It's often in the darkest of times when creativity emerges, ready to breathe new life into something that was once much different. Such is the case for 2020 as a whole, a year which has forced many to turn on a dime to adapt in ways we've never quite experienced. In response to the ongoing pandemic, Grand Rapids Ballet—Michigan's only professional ballet company—has done just that by announcing a new virtual 2020 – 2021 season of four new programs.
"I am proud to present a season unlike any other in our 49-year history," said James Sofranko, Artistic Director, Grand Rapids Ballet. "While we will miss the exhilaration of performing in a theater for a live audience, we are excited to present our art in a new way, delivered virtually to you in the comfort of your own home."
Not only will this season include four programs specifically created for the screen, Sofranko said, but subscribers will also be given exclusive opportunities to engage with Grand Rapids Ballet artists and be immersed in the creative process.
The Ballet's programming even includes a reimagined version of audience favorite, The Nutcracker, produced in partnership with SALT Creative Production Studio.
"Jenna and Sloan Inns are the creative couple behind SALT Production Studios," Sofranko explained, "and after numerous conversations with them about what a virtual season could look like, I knew they were the right people for the partnership. I believe that they are truly invested in the arts and the creative people in our world, so I have no doubt that they will showcase our dancers in a beautiful and respectful manner, while also bringing their own creative ideas to the table."
In an all-virtual season, video production is an artistic element Sofranko notes the Ballet has never really had to think too much about.
"This is a brand-new world for all of us, and SALT gives me the confidence that we can continue to present the world-class ballet we are known for in a video package that matches the level of the artistry of our dancers and choreographers," Sofranko continued. "I also am excited and thankful that they will be offering their expertise as mentors to our dancers for our Jumpstart: On Film program, which will be a showcase of short dance films, not only choreographed by the dancers themselves but filmed and directed by them as well.
"This partnership with SALT as well as other collaborations this season—including the Grand Rapids Symphony, Frederick Meijer Gardens, local musicians, and, of course, choreographers from around the world—keep Grand Rapids Ballet vibrant and present, not only in our community but throughout the dance world."
Season subscriptions will be available at two different levels:
1. Patron for $100 will include access to streaming video of all four programs, first chance to purchase in-person tickets if available, and pre-show creative artist talk videos for each program.
2. Patron Plus for $200 will include access to streaming video of all four programs, access to Grand Rapids Symphony's live video stream from Van Andel Arena of Tchaikovsky's Romeo & Juliet featuring Grand Rapids Ballet dancers, first chance to purchase in-person tickets if available, pre-show creative artist talk videos for each program, additional audio commentary for each virtual program by the artistic director and/or dancers, exclusive live "sneak peek" opportunities to view morning ballet class and Company rehearsals, Zoom meet-and-greet with a dancer, and limited access to past performance videos are also available throughout the year.
Those who subscribed to the original 2020 – 21 season prior to the pandemic will be subscribed to the new Patron package at no charge. They will also be subscribed to the 2021 – 22 season at no additional charge or loss of preferred seating.
Programming for the 2020-21 Season
NOVEMBER 13 – 15, 2020 | business as (un)usual
We present world-class ballet as usual—delivered in an unusual way—with this mix of new and existing works exemplifying our spirit, featuring a world premiere by Princess Grace Award winner and Beyoncé choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie; a world premiere by Artistic Director James Sofranko, featuring a collaboration with violinist Gene Hahn; a world premiere by Company dancer Yuka Oba-Muschiana; Christopher Stowell's A Midsummer Night's Dream pas de deux from the postponed 2019 – 20 season, featuring the music of Felix Mendelssohn, works by Resident Choreographer, Penny Saunders, and Company dancers, Gretchen Steimle and Matthew Wenckowski.
DECEMBER 18 – 27, 2020 | the nutcracker experience
The beloved holiday classic, with choreography by Val Caniparoli, as you've never seen it before! Enjoy many of your favorite on-stage moments, behind-the-scenes interviews and rehearsals, and more. And the story wouldn't be complete without the musical accompaniment of Grand Rapids Symphony.
MARCH 2021, dates TBA | collective force
The world's most celebrated and in-demand choreographers—Penny Saunders, Danielle Rowe, Adam Hougland, Jennifer Archibald, Amy Seiwert, Edwaard Liang, Katarzyna Skarpetowska, and Trey McIntyre—come together to stage their ballets and create new works, contributing to a performance that will truly be an immersive tour de force. In addition, Artistic Director James Sofranko will present an exciting new work featuring the music of Michigan-based cellist Jordan Hamilton.
APRIL 2021, dates TBA | jumpstart: on film
Choreographed by the dancers of Grand Rapids Ballet, this innovative program will provide them the unique opportunity to explore a completely new layer of creativity and expression: filmmaking. Grand Rapids Ballet sincerely thanks season video partner SALT Creative Production Studio for their mentorship and guidance on this project.
For more information, including new subscriptions, visit Grand Rapids Ballet.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for West Michigan Woman.
Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Ballet.