Grand Rapids Ballet Launches 2022-23 Season by Performing World-Premiere Choreography in Elemental Movement

GRB Re-Introduces Free Family Matinee Performances Accommodating Sensory-Sensitive Audience Members

By Jessica Meldrum M.S.

Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB), Michigan’s only professional ballet company, continues to celebrate 50 years in 2022 with a full weekend of performances at its Peter Martin Wege Theatre, performing “Elemental Movement,” taking place October 14-16, 2022. The performances will include three ballets, “Elemental Brubeck,” world-premiere “Liar Lear King,” and “Off the Canvas.”

“ʽElemental Movement’ is a program that showcases Grand Rapids Ballet’s ability to perform in a multitude of styles and the fact that we continue to attract world-class choreographic talent to work with our dancers,” said James Sofranko, artistic director at Grand Rapids Ballet.

Audiences will have the opportunity to enjoy world-premiere choreography by Dani Rowe, in partnership with New York City-based Satellite Collective, entitled “Liar Lear King,” which is underwritten by Grand Rapids Ballet’s New Works Fund. “Liar Lear King” loosely tells the story of Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” through contemporary movement and music, focusing on Lear and his demand for loyalty from his three daughters. The piece is set in New York City in the 1970s and also features the world premiere of a commissioned score by Ellis Ludwig-Leone and a film by Lora Robertson.

“Elemental Brubeck,” which first premiered by San Francisco Ballet in 2005, is choreographed by modern dance master Lar Lubovitch and is set to an orchestral score from iconic jazz composer Dave Brubeck. It features the dancers in movement that recalls popular dances of the 1950s. The last work features a reprise of Katarzyna Skarpetowska’s “Off the Canvas” from GRB’s 2021-22 season, featuring music by Adrian Lim-Klumpes and Vivaldi, bringing to life Cy Twombly’s “Bacchus” paintings, encompassing their ecstatic looping movement.

“This powerhouse trio of works creates a spectacular evening of dance, with something for everyone, and inspiring for all. I am particularly excited about our collaboration with Satellite Collective for the world premiere of ‘Liar Lear King’ choreographed by Dani Rowe. It was such a treat to have Rowe create this piece specifically for GRB, which also includes a brand new commissioned score and film to accompany the dance,” said Sofranko. “‘Elemental Brubeck’ also holds a special place in my heart because I was a part of the creation of this ballet in 2005 when I was a dancer at San Francisco Ballet and I performed it many times, including at the premiere in Paris where it brought down the house!”

Satellite Collective, which aims to work with artists from varying backgrounds towards a common goal, is one of the driving forces behind “Liar Lear King.” “Everyone pitches in to create something for the greater good and contributes to the contemporary conversation about art and dance,” said Lora Robertson, executive director at Satellite Collective. “The end result is a strong work but also a lot of individual strong works.”

The work “Liar Lear King” is Rowe’s third commissioned ballet for GRB. “My choreographic career has developed here, and it’s so nice to come back years later,” shared Rowe. “I know many of the dancers and I have a rapport with them. It has been a long and harmonious relationship.”

GRB dancers are able to expand their skills in diverse styles of dance throughout all three works. “During ‘Elemental Brubeck,’ audience members can expect a big tour de force solo from a male dancer, which is very showy and exciting for the audience,” shared Katarzyna Skarpetowska, répétiteur for the Lar Lubovich Dance Company and guest choreographer for GRB. “There’s an element of lyrical style which Lar is very famous for and is based in classical lines, so ballet dancers can respond to it very easily. There are a lot of fun moments in the dance and people always leave the theatre feeling uplifted and excited about coming back.”

Inspiration for Skarpetowska’s “Off the Canvas” came from the dynamic “Bacchus” paintings with their iconic, bold red loops. The paintings feature great movement, “The one obvious layer is the big vermillion loops create the painting itself,” explained Skarpetowska. “They are rising and cascading and oozing. The second layer that is more mysterious is the underlying brewing behind the vermillion loop.” These looping movements are brought to life by GRB’s dancers and the paintings are represented in the costumes with canvas material with red swirls of paint.

In addition to its normal season performances, during its 2022-23 season, GRB is proudly re-introducing free Family Matinee performances, offering an introduction to the art of ballet for families and children. The programs will be led by Artistic Director James Sofranko and will include a demonstration of ballet, opportunities for audience interaction, a performance from the professional company, and a chance to meet the dancers.

“The re-introduction of the Family Matinee series is very special to me, as it is so important that all young people are exposed to the arts,” said Sofranko. “Our hope is that with these free performances, any obstacle for a family with children to attend a performance is eliminated. We want to create a welcoming environment where every family member feels comfortable and we hope to inspire young people with our performance as well as the joy of interacting with professional dancers.”

In an effort to accommodate sensory-sensitive audience members, the Family Matinee performances will feature low-sensory adjustments, including lowered volume, elimination of strobe lighting, and a 45-60 minute runtime. In partnership with Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, sensory resource backpacks will be available upon request, along with sensory activities in the lobby. Tickets are free for these curated performances by contacting GRB’s Box Offices or visiting the website.

Following “Elemental Movement,” GRB’s season will continue with the holiday favorite, “The Nutcracker” in December at DeVos Performance Hall. GRB will return to DeVos in February to present World Premiere choreography by Artistic Director James Sofranko with “Romeo and Juliet.” The season continues in March with the annual production “Jumpstart 2023” and will close with “Ballet + Broadway” in April. GRBS’ Junior Company will present two productions, “Spooktacular,” taking place in October, and “Wizard of Oz,” in March, both at Peter Martin Wege Theatre.

Individual tickets for the entire 2022-23 season are available online now at or directly through Ticketmaster. Season Subscriptions also are available for new and returning patrons. Season subscription packages offer the ability to choose the best seat for the best price, get half-off classic holiday performances, and receive special invitations to exclusive GRB events. Call Grand Rapids Ballet’s box office today at 616-454-4771 ext. 110 to learn more about individual tickets and subscription packages.

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