It was announced today that the board of directors of Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB)—Michigan’s only professional ballet company—is in the beginning phase of forming a search committee to field leads, identify qualified
candidates, and interview and select a new artistic director. This is in response to the news that Patricia Barker, the company’s artistic director since 2010, has accepted the position of artistic director of Royal New Zealand Ballet.
“We are thrilled for Patricia,” said GRB board of directors’ president Michael P. Kling. “The indelible mark she has left on GRB and the arts in general in West Michigan is beyond compare and her new position is a testament to her skills as an artistic director. Our top priority right now is ensuring the sustained success of GRB.”
In order to ensure a seamless transition, Patricia and the Board have expanded Attila Mosolygo’s role to director of Grand Rapids Ballet School (GRBS), a role formerly filled by Patricia. Mosolygo, who retired from dancing at GRB in 2013 after 16 years, will oversee the administration, curriculum, and creative vision of GRBS which currently enrolls over 250 ballet students. Mosolygo will also continue as director of GRBS’s Junior Company and as a GRB ballet master.
“There’s no greater joy than helping a student with a passion for dance reach his or her full potential, so it’s an incredible honor to know that the board of directors has the confidence in me to fill the big pointe shoes left behind by Patricia,” said Mosolygo. “My 21-year history with GRB will serve me well as we move into this exciting new chapter and I’m eager to continue to bring the level of excellence to the school that the students and their parents deserve and have come to expect.”
Barker will split her time during the 2017-18 season between GRB and her new role as artistic director for Royal New Zealand Ballet. Accordingly, other organizational changes are being implemented for the upcoming 2017-18 season. Dawnell Dryja, a GRB company dancer since 2002, is being named artistic coordinator, and Nicholas Schultz, Laura McQueen-Schultz, and Steven Houser are being elevated to the position of interim ballet masters in addition to company dancers.
“I’ll never forget my years at GRB—they were very special to me and I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished,” said Barker. “I have the utmost confidence in the team to keep the company headed in the right direction and these staff changes will make sure everything goes smoothly as GRB starts a new chapter.”
After seven years with the Grand Rapids Ballet, Barker is taking on a new adventure on the other side of the globe.
Patricia Barker (front) with her Grand Rapids Ballet dance troupe. Image courtesy Grand Rapids Ballet.
Former Pacific Northwest Ballet star and current artistic director of Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB), Patricia Barker, will become the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB)’stwelfth artistic director and only the second female director in its 64-year history. She takes over from current RNZB artistic director Francesco Ventriglia on June 19, 2017. Ventriglia will stay on as a choreographer for the company.
Barker says the application process involved her submitting a strategic overview with a sample production plan. She met with RNZB’s search committee via video conference calls and spent three days at the company’s home in Wellington where, in addition to meeting and talking with the organization’s board and staff ─ including fellow American executive director Frances Turner ─ she had a question and answer session with RNZB’s dancers.
“It’s exciting: they have an excellent reputation, wonderful reviews, and a great spirit and energy in the studio,” says Barker.
According to Barker, RNZB was looking for a unique identity for their 36-member company and she feels she can create that for them.
“All the works I did at Grand Rapids Ballet definitely gave us a unique identity. I look at each transition as an exciting change, building on an organization’s successes that came before while looking toward the future,” says Barker. “We did that in Grand Rapids and I think I can do that here.”
With a 13 million dollar budget and a history of international touring, Barker says she is ready to apply what she has learned in her career at Pacific Northwest Ballet, as a dancewear entrepreneur, and at Grand Rapids Ballet to moving RNZB forward.
Patricia Barker has been at the Grand Rapids ballet for seven years. Image courtesy Grand Rapids Ballet.
With their 2018 season already set, Barker says she will be initially working on programming for 2019 as well as getting to know the dancers and the organization. With that advanced planning in place along with seasonal differences in when RNZB performs, it will allow Barker to also stay on as artistic director at Grand Rapids Ballet during the coming 2017–18 season.
“It’s nice because their [New Zealand’s] summer is our winter and there will be opposite weeks of work,” says Barker. “I can do a lot remotely and be in Grand Rapids for the opening of productions.” She also says she still plans on staging a few ballets on the company.
GRB’s 2017–18 season, which includes “From Russia With Love,” which is a program of highlights from “Sleeping Beauty,” “Swan Lake,” “Giselle,” “Esmeralda,” and “Don Quixote;” their annual “The Nutcracker” production re-imagined by “Polar Express” author Chris Van Allsburg; two repertory programs celebrating diversity with world-premiere works by some of today’s most influential choreographers; and the world-premiere of choreographer Penny Saunders’ Oscar Wilde inspired ballet “The Happy Prince and other Wilde Tales,” will now act as a farewell celebration of Barker’s seven years with the GRB, taking it from a relatively unknown regional troupe to one with a national presence.
“I am an adventurous individual with one more adventure in me,” says 54-year-old Barker on moving to the other side of the world. “I am so proud of what we created at Grand Rapids Ballet, the platform for choreographers, especially women choreographers. And the prolific amount of works we have done has been incredible. Also, the development of talent, including local talent, has been wonderful to be a part of. The fun thing about going somewhere else is bringing all that I have learned and experienced here and applying it there.”
We’re over-the-moon excited to have world-renowned visual artist, Luis Grané, helping us bring the wacky, wild world of Alice in Wonderland to magnificent life (starting with the super-cool logo above) for our world premiere ballet April 28-30 and May 5-7.
Artistic Director Patricia Barker in our costume shop reviewing the latest round of Luis Grané’s “Alice in Wonderland” character sketches.
Born in Argentina, Luis Grané studied medicine and worked in a human anatomy laboratory at Buenos Aires University before studying Fine Arts and Graphic Design. Following his true passion, Luis moved first to London where he worked in advertising for almost 4 years, and then to Mexico, where he worked in visual arts and advertising, and became strongly influenced by Mesoamerican Art.Luis then moved to Toronto, where he won the Dick Friesen/Zlatko Grigic Award for Excellence in Animation at Sheridan College in 1996, and was recruited by DreamWorks Animation SKG. This meant relocating to Los Angeles, where he has since worked as an animator, visual effects artist, and character designer for DreamWorks, Pixar, Disney, Laika, Sony Pictures, Aardman, and Warner Brothers.His credits include films as diverse as The Prince of Egypt, Spirit,Spiderman 2 (Academy Award Winner for Best Visual Effects), The Matrix, The Aviator, Ratatouille (Academy Award Winner for Best Animated Feature), Hotel Transylvania, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and The Boxtrolls, and he collaborated with numerous renowned directors like Sam Raimi and Richard Linklater.
While pursuing his creative career in Hollywood, Luis also attended Peter Liashkov’s painting workshops for two years and studied painting with Bonita Helmer at the Otis College of Art.
Luis’ original work as an independent artist has been featured in group exhibits at the Pozzi Gallery in Buenos Aires, the Cartoon Museum in London, and the Enisen Gallery in Los Angeles, and worldwide as part of the Sketchtravel Book art project. His work was also selected as the cover of the Totoro Forest Project book, an artistic venture that gathered prominent artists from around the world to save a forest in Japan.
Luis Grané currently works in his studio in the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles and recently published his first solo book entitled “Sad Stories” – in the United States.
MOVEMEDIA is Contemporary Dance at Grand Rapids Ballet
Written by Grand Rapids Ballet Company Dancer Connie Flachs
Photography by Eric Bouwens
As a dancer with Grand Rapids Ballet, I have felt firsthand the lack of publicity when the arts section of the Grand Rapids Press dissolved. The excitement of opening night’s review was lost. A platform for critical discussion evaporated. The work being done at Grand Rapids Ballet is too important to exist only within the walls of the Peter Martin Wege Theater. Art needs to be reviewed, critiqued, and discussed not only by those of us who create it but by those who view it. I hope this extremely biased review helps spark interest and discussion within the community. The views expressed here are only my own and do not reflect the opinions of Grand Rapids Ballet.
This is the sixth year Grand Rapids Ballet has produced MOVEMEDIA, a show that seeks to push the boundaries and preconceptions of dance beyond what most people visualize when they think “ballet”. MOVEMEDIA has introduced Grand Rapids’ audiences to ballets danced sofas, performed barefoot, or featuring politics. The program also provides a platform for emerging choreographers to create on talented, professional dancers in an experimental environment. This year’s program continues on this path, creating work that utilizes modern technology, the latest dance trends, and the unique talents of Grand Rapids Ballet.
The program opens with “Dear Light Along the Way to Nothingness” choreographed by Robert Dekkers, the artistic director of Post:Ballet in San Francisco. Ambient music and a barren stage with a greenish glow initiate the experience. A single man walks on draped in a warrior-like sweater and scaly tights settling, stagnant on the stage. Others fill the empty space, barely acknowledging each other’s existence. The single man, Levi Teachout, begins to dance in an intense, angular way. A series of solos follow. Just as the piece risks becoming generic movement study the mood breaks and dancers exit, replaced by small trios and solos. This piece clearly exists in a world of its own, as though the audience is peering through a microscope to see what occurs beyond the naked eye. Is this world only at the microscopic level? Is it in the past? Is it a future society? Dekker’s work is particularly unusual for Grand Rapids Ballet. The choreography was created with
large input from the individual dancers. The avant garde costumes, designed by Christian Squires, are shiny and structured in a futuristic manner, accessorized by glittering facial tattoos. The intensity of the performers’ stares raises questions: What are they looking at? What are they searching for? How are they related?
Particularly memorable is an intense shaking section that resolves as a line of dancers washes across the stage. A solo danced by Grace Haskins is especially striking due to her sharp and quirky movements. The eye is also drawn to the strong movements of Caroline Wiley, Cassidy Isaacson, and Adriana Wagenveld as they forcefully descend upon the stage. A pas de deux between Jack Lennon and Yuka Oba is the apex of the piece. Lennon’s powerful stance supports Oba’s fluidity and together they build suspense along with the music’s crescendos. As the ballet draws to a close, Oba is enveloped into the wings by her fellow performers, leaving only Ednis Mallol Gomez and Matthew Wenckowski on stage, struggling with some sort of force. Their superhuman movement, from whizzing revolutions to one armed pushups, fit right into the strange, fantastical world Dekkers has created.
The mood of Robyn Mineko Williams’ “Glean” is a deep contrast to Dekkers’ work. Adriana Wagenveld and Nicholas Schultz emerge into a path of light, dancing a pas de deux filled with manipulation; Wagenveld’s head follows Schultz’s hand; her step forces his knee forward. The movement is simple and honest, as though they’re in the beginning stages of a relationship. The movement isn’t memorable, but Wagenveld’s deep gaze into Schultz’s eyes is hard to forget.
The first pas de deux dissolves into a second duet between Cassidy Isaacson and Matthew Wenckowski. Dressed in costumes identical to the first couple, I found myself imaging their dancing as a later phase of the same relationship, one where the couple is less ensconced with each other and more selfconscious. Isaacson and Wenckowski partner intricately but rarely make eye contact, often staring out at the audience as though wondering what others think of them. The fuzzy, grainy music adds to the feeling that there are spectators just outside of view, whispering, judging, and commenting to each other. Wenckowski is left on stage alone. The combination of the dark lighting and his black pants draw attention to his bare torso, emphasizing each muscle. His arms reach further than imaginable, emanating from some sort of angst. His gorgeous movement ends in slow walking, mirrored by Isaac Aoki. Wenckowski leaves Aoki works himself into awkwardly beautiful positions. Yuka Oba meets him on stage and they begin dancing, perhaps representing the final, mature stage of the relationship. Their steps are the most complicated and intricate, suddenly resolving into identical poses the way a long-term couple can finish each other’s sentences.
Oba is left on stage alone as Aoki fades into darkness, moving with distress showing openly on her face. She stops, facing the public, as though she can no longer go on without her partner. But she begins again, continuing on as the lights black out. Williams’ piece is pretty, choreographed with a vocabulary of steps that veteran MOVEMEDIA audience members will be familiar with. The simplicity of lighting and costumes allows the viewer to assign their own meaning to each relationship.
Penny Saunders shares a similar background with Williams: both have danced with Hubbard Street, a mainstay of Chicago’s contemporary dance scene and began their choreography while working for that company. Both have choreographed on Grand Rapids Ballet previously and tend to use space holding, manipulation, and a certain fluidity in the movement they create. Saunders’ work, “In Frame”, danced to Max Richter’s arrangement of Vivaldi’s esteemed The Four Seasons, is a more cohesive vision than “Glean” and exhibits complexity that outdoes Saunders’ own preceding works. The choreography itself features well-rehearsed unison movements but breaks off into variations and intriguing patterns before the synchronicity grows tiring. The movement of the dancers bodies creates shapes that expand beyond the dancers themselves, building architecture that spans the breadth of the stage. Together the dancers operate like cogs in a machine, passing an invisible fireball between them, holding the intensity in their deep lunges and engaged arms.
The piece opens and closes with the image of a single dancer sitting on a bench, contemplating artwork by Alice Klock that’s projected onto a hanging picture frame. Others enter in the darkness, as though they are the ideas she thinks of while examining the work. As the lights come up, this dancer is absorbed into a diagonal, interacting with the fragments of her imagination. They all become part of the imaginary world inspired by the artwork, participating in the journey of creativity art can inspire. Saunders’ work gathers power from the strength of the group work that swirls over the stage through the Spring, Summer and Fall movements, making Caroline Wiley’s solo to Winter stand out in its simplicity and quietness. There’s very little technical movement in this dance: Wiley spends most of her solo on the floor in the center of a projection of a Klock painting. Despite the absence of pirouettes, jumps, or extensions, this solo is absolutely breathtaking. Wiley gives each detail immense importance, forcing the viewer to also immerse themselves in the minute movements of her body. Perhaps this is the true portrait of an artist, alone, experimenting, unassuming and free of self-consciousness despite the onlookers on the outskirts.
My biased review is only one take on this diverse MOVEMEDIA program. I encourage you to experience and interpret it for yourself and continue the discussion.
Summer 2017 Ballet Intensive at Grand Rapids Ballet
When the average student thinks of summer vacation, words like “beach” (as in lazy days on), “sleeping” (as in late), and “binging” (as in Game of Thrones) are probably some of the first to come to mind.
But for others, the words might be “sweat” (as in breaking a), “work” (as in hard), and “intensive” (as in summer).
Grand Rapids Ballet’s annual Summer Intensive, scheduled for June 26-July 28 at the Meijer-Royce Center for Dance, gives you the rare opportunity to refine your ballet skills in technique and artistry. You’ll get face-to-face, hands-on training with some of the best stars and renowned master teachers from today’s ballet world including Patricia Barker (current Grand Rapids Ballet artistic director and former principal dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet), Nicole Ciapponi (Joffrey Ballet), Elizabeth Murphy (Pacific Northwest Ballet), and Aaron Renteria (Joffrey Ballet).
You’ll also gain valuable insights through seminars and specialized classes in nutrition, injury prevention, cardio training, and more.
To be considered for our Summer Intensive, interested students must first audition in person (schedule below). Dancers attending these open auditions are asked to arrive at least 15 minutes early in order to complete their registration on-site. Bring a head shot and a photo in arabesque; ladies, be prepared to audition en pointe, as well. The audition fee is $20. Call 616.454.4771 or email for more information on how to attend.
Once you’ve auditioned, you may receive an invitation to attend our Summer Intensive at Grand Rapids Ballet. Senior students (age 12-19) will attend class Monday-Friday from 10am-5pm and junior students (age 9-15) will attend class Monday-Friday from 10am-2pm; it’s called an “intensive” for a reason.
Tuition for senior students is $450 per week or $1,875 for the entire five-week course (save $375) and $250 per week or $975 for entire five-week course (save $275) for junior students. A limited number of scholarships are available and are awarded based on need and talent.
So, while it’s no day at the beach, your hard work will produce amazing results and give you tools you’ll use throughout your dance career. That’s way better than tan. For more information on auditions, tuition, housing, faculty, and more, call 616.454.4771 or email us today.
Also, be on the lookout for more information coming soon about our Summer 2017 Contemporary Intensive!