GRAND RAPIDS BALLET | 50th ANNIVERSARY

2022 marks an important milestone as Grand Rapids Ballet celebrates 50 years of lifting the human spirit through the art of dance. Our 50th Anniversary officially began with Cinderella at DeVos Performance Hall, and will also feature Jumpstart 2022 and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, both taking place at our Peter Martin Wege Theatre. It is an honor to share Grand Rapids Ballet’s rich history with you, and we look forward to welcoming new audience members to share in our love of dance as we launch into the next 50 years!

50th ANNIVERSARY | HONORARY COMMITTEE

Grand Rapids Ballet extends our sincerest appreciation for our  50th Anniversary Honorary Committee:

  • James and Mary Nelson
  • – Liesel Meijer
  • – Pamella DeVos
  • – Maria Korowski
  • – Susan Ford Bales
  • – Luis Avila

SUPPORT OUR 50th ANNIVERSARY

Grand Rapids Ballet relies on the support of the local community to move forward to sustain our mission of lifting the human spirit through the art of dance. Please consider contributing to the Ballet to expand our reach, programming, and audience. We look forward to celebrating our 50th Anniversary with you – join us!

FOLLOW OUR 50TH

Ensure you don’t miss any of Grand Rapids Ballet’s 50th Anniversary by joining the conversation on social media! Use hashtag #GRB50 to stay up-to-date on the latest news and information. We also invite all of Grand Rapids Ballet’s dancers, staff, and alumni to join our 50th Anniversary Insider Facebook group.

50th ANNIVERSARY EVENTS

As Grand Rapids Ballet celebrates our first 50 years, 2022 has a variety of celebratory events in store! Please see below for a list of upcoming events, and be sure to check back as we continue updating our events.

EXPLORE OUR HISTORY

Enjoy a brief timeline below, highlighting the 50-year history of Grand Rapids Ballet.

  • 1960s

     

    The Spirit of Ballet is Born

    In the 1960s, Miss Sally Seven began the groundwork to form a ballet company in West Michigan. The first performances were performed in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony by what was then called the Youth Symphonic Ballet Company.

  • 1969

    Second Act Swan Lake Performance

    The Youth Symphonic Ballet Company performed its first production, the second act of Swan Lake, on April 12, 1969. 

    1969

  • 1970

    Coppelia Excerpts Performance

    In April 1970, the organization performed excerpts from Coppelia.

  • December 1970

    First Performance with the Grand Rapids Symphony

    In December 1970, the company performed, under the direction of Gregory Millar, for the first time with the Grand Rapids Symphony during The Nutcracker at Calvin College’s Knollcrest Auditorium.

    December 1970

  • 1972

     

    Nonprofit Corporation Formed

    After the 1972 Nutcracker, which was marked as the largest audience for a ballet produced by a local company, the Grand Rapids Civic Ballet Company, a nonprofit corporation was formed. 

  • 1972

    Peter and the Wolf Performance

    In the spring of 1972, Peter and the Wolf was performed with the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony.

    1972

  • 1972

     

    Established partnership with Grand Rapids Public Schools

    We have partnered with Grand Rapids Public Schools since 1972 in creating opportunities for students to see lecture demonstrations, take classes, and attend performances

  • 1973

    Operational & Executive Management Established

    Operational and executive management was initiated in 1973 and continues today.

    1973

  • 1974

    Sleeping Beauty Performance

    With the assistance of Dan Kovats conducting the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony, the company was presented in an abbreviated version of Sleeping Beauty for two performances at Calvin Knollcrest.

  • 1979

    The Grand Rapids Ballet Guild Formed

    In 1979, the guild was formed to provide support in various areas, including aiding financial needs, hosting social events, sponsoring school programs, manning the boutique during performances, and many more.

    1979

  • 1980

    First DeVos Hall Performance

    The company was asked to be part of the opening ceremonies for DeVos Performance Hall on October 14, 1980.

  • 1981

    Original Junior & Senior Company Created

    In 1981, our original Junior and Senior Companies were formed under the artistic direction of long-time company dancer, Judy Genson. The Junior Company was formed as a training ground for young dancers aged 9-14 to prepare them to move into the Senior Company, which at the time, performed alongside the company.

    1981

  • 1983

     

    Summerfest School Opens in the Houseman Building

    In September 1983, the Summerfest School opened in the Houseman Building, in Cheryl Woolf’s studios.

  • 1983

    Summerfest Program Expanded

    In 1983, former principal dancers with the Joffrey Ballet, Charthel Arthur and Robert Estner visited Grand Rapids to expand the city’s established Summerfest program, and these professional dancers opened our eyes to accredited dance programs and experiences.

     

    1983

  • 1986

     

    Summerfest Moves to Masonic Temple

    In September 1986, Summerfest moved from the second floor of Houseman’s Department store on Monroe to the Masonic Temple on Fulton.

  • 1987

    Cinderella at Civic Theatre

    Grand Rapids Ballet formed Cinderella, the first full-length ballet in 1987.

     

    1987

  • 1988

     

    Charthel Arthur | Artistic Director

    Following Sally Seven’s retirement in 1987, a nationwide search was conducted by the board of directors, leading to the appointment of Charthel Arthur along with her husband Robert Estner as Artistic Director in September 1988. Arthur was voted in by the Board in February 1988. At this time, Judy Gensen continued as Junior Company Director and assumed the newly created position of Business Manager.

  • 1989

    "Civic" Removed From Title

    In 1989, the designation “civic” was removed from the title of the Grand Rapids Ballet. With the new name came a new focus. The company moved to regional status and joined the Midwest Regional Association, and with this growth, new training and performance opportunities were added to the company schedule.

     

    1989

  • 1991-92 Season

     

    Professional Dancers Contracted

    During the 1991-92 season, both male and female professional dancers were placed under contract for the first time, leading to today’s fully professional company.

  • 1992

    Grand Rapids Ballet School Formed

    After a merger with Summerfest in 1992, the School of the Grand Rapids Ballet was formed, which has grown today to over 250 students.

     

    1992

  • 1993-95

    Honored Outstanding Works

    Three ballets choreographed for the Grand Rapids Ballet were honored as outstanding works by being selected for the National Choreography Plan. These included Potentia by Robert Estner (1993), Capriccios by Trinette Singleton (1994); and Realm of Light by Phillip Jerry (1995).

  • 1997

    25th Anniversary Silver Season

    The 25th Anniversary Silver Season production of “Alice in Wonderland” marked the first time Grand Rapids Ballet presented an entirely new ballet with all new music, costumes and masks, sets and props, and choreography.

     

    1997

  • 2000

    Milestone Budget

    GRB reached a milestone operational budget of 1 million in 2000, which has grown to today’s budget of 2.7 million.

  • 2000

    GRB Finds Permanent Home

    Through the generosity of an arts-conscious community, The Next Step Campaign allowed the company to transform an old abandoned bus garage into a well-designed dance rehearsal space and school facility. Since its opening in 2000, this permanent home has allowed the Ballet to add new opportunities for the community.

     

    2000

  • 2000-2010

     

    Artistic Director Gordon Peirce Schmidt & Associate Artistic Director Laura Berman

    Throughout the tenure of Artistic Director Gordon Peirce Schmidt and Associate Artistic Director Laura Berman, the Company saw tremendous growth and presented more than fifty new works, including the In the Chamber works.

  • 2004

    ArtServe Michigan Governor’s Arts Award for Outstanding Cultural Organization

    Grand Rapids Ballet is named a proud recipient of the ArtServe Michigan Governor’s Arts Award for Outstanding Cultural Organization.

    2004

  • 2007

     

    Meijer-Royce Center for Dance

    Following a $7.5 million expansion in September 2006, a Campaign for Ballet included the addition of the 300-seat Peter Martin Wege Theatre adjacent to the existing facility on Ellsworth, creating the Meijer-Royce center for Dance. The LEED-Certified theatre opened in September 2007 and continues to be the home theatre to this day.

  • 2009-Present

    Glenn Del Vecchio | Executive Director

    In 2009, Glenn Del Vecchio was appointed as the organization’s first Executive Director, and with that came a shift in philosophies towards a more business-oriented approach.

     

    2009-Present

  • 2009-10

     

    Adaptive Dance Program Established

    In the 2009-10 season, the organization established its Adaptive Dance Program, including Moving with Parkinson’s, a ballet-based therapy class for individuals with the disease, and Explorer Dance, a beginner-level ballet class that emphasizes balance, coordination, and creative expression for children with disabilities.

  • 2010

    Dance Immersion Program

    In Fall 2010, GRBS created the Dance Immersion program in response to the expressed need for arts education in public schools. Students are able to experience the joy of dancing in a positive, supportive, and educational environment. Since then the program has expanded to serve over 2,000 students annually from Grand Rapids and Forest Hills public schools. Each classroom receives four 30-minute classes at their school as part of their regular school day.

     

    2010

  • 2010-2017

     

    Patricia Barker | Artistic Director

    During the tenure of Artistic Director Patricia Barker, the organization expanded its portfolio to incorporate works from beyond West Michigan, by working with choreographers nationally and internationally. The 2011-12 season introduced an innovative, contemporary dance series, MOVEMEDIA, which is the root of today’s Jumpstart.

  • 2012

    Attila Mosolygo | Junior Company Artistic Director

    In September 2012, Attila Mosolygo was appointed the Artistic Director of the Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company. Since then, he has created numerous full-length productions that provide more performance opportunities for the students, as well as setting up touring opportunities in Fremont and Muskegon.

     

    2012

  • 2012

     

    Present-Day Junior Company Established

    Following the appointment of Attila Mosolygo as GRBS Junior Company Artistic Director, the present-day Junior Company was established, which has grown to today include 55 dance students.

  • 2014

    Nutcracker Reimagined


    Grand Rapids Ballet premiered a newly imagined production of The Nutcracker in 2014, with design by renowned Grand Rapidian Chris Van Allsburg and Eugene Lee, featuring captivating choreography by Val Caniparoli, which led to national recognition.

     

    2014

  • 2016-Present

     

    Penny Saunders | Resident Choreographer

    Penny Saunders was named Resident Choreographer and has created various works including Slight, The Happy Prince and Other Wilde Tales, In a Minute, Again, In-Frame, and Testimony, to name a few.

  • 2017-Present

    School Continues to Grow

    In September 2017, Attila Mosolygo was appointed to School Director while continuing his role as Junior Company Artistic Director, and since then he has continued to develop and grow the school by adding additional curriculum and outreach opportunities, including a satellite program in Holland, expanding the Moving with Parkinson’s program, and instating the FAME program with the KROC Center.

     

    2017-Present

  • 2018

     

    GRBS Established Partnership with the Kroc Center

    Grand Rapids Ballet School began a partnership with the Kroc Center, known as FAME (Fine Arts Music and Expression), which offers students at Brookside Elementary a 16-week program that focuses on art, music, and dance. This partnership continues to expand annually.

  • 2018-Present

    James Sofranko | Artistic Director

    james sofranko grand rapids ballet season

    James Sofranko was appointed Artistic Director in 2018 to continue elevating Grand Rapids Ballet to national and international levels. Shortly after, the Company began performing annually at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in the outdoor amphitheater as well as at StudioPark in downtown Grand Rapids. During this time, the Jumpstart program was established, offering the dancers opportunities to create world-premiere choreographic works.

     

    2018-Present

  • June 2019

     

    Record-Breaking Festival Performance

    James Sofranko and Glenn Del Vecchio served as co-chairs for Festival of the Arts’ 50th Anniversary where the Company performed before record-breaking crowds during the free outdoor festival.

  • 2020-Present

    COVID-19 Pandemic

    To help stop the spread of COVID-19, Grand Rapids Ballet’s Company and Junior Company canceled performances, beginning in March 2020. Months later, the school hosted its first-ever completely virtual summer program, and in the 2020-21 season the Company presented four virtual performance programs, including “The Nutcracker Experience,” which was broadcast on television and garnered a Michigan Emmy nomination.

     

    2020-Present

  • 2021

     

    Named Creative Business of the Year

    In October 2021, Grand Rapids Ballet is named Creative Business of the Year in the Grand Rapids Chamber’s EPIC Awards.

  • 2022

    50th Golden Anniversary

    In 2022, Grand Rapids Ballet celebrates 50 years of lifting the human spirit through the art of dance. We recognize the major contributions we’ve received over the past 50 years, including Steelcase, the Wege Foundation, Chuck and Stella Royce, the Meijer Foundation, and over 1000 companies and individuals who make our work possible. We look forward to introducing new audiences to the joy of dance over the next 50 years.

    2022

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