Ballet brimming with excitement

Grand Rapids Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker."

Michigan’s only professional classical ballet company is preparing to bring a timeless holiday classic to the stage for two consecutive weekends of performances, beginning on Dec. 8, 2023. 

“We are always brimming with excitement around Nutcracker time! This production is unique to Grand Rapids Ballet, and we are so fortunate to have had it created for us by a truly world-class artistic team,” said James Sofranko, artistic director at Grand Rapids Ballet. “Whether this is your first time, or you attend every year, everyone can be swept away by the magic of Clara’s journey set to Tchaikovsky’s wondrous score.”

Grand Rapids Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.” Courtesy photo.

The company’s production of “The Nutcracker” was reimagined in 2014 by Grand Rapids’ own Chris Van Allsburg, the esteemed author of “The Polar Express.” The sets and story are brought to life by set designer Eugene Lee, whose artistry has graced renowned productions like “The Lion King” and “Wicked.” Tchaikovsky’s memorable score fills the theater as it’s performed live by the Grand Rapids Symphony. 

The ballet company, consisting of 35 professional dancers from all over the world, shares the stage with over 65 Grand Rapids Ballet School students who all perform Val Caniparoli’s captivating choreography. It’s the experience of a lifetime for these young dancers who get to perform this production on such a grand scale.

Grand Rapids Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.”

This year, Madeleine Bird, one of the GRBS students dancing a lead role of Young Clara, said, “Ever since I came to Grand Rapids Ballet School, I’ve always dreamed of becoming Clara. I remember my first Nutcracker with GRB. I was a fairy at the time, and I would watch with awe while Clara and the company members danced. I would try to imitate them and learn the steps backstage because I aspired to be them.”

As exciting as this opportunity is for Grand Rapids Ballet School students, the professional company dancers are equally as excited.

“Having the school as a part of any performance breathes a different life into the production. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to be able to create art along with the next generation of talented dancers,” said Sarah Marley, a veteran of the dance company. “I love when we take our full-length ballets to DeVos Hall. We get to collaborate with The Grand Rapids Symphony and perform to live music. There’s nothing quite like it, and to bring that gift to the public is very rewarding.”

The Grand Rapids Ballet Company will perform “The Nutcracker” at DeVos Performance Hall Dec. 8-10 and 15-17, 2023.Tickets are available online, via phone at 616-454-4771 ext. 110, or in person at GRB’s Box Office.

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