Grand Rapids Ballet Celebrates Successful Year of Dance Immersion Program

By Marketing Director Meghan Dolata
July 2, 2024

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., September 27, 2023 — Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB), is thrilled to announce the immense success of its Dance Immersion program. In collaboration with Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS), this program’s goal is to integrate the arts into the public school curriculum and ensure widespread access to artistic experiences. By engaging with students directly within their communities, Grand Rapids Ballet strives to eliminate barriers to arts participation in underserved and high-risk areas of Grand Rapids. 

The Dance Immersion program, which incorporates classes in both ballet and hip hop, is soon to complete its first year with over 250 students in four of Grand Rapids Public Schools; Cesar E. Chavez Elementary, Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy, Mulick Park Elementary, and Palmer Elementary.

Under the guidance of GRB alumnus Ray Love, the Dance Immersion Program delivers a comprehensive dance experience. Students not only receive classroom instruction but also can attend professional performances and even visit the Ballet itself. Love emphasizes, “The Dance Immersion Program’s success is evident through our innovative approach of introducing kids to ballet through hip-hop dance, a cultural touchstone for many. This model effectively bridges familiarity with new experiences, fostering a deep connection to the art form while nurturing creativity, confidence, self-discipline, and invaluable team-building skills.” Thus, students not only acquire foundational skills in ballet and hip hop but also cultivate a deep appreciation for the art form, creating a joyful connection with the arts.

Dance Immersion students in class with Mark Evans. Photo by Scott Rasmussen.

Dance Immersion students in class with Mark Evans. Photo by Scott Rasmussen.

Dance Immersion students in class with Mark Evans. Photo by Scott Rasmussen.

“The opportunity to expose our scholars to ballet and its roots or connection to hip hop has been a blessing,” Cesar E Chavez Elementary Principal Aimee Garcia remarked. “Our scholars do not always get exposure to or the opportunity to participate in ballet. One of the best parts of this program was having an instructor that ‘looked’ like many of our scholars. That alone opened the eyes of our scholars to the possibilities available to them through dance.”

The Dance Immersion program prioritizes accessibility, particularly in underserved communities. For many students, this program provides their first exposure to dance, overcoming various barriers to participation. GRB takes pride in sparking a passion for dance within these young minds.

“Dance is a universal language that reaches across borders, languages, and cultures,” remarks Artistic Director James Sofranko. “Watching these young kids respond in such a positive way to movement and music is so fun to watch, whether it be through ballet or hip-hop. Our instructors offer an introduction to a world that some students might not otherwise have the opportunity to engage with, and my belief is that all young people should get a chance to experience the joy of dance and all the arts.”

The Dance Immersion program boasts a multitude of benefits for participating students. It fosters physical development by improving coordination, flexibility, and strength and mental development by cultivating emotional well-being, fostering a sense of pride, confidence, and teamwork between the students.

For more information and to find out how to bring Grand Rapids Ballet to your school, please contact Ray Love at

Dance Immersion students in class with Mark Evans. Photo by Scott Rasmussen.

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