Grand Rapids Ballet’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, comprised of members from the Grand Rapids Ballet Board of Directors, Artistic Director, Executive Director, School Director, dancers, and staff members, is dedicated to expanding the experience of world-class dance and artistic excellence. Our DEI Committee 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.
We acknowledge that the work of the DEI committee will be ever-evolving, and as such, our goals will continue to transform over time. Today, our committee is dedicated to working to accomplish the following goals:
- To serve as a resource to achieve our goal of creating diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible performances, programming, and content for our audiences.
- To encourage and facilitate our engagement with the local communities that may not otherwise have access or resources to come to our performances and classes.
- To continue advising the organization’s efforts to actively diversify its workforce, implement equity in operating procedures, and promote inclusivity in the workplace culture.
- To acknowledge and examine that inequity exists and is perpetuated within ballet, and to actively work to address and transform what has historically been culturally limited, focusing instead on promoting arts equality within our community.
- To recognize that our DEI committee and members of our organization benefit from inherent and personal forms of privilege and to work towards examining how that informs our work by actively seeking input from perspectives of individuals beyond our committee.
- To support the next generation of DEI champions by facilitating and encouraging diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility within Grand Rapids Ballet School and the Junior Company.
- To work in collaboration with the Board of Directors to obtain their endorsement for change.
Grand Rapids Ballet and Grand Rapids Ballet School continue to build DEI-centric programming and scholarships that pave the way to provide our community with access to the arts and movement. Our School offers an annual scholarship to provide students access to quality ballet training. We also bring the power of dance to our community through partnerships with schools throughout Grand Rapids and West Michigan with our Dance Immersion Program, a partnership with the Kroc Center, free lecture demonstrations and performances at community centers, and our Escape to the Ballet.
Grand Rapids Ballet School believes in the therapeutic power of dance, and this is evidenced by our Adaptive Dance program, including Explorer Dance for children with disabilities and Moving with Parkinson’s for individuals with the disease. These classes allow participants of all abilities to experience the joy of dance within a supportive community while building camaraderie with others.
We invite you to learn more about these programs below.
GRBS DIVERSITY SCHOLARSHIP
The Grand Rapids Ballet School Diversity Scholarship encourages diversity within ballet education for Black, Latinx, Native North American, and Asian and Pacific Islander students. This scholarship was created and initially funded by James and Mary Nelson, to provide students in underrepresented communities in West Michigan access to quality ballet training and arts education.
Grand Rapids Ballet School supports the expansion of access to ballet training and works to create learning opportunities that exist for all students, focusing on marginalized and under-resourced community members.
Contributing to the GRBS Diversity Scholarship offers hope and the opportunity for success to present and future dancers who may not otherwise have the advantage. With the financial resources provided by the Diversity Scholarship, recipients benefit from nurturing instruction to develop a thorough knowledge of technique, the invaluable skill of self-discipline, and a lasting love of dance.
DANCE IMMERSION PROGRAM
Grand Rapids Ballet School’s Dance Immersion Program was established in 2010 when we began offering classes at Coit Creative Arts Academy, teaching one weekly class to 300 students. Since then, the program has grown to include 5 Grand Rapids Public Schools, reaching over 2,000 students, including satellite classes at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, Cesar Chavez Elementary, Mulick Park Elementary, KEC Oakleigh Elementary, and Lincoln Elementary.
Our Dance Immersion Program invites students to be immersed in dance and movement during their academic school day. Students that participate are exposed to ballet by receiving a series of weekly dance classes as well as an opportunity to attend a live Company performance at DeVos Performance Hall and a lecture-demonstration with GRB Company members.
Grand Rapids Ballet School includes Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) standards within the program. Each grade level receives unique lessons and instruction designed to enhance their learning within the school and dance environment. MAIEA is a resource for arts educators to create standardized evaluations, ensuring the quality and effectiveness of arts education within K-12 classrooms. For this program’s purposes, the MAEIA assessments and resources act as a guide for the lessons created for each class.
Since 2010, Grand Rapids Ballet School is proud to have awarded five full-tuition scholarships to students from each school, giving them an opportunity to attend GRBS Summer Programs.
Adaptive Dance was established in 2009 and includes two programs: Explorer Dance and Moving with Parkinson’s.
Our Explorer Dance classes meet weekly throughout the academic calendar. GRBS hosts movement classes that emphasize balance, coordination, and creative expression for children with disabilities. GRB partners with the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan and offers full-tuition scholarships for students with Down Syndrome to attend our Explorer Dance classes. These classes promote movement, body awareness, and expression for young children with disabilities. GRBS also hosts satellite Explore Dance classes at Hope College.
Moving with Parkinson’s is a dance therapy class for people with Parkinson’s Disease, geared towards mobility. GRBS partners with the Parkinson’s Association of West Michigan to offer free weekly classes throughout the year for adults in the West Michigan community with Parkinson’s Disease. We offer classes at our Grand Rapids facilities as well as satellite classes in Holland.
As a first important step in our ongoing mission for social justice, Grand Rapids Ballet would like to recognize the People of the Three Fires, the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potowatomi peoples on whose land we are gathered. The Three Fires People are indigenous to this land which means that this is their ancestral territory. The Grand Rapids Ballet is built on native land. As such, we are guests on their land, and one way to practice Right Relations is to develop genuine ways to acknowledge the histories and traditions of the people who originated here first, who are still here, and who tend to the land always. As we take this step, we understand that there are many more ahead as we continuously advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in our community.
Photography by Eric Bouwens
Over the past 130 years since The Nutcracker’s creation, harmful stereotypes of specific cultures have been portrayed across countless versions of the production. Grand Rapids Ballet’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion committee continuously works to ensure that our production does not perpetuate these stereotypes and represents all cultures in an appropriate and respectful manner. We have pledged to eliminate outdated stereotypes in all productions and seek to make our performances welcoming and enjoyable for all people.
HELP US IMPROVE
We turn to our community to help us improve in our DEI mission. Please share your experience and opinions by completing our brief survey below!