Adult Ballet Classes: The Grand Rapids Ballet offers ballet classes for those with or without experience. Our members got an introduction to those classes Tuesday night—and left inspired, exhilarated, and well… wobbly.
Along with classes for adorable little kids at the Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB), there are also adult ballet classes on offer, whether you have any experience in ballet or not. Classes are held on a weekly basis, and the first class is free for those interested in trying it out. At just $15 per class and even less when purchasing a 10-class punch card, the price is comparable to other exercise classes like yoga or aerobics, and doesn’t require special equipment to participate. All that’s needed are comfortable clothes to move in and a pair of socks.
Our cultured.GR members were invited to a special introductory ballet class just for us, with the school director Attila Mosolygo guiding us through what we would experience in a regular class, from bar exercises to jumps to stretches.
Mosolygo, who has been with GRB for 25 years, doesn’t normally teach these classes, so it was a very special introduction. “When I started with the Grand Rapids Ballet, we had six dancers in the company,” Mosolygo revealed, showing just how much the organization has grown over the years. The company now includes over 30 dancers, apprentices, and trainees.
Some of our members had grown up doing ballet, and others had not taken a single dance class in their lives. Whatever the experience level, the ballet class proved to be an incredibly strenuous—and incredibly peaceful and inspiring—experience. This is no easy sport. This is perhaps the most serious workout that many of us had ever experienced. Mosolygo explained to our group that both boxers and football players are known for taking ballet for the benefits it brings to them for both protecting against injury and improving their abilities in their primary sport.
We don’t think anyone in our group sustained any injuries either (we’ll let you know in the morning), though jokes were made about the difficulty in walking at a fast pace, navigating steps, and just plain standing up without buckling.
All the same, many of us are excited to come back for more now that we’ve had a taste of what’s available for adults at Grand Rapids Ballet.
Grand Rapids Ballet Adult Classes
341 Ellsworth Ave SW, Downtown Grand Rapids Intermediate (2–3 years of prior ballet experience recommended)
● Tuesdays, 6:30–7:45 p.m.
● Wednesdays, 6:30–7:45 p.m. Beginner
● Thursdays, 6:30–7:45 p.m. Cost:
• Per class: $15 (first class is FREE)
• 10-class punch card : $130 (save $20)
• Discounted prices for students, seniors, and season ticket holders.
Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB) announced today that they are formally beginning a search for a new artistic director for Michigan’s only professional ballet company. Current artistic director, Patricia Barker, announced in June that she accepted the artistic director appointment at Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB). Barker has been in this position with GRB since 2010, and will split her time between GRB and RNZB until the end of the 2017-18 season.
“We have already had a lot of Interest in this position,” said Glenn Del Vecchio, GRB Executive Director. “Patricia’s artistic vision and the success of the company have made GRB a highly respected dance organization. We will find an excellent candidate to continue the artistic excellence Patricia began and our patrons expect.”
A search committee has been formed within GRB that includes current board members, company dancers, and community leaders. Applications will be accepted August 15 through September 15, 2017. Interviews will begin in early October with a final decision being made by early December 2017.
A complete job description and details on how to apply can be found at grballet.com/ADsearch. No phone calls, please.
It was announced today that the board of directors of Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB)—Michigan’s only professional ballet company—is in the beginning phase of forming a search committee to field leads, identify qualified
candidates, and interview and select a new artistic director. This is in response to the news that Patricia Barker, the company’s artistic director since 2010, has accepted the position of artistic director of Royal New Zealand Ballet.
“We are thrilled for Patricia,” said GRB board of directors’ president Michael P. Kling. “The indelible mark she has left on GRB and the arts in general in West Michigan is beyond compare and her new position is a testament to her skills as an artistic director. Our top priority right now is ensuring the sustained success of GRB.”
In order to ensure a seamless transition, Patricia and the Board have expanded Attila Mosolygo’s role to director of Grand Rapids Ballet School (GRBS), a role formerly filled by Patricia. Mosolygo, who retired from dancing at GRB in 2013 after 16 years, will oversee the administration, curriculum, and creative vision of GRBS which currently enrolls over 250 ballet students. Mosolygo will also continue as director of GRBS’s Junior Company and as a GRB ballet master.
“There’s no greater joy than helping a student with a passion for dance reach his or her full potential, so it’s an incredible honor to know that the board of directors has the confidence in me to fill the big pointe shoes left behind by Patricia,” said Mosolygo. “My 21-year history with GRB will serve me well as we move into this exciting new chapter and I’m eager to continue to bring the level of excellence to the school that the students and their parents deserve and have come to expect.”
Barker will split her time during the 2017-18 season between GRB and her new role as artistic director for Royal New Zealand Ballet. Accordingly, other organizational changes are being implemented for the upcoming 2017-18 season. Dawnell Dryja, a GRB company dancer since 2002, is being named artistic coordinator, and Nicholas Schultz, Laura McQueen-Schultz, and Steven Houser are being elevated to the position of interim ballet masters in addition to company dancers.
“I’ll never forget my years at GRB—they were very special to me and I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished,” said Barker. “I have the utmost confidence in the team to keep the company headed in the right direction and these staff changes will make sure everything goes smoothly as GRB starts a new chapter.”
After seven years with the Grand Rapids Ballet, Barker is taking on a new adventure on the other side of the globe.
Patricia Barker (front) with her Grand Rapids Ballet dance troupe. Image courtesy Grand Rapids Ballet.
Former Pacific Northwest Ballet star and current artistic director of Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB), Patricia Barker, will become the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB)’stwelfth artistic director and only the second female director in its 64-year history. She takes over from current RNZB artistic director Francesco Ventriglia on June 19, 2017. Ventriglia will stay on as a choreographer for the company.
Barker says the application process involved her submitting a strategic overview with a sample production plan. She met with RNZB’s search committee via video conference calls and spent three days at the company’s home in Wellington where, in addition to meeting and talking with the organization’s board and staff ─ including fellow American executive director Frances Turner ─ she had a question and answer session with RNZB’s dancers.
“It’s exciting: they have an excellent reputation, wonderful reviews, and a great spirit and energy in the studio,” says Barker.
According to Barker, RNZB was looking for a unique identity for their 36-member company and she feels she can create that for them.
“All the works I did at Grand Rapids Ballet definitely gave us a unique identity. I look at each transition as an exciting change, building on an organization’s successes that came before while looking toward the future,” says Barker. “We did that in Grand Rapids and I think I can do that here.”
With a 13 million dollar budget and a history of international touring, Barker says she is ready to apply what she has learned in her career at Pacific Northwest Ballet, as a dancewear entrepreneur, and at Grand Rapids Ballet to moving RNZB forward.
Patricia Barker has been at the Grand Rapids ballet for seven years. Image courtesy Grand Rapids Ballet.
With their 2018 season already set, Barker says she will be initially working on programming for 2019 as well as getting to know the dancers and the organization. With that advanced planning in place along with seasonal differences in when RNZB performs, it will allow Barker to also stay on as artistic director at Grand Rapids Ballet during the coming 2017–18 season.
“It’s nice because their [New Zealand’s] summer is our winter and there will be opposite weeks of work,” says Barker. “I can do a lot remotely and be in Grand Rapids for the opening of productions.” She also says she still plans on staging a few ballets on the company.
GRB’s 2017–18 season, which includes “From Russia With Love,” which is a program of highlights from “Sleeping Beauty,” “Swan Lake,” “Giselle,” “Esmeralda,” and “Don Quixote;” their annual “The Nutcracker” production re-imagined by “Polar Express” author Chris Van Allsburg; two repertory programs celebrating diversity with world-premiere works by some of today’s most influential choreographers; and the world-premiere of choreographer Penny Saunders’ Oscar Wilde inspired ballet “The Happy Prince and other Wilde Tales,” will now act as a farewell celebration of Barker’s seven years with the GRB, taking it from a relatively unknown regional troupe to one with a national presence.
“I am an adventurous individual with one more adventure in me,” says 54-year-old Barker on moving to the other side of the world. “I am so proud of what we created at Grand Rapids Ballet, the platform for choreographers, especially women choreographers. And the prolific amount of works we have done has been incredible. Also, the development of talent, including local talent, has been wonderful to be a part of. The fun thing about going somewhere else is bringing all that I have learned and experienced here and applying it there.”
Originally posted by Steve Sucato for Cultured.GR 3/6/17.
Grand Rapids Ballet’s Creative Director, Michael Auer, creates theatrical magic behind the scenes.
In preparation for this weekend’s “MOVEMEDIA: World Premieres” performances, the Ballet’s creative director can be found high above the stage hanging projectors—or whatever it takes to help choreographers and dancers realize their visions.
“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” said the Wizard of Oz after being caught for the elaborate stagecraft he presented to Dorothy and her compatriots in the 1939 movie classic of the same name. It’s a desire for anonymity Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB) creative director Michael Auer, the organization’s own multi talented and multifaceted wizard, can identify with as well. When it comes to helping others find the courage, heart and smarts in their creative endeavors for the 46-year-old ballet organization, Auer stays behind the scenes.
Born in Vienna, Austria, Auer studied ballet at the Vienna State Opera Ballet and then at New York’s School of American Ballet. He went on to a professional dance career with North Carolina Dance Theatre, Eliot Feld Ballet, Frankfurt Ballet and at Pacific Northwest Ballet. With was there that he met wife Patricia Barker, a prima ballerina with the company. They’ve now been together for 33 years.
After his career as a dancer, Auer’s second career was as a self-taught computer software engineer. He has worked at Microsoft, Boeing, Carnegie Mellon and others—creating software, developing early virtual reality technology, and doing market research.
That diverse skill set has served him—and GRB—well since Barker took over as artistic director in 2010. The 62-year-old Auer is not only Barker’s right-hand man, artistic advisor, confidant, and sounding board. He also plays the role of website developer, IT guy, and technical liaison between guest choreographers and GRB’s production staff.
Instead of assuming the job title of “artistic associate,” standard at most ballet companies, Auer says he bestowed upon himself the title of creative director, a title he was used to at many of the tech companies he worked for in the past. Because, along with the aforementioned duties, he takes on rehearsing and coaching roles for the company’s dancers and teaching class, the position of creative director is more fitting to the broad scope of his responsibilities.
Perhaps his biggest duty is acting as a creative conduit between guest choreographers/répétiteurs and the capabilities of GRB’s 300-seat Peter Martin Wege Theatre.
“Primarily what I do when a choreographer comes in is help facilitate things like the use of music and any audio editing that needs done. [I help with] technical requirements, such as if they are looking to do projections and special effects, and how the stage needs to be arranged,” says Auer.
His efforts in those areas are perhaps best seen in GRB’s popular contemporary dance series “MOVEMEDIA.” The series takes the creative talents of some of today’s most sought after choreographers and blends them with visual elements and technology to provide a contemporary performance experience. In past “MOVEMEDIA” productions, Auer has helped choreographers with creating video projections and other special effects, including helping to make the background video of a film strip in choreographer Robyn Mineko Williams’ “One Take” (2014) look vintage, and remixing the music and navigating flashlight logistics for GRB resident choreographer Penny Saunders’ 2015 work for the company, “Slight.” He also came up with 3D stage floor projections of water and moonlight for Mario Radacosky’s 2012 ballet “Black & White: Swan Lake” that the company reprised last month.
Auer says he has a personal agenda to get choreographers to understand that they have an artistic purpose behind their works and that they are not just putting steps together.
“Their piece should say something,” says Auer. “It should speak to those in the audience and possibly raise a dialog in the community.”
For the latest iteration of “MOVEMEDIA,” “World Premieres,” happening March 10–12 at the Peter Martin Wege Theatre, Auer worked with Saunders again on her new ballet, “In Frame.”
“My goal with the work was to create an environment that connects the universal realities of love, life and death, creation and destruction, to the beauty and vulnerability of the creative process,” said Saunders.
Set to several tracks from Max Richter’s reworked version of Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” Saunders says she enlisted Auer to help project images of ink and watercolor paintings by artist Alice Klock during her piece.
“The only reason I took on an endeavor like this is because I know that Michael Auer will figure out a way for all of this to come together,” says Saunders. “I have seen him in action enough times now to know that I can count on his brain to help me make it all work.”
Auer also had a hand in synchronizing video projections to the music used in Robert Dekkers and Vanessa Theissen’s new work for the program, “Dear Light Along the Way to Nothingness.” Titled after an excerpt James Merrill’s poem “Log,” the 26-minute ballet for 21 dancers is set to Caroline Shaw’s 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning composition, “Partita for Eight Voices.”
“This work was inspired by the dancers, my collaborators (Vanessa and costume designer Christian Squires), and the present environment in which we live,” says Dekkers.
Rounding out what Auer refers to as “probably the biggest ‘MOVEMEDIA’ we’ve ever done” will be award-winning choreographer Robyn Mineko Williams’ latest for the company.
There are certainly advantages for a ballet company in having their own theater space, like not having to pay to rent another theater space, having 24/7 access to it for rehearsals, and allowing for experimentation by choreographers and technical staff. But perhaps the theater’s most unique advantage is the way the stage is raked, with an incline from the front edge of the stage to the back. This allows for everyone in the audience to see the stage floor, making the use of floor projections that one might otherwise only see as an audience member in other theaters seated in the balcony. Auer says while the Peter Martin Wege theater has those advantage,s it also has its limitations. One of the biggest is the inability to fully “fly” in and out stage curtains, drops, and scenic elements such as at other venues they use like DeVos Performance Hall where the company performs its annual The Nutcracker production. Other limitations include the lack of an orchestra pit and having only a 10-foot loading dock door that prohibits bringing in large set pieces.
In addition to helping choreographers explore the capabilities of what they can technically do with their works, Auer also helps GRB’s dancers explore what they can do with their art.
As mentioned, Auer teaches and coaches the dancers but particularly enjoys rehearsing and “cleaning” dance works.
“I do like going in when the dancers know their steps and we can start getting people in line,” says Auer. “I help the dancers add quality, dynamics, intent, and purpose to their dancing.”
When he is not working his magic behind the scenes at GRB, Auer says he likes to cook.
“Having places like Fish Lads of Grand Rapids and Trader Joe’s has elevated our cooking at home,” he says. As for Barker’s culinary skills, he jokingly says “I keep Patricia [Barker] far, far away from the cooktop.”
She doesn’t deny it.
“I think [the kitchen] is a wasted room in the house,” Barker confesses.
The Seattle transplants bought a house in Heritage Hill that they share with their 23-year-old pet cat Mathilda and are settling into life in Grand Rapids.
“There has been a tremendous growth in the city for the better since we arrived with an influx of new people, new buildings, new restaurants and more,” says Auer.
But for now, the pair’s attentions are focused on the upcoming “MOVEMEDIA” production. There’s plenty of magic yet to be made Barker, her dancers, and though the audience may not realize it, by man behind the curtain, Michael Auer.