Grand Rapids Ballet to Present “Ballet + Broadway” For Last Production of 2022-23 Season
By Marketing Director Meghan Dolata
For two weekends this month, April 21-23 and 28-30, patrons can visit Peter Martin Wege Theatre for an exhilarating performance as Grand Rapids Ballet presents the final production of their 2022-23 season, “Ballet + Broadway.” combining demanding ballet technique with the thrills and energy of Broadway.
This one-of-a-kind production is something unique to add to the ballet’s ever-growing repertory as it combines demanding ballet technique with the thrills, style, and energy of Broadway. For many of GRB’s company dancers, this is their first experience performing Broadway-style choreography intertwined with vigorous ballet technique. “I have always loved Broadway, even though my performing career took me mainly into ballet.” James Sofranko, Artistic Director at Grand Rapids Ballet, said, “I kept an eye towards Broadway, and I was even lucky enough to perform in the show “Movin’ Out” by Twyla Tharp.” James and GRB Dancers are excited to push themselves to explore a style of movement that is explicitly stylized for the Broadway stage.
The dancers began preparing for their final production of the 2022-2023 season at the beginning of January 2023 when Tony-award-winning Hamilton choreographer, Andy Blankenbuehler, visited the ballet from New York City. Since then, they have spent countless hours rehearsing to perfect these Broadway-style pieces. “‘Ballet + Broadway’ showcases Grand Rapids Ballet dancers in works that could live easily on the Broadway stage yet require the skill and talents of true ballet dancers,” James added.
Throughout the production, each piece has a unique storyline. “From the toe-tapping Gershwin tunes in “Who Cares?” to the adept storytelling through movement created by Andy Blankenbuehler, to the glamour and intrigue of Old Hollywood, this program will be entertaining like none other you’ve seen from Grand Rapids Ballet!” James said. Let’s take a behind the curtain look at the pieces featured in this production:
George Balanchine’s Who Cares, set to the popular tunes of George Gershwin from the 1920s, was created in 1970 for New York City Ballet, the company he founded, and is now in the repertoire of ballet companies around the world. Balanchine, who worked on Broadway as well as in Hollywood at the invitation of Gershwin himself, used the songs as inspiration and the energy of New York City to create timeless dances full of life and pizazz. Lincoln Kirstein, a co-founder of New York City Ballet, wrote of Who Cares, “It is appropriate that Balanchine has used the songs not as facile recapitulation of a lost epoch, but simply as songs or melodies for classic, undeformed, traditional academic dances, which in their equivalence of phrasing, dynamics, and emotions find their brotherly parallel.”
Penny Saunders, resident choreographer of Grand Rapids Ballet, has created Jump Cut, taking its inspiration from the Golden Age of Hollywood, loosely defined as the 1930s-1960s. Initially created for Oklahoma City Ballet but never performed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Jump Cut will finally receive its world premiere on the Grand Rapids Ballet stage, reworked for GRB dancers. Penny states, “I have always been drawn to the magic and allure of classic Hollywood films. I am also fascinated with the history and practicalities of movie-making. Jump Cut strikes a balance between real and make-believe, celebrating what we as artists are always striving to do.”
Remember Our Song
Andy Blankenbuehler, a three-time Tony award winner for Bandstand, In the Heights, and Hamilton, created his first work for a ballet company with, Remember Our Song for Tulsa Ballet. Grand Rapids Ballet is the only other ballet company to perform this work, and Andy was able to work directly with the dancers in January. Infusing swing dance, ballet, and even a little hip-hop, he weaves a WWII story of a submarine crew involved in a crisis, and our main character, Charlie, dreaming of his girl back home. The rhythm of the submarine rotors brings him back to the familiar pulse of Benny Goodman’s Sing Sing Sing, and Andy seamlessly blends memory and fantasy with the present moment to create pure theater magic.
In addition to their regularly scheduled performances of “Ballet + Broadway,” GRB is proud to offer a free Family Matinee performance. This family – focused performance introduces the art of ballet for families and children. The program includes a ballet demonstration with audience interaction, a performance from the professional company, and a chance to meet the dancers.
To accommodate sensory-sensitive audience members, the Family Matinee performance will feature low-sensory adjustments, including lowered volume, elimination of strobe lighting, and a 45–60-minute runtime. The Family Matinee takes place on April 22 at 2 p.m. and tickets are available by contacting GRB’s Box Offices or visiting their website.
“Ballet + Broadway” takes place April 21-23 and April 28-30 at Peter Martin Wege Theatre. Tickets start at $34 and can be purchased online, via phone at (616) 454-4771 ext. 110, or in person at GRB’s box office, 341 Ellsworth Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.