Deos Contemporary Ballet presents live performance of ‘Trifles’ this Saturday
By Adrienne Warber
West Michigan dance fans have chance to see a live world premiere ballet this weekend. Deos Contemporary Ballet will present “Trifles,” an adaptation of the 1916 play by Susan Glaspell. Escape to the theater and experience a dance production that is both a mystery and comment on sisterhood. Deos Contemporary Ballet will perform two shows this Saturday, Feb. 27 at the Gezon Auditorium at Calvin University in Grand Rapids. The show follows COVID safety protocols, and will feature a small cast of six performers for a limited size audience.
Deos Contemporary Ballet and the Creation of ‘Trifles’
Deos Contemporary Ballet is a professional ballet company based in West Michigan started by Creative Director Tess Sinke and her husband, Executive Director Andrew Hoekstra in 2018. The ballet company originally began as summer season option for professional dancers to work on a freelance contract basis when they are laid off from companies with traditional fall to spring seasons. Now Deos Contemporary Ballet is expanding to a year-round program. The ballet company will also be collaborating with Michigan Ballet Academy on future projects and will be headquartered at that school. “Trifles” ballet is the first performance to be held outside of Deos Contemporary Ballet’s usual summer schedule as a part of the new year-round program.
Live ballet performances have a special magic, and Deos Contemporary Ballet wanted to find a way to create a live show that was safe for both the dancers and audience during the pandemic. It would have to feature a small cast and be performed for a small audience in a large venue that allowed for appropriate social distancing. Susan Glaspell’s 1916 play, “Trifles,” with a small cast, stood out as a story that could be made into a compelling ballet.
Deos Contemporary Ballet Creative Director Tess Sinke was inspired to create the “Trifles” ballet by both Glaspell’s play “Trifles,” and Glaspell’s short story adaptation of the play, “Jury of Her Peers.” Sinke talks about planning the ballet, “Because of COVID, we were trying to figure out if there was a way to create a ballet that was safe for the audience and also safe for the performers. In the play, there are only five actors total. We turned that into six because one of the characters they talk about in the play wasn’t on set, and I decided that I wanted that character to be embodied by a dancer. With six people in total in the entire show, we are able to do the show with a small cast and to rehearse it safely in two pods.”
“Trifles” is a murder mystery and a drama that focuses on the role of women in the early 1900s. The ballet stays true to Susan Glaspell’s play and her short story “Jury of Her Peers,” while portraying the story through both acting and dance. The six member cast features three female dancers (Leah Haggard, Sydney Zelent, and Erika Goss) and three male actors (Darrell Haggard, Ben Henson, and Reuben Lewis). All dancing is done by the three female dancers, who tell their story through movement. Creative Director Tess Sinke choreographed the production. Sinke’s choreography will feature balletic movement with classical and contemporary styles. The contrast of the actors’ speech and dancers’ movements highlight key aspects of the plot and the eloquence of movement.
“In “Trifles,” we have three male actors and three female dancers. We wanted to show the misunderstanding or misalignment between the two genders that happens throughout the play by having the three male characters played by professional actors and the three female characters played by professional dancers. The women dancers really carry the whole story. The men interact at points and speak lines from the play. The women don’t answer, they answer through movement to show how women during that time did not have the rights of men, weren’t able to voice their own opinions, or speak up for themselves. The dancers are on stage for the entire show and really carry the entire ballet,” says Sinke.
Ballet in the time of COVID
Planning a ballet during a pandemic is challenging, especially a live show. Deos Contemporary Ballet worked hard to make it a safe and enjoyable experience for their performers and for the audience. Creative Director Tess Sinke held rehearsals for the three dancers and an acting coach rehearsed the three actors in separate locations.
The decision to have the male characters as actors and the female characters as dancers was both a creative and COVID safety decision. Tess Sinke talks about choreographing during the pandemic, “Because of COVID, we didn’t want our dancers to have to partner with each other or have close physical interaction during rehearsals for safety. The story worked out really well for this. The men rehearsed with an acting coach, and I rehearsed the women separately. Even if COVID wasn’t going on, I would still do the ballet this way because it is really impactful to have the men be these strong, deep-voiced actors and the women are silent. It will drive the point of the story home even more.”
The two shows will each be limited to an audience of 45 people in the large Gezon Auditorium at Calvin University. The limited audience size will allow for people to sit in household pods, spread out throughout the auditorium 6 feet apart for safe social distancing. Tickets are only available online before the show so that audience arrival times can be scheduled in intervals for social distancing. Masks are required.
Trifles Ballet Ticket Information
Escape into the beauty of dance and a good story, see “Trifles.” Deos Contemporary Ballet will present two performances of “Trifles” at 1 pm and 8 pm on Saturday, Feb. 27 at the Gezon Auditorium at Calvin University, 3201 Burton St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546. The show is one hour and 45 minutes, including an intermission. Tickets are $55 each. Tickets must be purchased online ahead of the show in order to schedule audience arrival times for COVID safety protocols. No tickets available at the door. Visit the Trifles Ballet website to purchase tickets to “Trifles.” To learn more about Deos Contemporary Ballet, visit their Facebook page.