responsible for all artistic direction and planning for the GR Ballet.

Sofranko, a Cincinnati native, received dance training at The Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Florida, and The Juilliard School in New York City, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance. After graduating in 2000, Sofranko joined the San Francisco Ballet, where he was promoted to soloist in 2007. His final performance as a dancer with the San Francisco Ballet was this May.

Grand Rapids Magazine: Proudest moment?

JS: My proudest moment was probably when I was hired into San Francisco Ballet straight after graduating from Juilliard. Juilliard sometimes has a reputation of being a school for only modern dancers, and I am very proud that I was able to show that my training in the modern techniques of Martha Graham, Paul Taylor and Jose Limon did not exclude classical ballet from my future.

I love all styles of dance and I believe that training in one style can inform another. Dancers today must be versatile and able to do so much more than just classical ballet. My versatility was one of my strengths at San Francisco Ballet and I’m very proud that I was able to dance in such a large variety of styles during my career.

Grand Rapids Magazine: Biggest career break?

JS: There is a role designed for a short man in Kenneth Macmillan’s “Elite Syncopations,” a ballet we did at San Francisco Ballet early in my career, set to Scott Joplin rags. A few of the shorter principals were cast in the role, but through injury or other circumstance, I ended up first cast in this role that required a lot of comedy and physicality.

I found myself, as a new corps member, dancing with long time principal (and the very tall) Muriel Maffre in this pas de deux with her legs constantly going over my head. I remember thinking to myself, “Whatever you do, just don’t drop her!” I was nervous, of course, but the comedy kept me on my toes and in the moment. To this day, audience members still come up to me and remind me of that duet and how that was the first time they remember knowing who I was.

Grand Rapids Magazine: What talent would you like to possess?

JS: I would love to be able to draw or paint. Unfortunately, I can barely do a stick figure.

Grand Rapids Magazine: Favorite movie of all time?

JS: Oh, so hard to choose! My wife and I could watch “When Harry Met Sally” forever. We know all the lines, but it’s still one of our “go-to” movies when we just want to relax and laugh. Also, “Bullets over Broadway” and “Meet the Parents” rank pretty high for comedy.

For more serious fare, I like “V for Vendetta” or anything written by Charlie Kaufman, and “West Side Story” is my favorite musical.

Grand Rapids Magazine: Morning or night person?

JS: Morning, although I can stay up late too… but I’m my best in the morning.

Grand Rapids Magazine: What are you most passionate about?

JS: I’m most passionate about showing people the value of art in their life and society. Without art, we lose sight of the beauty that humans are capable of. Without art, we lose a form of expression that speaks beyond language.

Grand Rapids Magazine: What makes you laugh?

JS: My two sons, Jack and Aiden!

Grand Rapids Magazine: Favorite getaway?

JS: In California, we love taking a drive to wine country; it’s like having Italy in your backyard.

Grand Rapids Magazine: Your best or worst habit?

JS: One (bad or good depending how you look at it) habit I have is doing too much and saying yes to too many projects! There’s just so much to do and not enough time!

Grand Rapids Magazine: How do you unwind?

JS: A walk on the beach with the family is always therapeutic.

wild sweet love michigan ballet grand rapids ballet

Yuka Oba in George Balanchine’s Allegro Brilliante, photo by Isaac Aoki

A Closer Look at Wild Sweet Love

by Jade Butler

For his inaugural Grand Rapids Ballet rep (short for repertory: a production in which a company presents several different works in one show), new artistic director James Sofranko thoughtfully selected vastly different masterpieces. Three will be Grand Rapids premieres: Allegro Brilliante by modern master George Balanchine; Ghost Light by our choreographer-in-residence and Princess Grace Award winner, Penny Saunders; and Wild Sweet Love by internationally acclaimed choreographer Trey McIntrye; and a fourth will be a world premiere work choreographed by Sofranko himself. This tour de force is a fantastic way to showcase our versatile, multi-faceted dancers and to open our exciting new season with fresh perspective.

Allegro Brilliante

Allegro Brilliante is a classic “lights and tights” ballet centered around a principal couple, supported by four corps couples. The ballet is set to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.3 (listen to it here), originally created from a unique composition intended to be part of Tchaikovsky’s 6th symphony. Choreographed in 1956, Allegro Brilliante is still performed regularly by New York City Ballet and other ballet companies worldwide. The demanding choreography paired with a quick tempo is a classic Balanchine trademark everyone has come to love. You can truly “see the music [and] hear the dance” with this brilliant work; it is a thrilling and delightful addition to this diverse mixed bill.

Ghost Light

Penny Saunders’ Ghost Light is an alluringly haunting work inspired by the singular light that is often left on stage when unoccupied. Popular superstition holds that it is put out to appease any possible cohabiting spirits in the theater, hence the term “ghost light.” Similar notions are the light provide opportunities for ghosts in the theater to perform onstage. The ghost light in this work magically draws the dancers out of the shadows with masterful light design by Scott Bolman. This is the fifth work by Saunders to be added to our repertoire.

Wild Sweet Love

Trey McIntrye‘s Wild Sweet Love is set to hit songs by popular artists such as Queen, Lou Reed, The Partridge Family, and Roberta Flack, with Mendelssohn’s Wedding March thrown in for good measure. Originally created at Sacramento Ballet in 2007, Grand Rapids Ballet is the third company to add Wild Sweet Love into its repertoire. Delightfully quirky and athletic, Wild Sweet Love measures up to be just as brilliant as Allegro Brilliante and just as captivating as Ghost Light.

“Like Balanchine, McIntyre builds an excitingly modern dance upon a very classic foundation. Wild Sweet Love is both wild and sweet. And very, very good.”

The Sacramento Bee

Get Your Tickets!

This is the perfect show to kick-off our exciting new 2018-19 season—the first under the artistic direction of James Sofranko. It has something for everyone and will showcase your favorite dancers (and introduce you to some new ones, too).

Single tickets don’t go on sale to the public on Monday, June 18 (mark your calendars), but you can purchase season subscriptions now. To do so, call our box office manager, Kelly, at 616.454.4771, x10, email her, or visit our website today.

grand rapids ballet oscar wilde michigan dance
written by Connie Flachs

“It is through art, and through art only, that we can realize our perfection; through art and art only that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence.” —Oscar Wilde



The Happy Prince

The Happy Prince Oscar Wilde, already an established and beloved poet and playwright, works at his desk as the London streets bustle beneath him. He joins the action on the street, theatrically reading his playful children’s tales to the passing youth. His mother greets him and together they poke fun at Victorian society’s strict conventions, while keeping an eye out for a wife suited to his fashionable lifestyle. Encouraged by his parents, Oscar meets the beautiful, clever, and poised Constance Lloyd. A flirtatious courtship ensues, resulting in a happy and enthusiastic marriage. They are a popular couple, admired for their witty humor and audacious faison. All appears wonderful and satisfactory. Together they give birth to two sons and welcome them to the world with love.

The Selfish Giant

The Selfish Giant After the birth of their second son, cracks emerge in the strength of their marriage and Oscar finds solace in his friend Robert Ross. Through Ross, Oscar is introduced to Lord Alfred Douglas, known as Bosie, who fills the needs Constance can no longer meet. Bosie, well aware of Oscar’s infatuation, leverages Oscar’s devotion to him to convince Oscar to cater to his every need. Bosie gets Oscar acquainted with London’s bawdy underground society. As Oscar sinks deeper into his treacherous relationship with Bosie he becomes further estranged from his family, absorbed in his new, alternate life. A beautiful linnet emerges: Can this hopeful bird help him to overcome his selfishness? Or perhaps it is the society that is selfish, determined to define devotion in a specific way rather than acknowledge the complexities of relationships and the sentiment that, ultimately, love is love.


The Nightingale & The Rose

The Nightingale & The Rose Constance and Oscar attend an extravagant ball. They are still the talk of the town but suspicions have arisen that all is not rosy between them. Indeed, as the party cedes to the privacy of the Wilde’s home, Constance can no long turn a blind eye to her husband’s infidelities. She withdraws with the children, determined to maintain her honor. Oscar is disgracing the family name. This Happy Prince has fallen from his pedestal. The public, who loved him so much, turns on him and Oscar is cast into exile. With his reputation, finances, and career in ruin, he is left to reflect on his life, career, and lovers. From this bleakness a nightingale emerges, singing a sweet and beautiful birdsong that lingers as all else fades.

The Happy Prince & Other Wilde Tales 
runs May 4-6 and 11-12 at Peter Martin Wege Theatre in downtown Grand Rapids. For tickets, call 616.454.4771 x10 or visit today.
grand rapids ballet oscar wilde michigan
written by Connie Flachs; costume and character illustrations by Sadie Rothenberg

Oscar Wilde character sketch by Sadie Rothenberg

Oscar Wilde The Happy Prince

A talented playwright, poet, and author with a penchant for flowery language, gaudy fashion, and witty humor. At the height of his career he is a beloved figure in London society. He values beauty in art above utility or deeper meaning and strives to create “art for art’s sake.”
After the birth of his second son, Wilde loses his strong attraction to his wife and is tempted by newfound affections. He spends few nights at home, living in lavish hotels with his lover, Bosie, and sees his children rarely. His inflated ego convinces him to bring a court case of libel he has no chance of winning and this naive pride lands him in jail, his family broken and the name of Wilde disgraced.
“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.” – Oscar Wilde

Constance Lloyd character sketch by Sadie Rothenberg

Constance Lloyd – Oscar’s Wife

A clever writer and artistic persona herself, Constance and Oscar are fully and authentically in love as newlyweds. She shares his love of unusual (for the Victorian era) dress and helps to design their London home in the most progressive fashion and together they have two children, Cyril and Vyvyan.
“The air is full of the music of your voice, my soul and body seem no longer mine, but mingled in some exquisite ecstasy with yours.” – Oscar Wilde to Constance

Robert Ross character sketch by Sadie Rothenberg

Robert Ross – faithful friend, literary executor

A precocious art critic and dealer, Ross is a pivotal figure in London’s art scene, as well as a fan of Oscar’s work. Ross is openly gay and makes no secret of his attraction to Wilde, introducing Oscar to love. They remain close while Oscar struggles between his Happy Prince and Selfish Giant sides, Ross offering financial and emotional support throughout. Ross is instrumental in the protection and distribution of Wilde’s work after his death.
“He was never quite sure himself where and when he was serious.” – Robert Ross, on Oscar
“Friendship is far more tragic than love. It lasts longer.” – Oscar Wilde

Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) character sketch by Sadie Rothenberg

Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) lover

Handsome, spoiled, and utterly reckless, Bosie is in his undergraduate studies when he first meets Oscar. They quickly become passionate, tumultuous lovers. Oscar does his best to satisfy any and all of Bosie’s materialistic and romantic desires. Bosie does little to repay him, dragging Wilde deeper into an illicit world, acting incredible rude towards Constance, and antagonizing those who disapprove of the two men’s relationship.
“[Oscar], when you are not on your pedestal, you are not interesting.” – Bosie to Oscar
“The basis of character is will power, and my will became utterly subject to yours.” – Oscar to Bosie

Linnet character sketch by Sadie Rothenberg

A hopeful bird who is a harbinger of good news, around to help the Selfish Giant locate his gratitude and reconnect with the youthful innocence of children.
“The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the children used to stop their games in order to listen to them. “How happy we are here!” they cried to each other.”

William Wilde character sketch by Sadie Rothenberg

Jane Wilde character sketch by Sadie Rothenberg

Jane & William Wilde mother and father

Jane Wilde is a writer herself, involved in many progressive political movements, advocating for better education and more rights for women. She passes this critical attitude towards established society onto her son and supports even his far-fetched endeavors. William Wilde is a remarkable eye and ear surgeon who earned his knighthood in Ireland.
“My mother and my father had bequeathed me a name they had made noble and honoured, not merely in literature, art, archaeology, and science, but in the public history of my own country, in its evolution as a nation.’ – Oscar Wilde

Nightingale character sketch by Sadie Rothenberg


This brave, idealistic bird values love over all else. She will go as far as to give her own life to ensure that the beauty and hope of true love may have a chance to flourish.
“Be happy, be happy; you shall have your red rose. I will build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with my own heart’s-blood. All that I ask of you in return is that you will be a true lover.”
The Happy Prince & Other Wilde Tales runs May 4-6 and 11-12 at Peter Martin Wege Theatre in downtown Grand Rapids. For tickets, call 616.454.4771 x10 or visit today.
2018-19 new season grand rapids ballet
Grand Rapids Ballet 2018-19 Season tickets at

Photo by Peter Mueller courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

2018-19 Grand Rapids Ballet Season Announcement

We hope you’re as excited as we are about our amazing new season! Without further ado, here we go…


Photo of company dancer Yuka Oba in Allegro Brillante by Isaac Aoki

Enjoy four passion-filled works  in one spectacular performance featuring Allegro Brilliante by the father of American ballet, George Balanchine, and music by Tchaikovsky; Trey McIntyre’s fun-filled epic musing on romantic rituals, Wild Sweet Love featuring an eclectic mix of popular music from Queen, The Partridge Family, Roberta Flack, and more; and the hauntingly alluring Ghost Light by our choreographer-in-residence, Penny Saunders. The evening will also include the first piece created specifically for Grand Rapids Ballet by new Artistic Director James Sofranko. And you won’t want to miss the black-tie gala on Thursday, October 18, welcoming James to Grand Rapids!

2018-19 Grand Rapids Ballet new season

Photo of Ghost Light by Dane Wayne courtesy OwenCox Dance Group

2018-19 Grand Rapids Ballet new season

Photo of Wild Sweet Love by Peter Mueller courtesy Cincinnati Ballet


The Nutcracker at Grand Rapids Ballet

Illustration by Chris Van Allsburg

It isn’t the holidays in West Michigan without The Nutcracker. The world-famous design of Chris Van Allsburg, Broadway-quality sets by Tony Award winner Eugene Lee, festive choreography by Val Caniparoli, and the live music by your Grand Rapids Symphony all come together to create pure magic you and your family will remember for a lifetime! Clara’s Nutcracker Party will take place on Sunday, December 18 at 11am at Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, too.

2018-19 Grand Rapids Ballet new season

Photo by Tim Motley

2018-19 Grand Rapids Ballet season

Photo by Scott Rasmussen


MOVEMEDIA: Handmade Grand Rapids Ballet

Photo of company dancer Cassidy Isaacson by Scott Rasmussen

Created for you by Princess Grace Award winner and our choreographer-in-residence Penny Saunders, Joffrey Ballet’s Nicolas Blanc, and the talented dancers of Grand Rapids Ballet, our contemporary dance series returns with works from the heart and soul that show a completely different side of their unique talents. This is personal— and hands down one of the most poignant productions you’ll see from us all season.


Extremely Close Grand Rapids Ballet 2018-19 season

Photo by Todd Rosenberg courtesy Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

See things from an unexpected angle with the mystical Extremely Close by Hubbard Street’s internationally renowned resident choreographer, Alejandro Cerrudo; Val Caniparoli’s, Ibsen’s House—a portrayal of strong female characters from Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s most well-known plays including A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler, set to a live performance of Dvorak’s compelling Piano Quintet No. 2; and a second new piece by James Sofranko.

2018-19 grand rapids ballet new season

Photo of company dancer Connie Flachs in Ibsen’s House by Isaac Aoki


2018-19 Season Grand Rapids Ballet

Photo of company dancers Cassidy Isaacson and Levi Teachout by Eric Bouwens

Go down the rabbit hole for the triumphant return of the dizzyingly beautiful Alice in Wonderland from choreographer Brian Enos and visual artist Luis Grané. No collaborative effort more fully captures the surrealist and symbolic possibilities of this beloved tale with such exquisite beauty and extravagant imagination. Revue Magazine called it “A modern masterpiece!”

So there it is: A season filled with classics and new works that you won’t want to miss. Single ticket sales start Monday, June 18 so stay tuned for more details!


New Development Director Grand Rapids Ballet Michigan

We’re happy to announce Elizabeth McCarthy Musil as been appointed our new Director of Development. Elizabeth will join us February 19, 2018 to lead fundraising efforts and mission advancement of the 47-year-old institution.

Elizabeth comes to us from Disability Advocates of Kent County where she served as Development Director since 2015. There she provided leadership and management of mission advancement and philanthropic giving.  As a member of the senior leadership team she shared in responsibilities of the organization’s strategic initiatives and community engagement.  Prior to her tenure at Disability Advocates, she held previous development roles in arts and culture organizations including Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and Gilda’s LaughFest.

“I am thrilled and honored to join one of the greatest performing arts institutions in Michigan,” said Musil. “It is a privilege to work with staff and stakeholders to further enrich the Grand Rapids Ballet’s outstanding reputation and support in our community through sharing the joy of beauty and creative expression through dance and incredible performances with lasting social impact.”

Elizabeth is from Grand Rapids, Michigan and earned her B.A. in Communications from Grand Valley State University. She is a member of Association of Fundraising Professionals, The Economic Club of Grand Rapids, GVSU Women’s Center Advisory Council, and Inforum.

Welcome, Elizabeth!