Grand Rapids Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’ brings Christmas magic to West Michigan
By Adrienne Warber
Grand Rapids Ballet’s beloved ballet, “The Nutcracker,” is back on stage this weekend to usher in the Christmas spirit. This West Michigan holiday tradition was last performed live on-stage 24 months ago. Ballet fans of all ages can again experience the magic of the critically acclaimed version of “The Nutcracker” created specifically for Grand Rapids Ballet for the West Michigan community by the visionary team of artist Chris Van Allsburg, set-designer Eugene Lee and choreographer Val Caniparoli. Michigan’s only professional ballet company will hold both in-person and virtual performance options on Dec. 10-12 and Dec. 17-19 at DeVos Performance Hall in downtown Grand Rapids. Enjoy the holiday classic live on-stage for a fun festive outing or from the comfort of home relaxing by the Christmas tree.
The Magic of Grand Rapids Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’
Grand Rapids Ballet reimagined the classic holiday ballet, “The Nutcracker,” in 2014 by bringing together the talented creative team of beloved children’s author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg, Tony Award-winning set designer Eugene Lee, and internationally renowned choreographer Val Caniparoli to create a unique version of “The Nutcracker” for the West Michigan community. The result is an exquisite ballet with a sumptuous set that brings out the versatile talents of Grand Rapids Ballet’s dancers and celebrates the holiday like an old-fashioned Christmas card brought to life. Fans of Grand Rapids native and “The Polar Express” author Chris Van Allsburg will recognize the vibrant detail of his artwork that set designer Eugene Lee skillfully brings “The Nutcracker” to life so that the audience feels like they are experiencing a happy Dickensian Christmas atmosphere. Professional dancers share the stage with Grand Rapids Ballet School students to perform the enchanting choreography of the inventive choreographer Val Caniparoli. Grand Rapids Ballet’s dancers accompanied by The Grand Rapids Symphony create a beautiful and enjoyable celebration of this beloved holiday ballet. Grand Rapids is the only place to see this version of “The Nutcracker,” and it is a joyful experience for all ages.
Attending Grand Rapids Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” is a happy holiday experience filled with Christmas magic. Sitting in the audience and revealing in the beauty of Van Allsburg’s art, listening to the famous Tchaikovsky music as the story unfolds in beautiful dancing has become a Christmas tradition for many West Michigan families. Ballet fans can also purchase “Nutcracker” ornaments and other keepsakes to preserve the memory of the day in the lobby.
Grand Rapids Ballet’s children’s event, Clara’s Nutcracker Party held on Dec. 12 at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel is a fun way to get into the holiday spirit and introduce children to the classic story. Over tea and brunch, children meet their favorite Grand Rapids Ballet “Nutcracker” characters, hear “The Nutcracker” story read by Fox 17’s Todd Chance, enjoy a live performance by Grand Rapids Ballet School, and participate in an arts and craft activity. After Clara’s Nutcracker Party, guests can go to DeVos Performance Hall and see the matinee performance of “The Nutcracker.” For more information, visit Grand Rapids Ballet’s website.
Due to the pandemic, “The Nutcracker” has not been performed for a live audience on stage at De Vos Performance Hall for 24 months. The show was online last year as a part of the 2020-2021 Virtual Season. Now Grand Rapids Ballet brings ballet back on stage with the 2021-2022 Season, which also celebrates the company’s 50th anniversary. Shows include “The Nutcracker,” “Cinderella,” “Jumpstart 2022” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Both “The Nutcracker” and “Cinderella” will be performed at DeVos Performance Hall with musical accompaniment by the Grand Rapids Symphony.
“We are so excited to be back after two years away from the stage at DeVos Performance Hall, performing ‘Nutcracker’ live with the Grand Rapids Symphony,” said James Sofranko, Artistic Director of Grand Rapids Ballet. “For professional dancers, the tradition of ‘The Nutcracker’ is in our blood, we can’t imagine the holidays without it. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to dance for live audiences again, and it’s very special to return with this production that means so much to our organization’s history and our community. After enduring a pandemic that has upended so much of our daily life, we hope that ‘The Nutcracker’ will remind us all of the beauty and joy that life can offer!”
The 2021-2022 Season kicked off with a critically acclaimed live production of “Off the Canvas” in October at the Peter Martin Wege Theatre. “Off the Canvas” presented three gorgeous ballets featuring contemporary movement and classical ballet and showcased the exceptional talents of Grand Rapids Ballet’s company dancers. Each “Off the Canvas” performance earned a standing ovation from the audience. The successful start of the season is a good sign for the high-quality performances that audiences can expect from their local professional ballet company in “The Nutcracker” and other upcoming shows. This is an exciting season that ballet fans will enjoy. Individual and Season tickets are available for live shows as well as a virtual option.
“We are an extension of your community,” said Grand Rapids company dancer Nathan Young. “When you come to see Grand Rapids Ballet, you are seeing Grand Rapids community members who live close to you and nearby. All we want to do is share our talent with people in Michigan. We thrive on your support and applause, which is how we can keep this classical art form alive.”
‘The Nutcracker’ Performance and Ticket Information
Grand Rapids Ballet will present eight performances of “The Nutcracker” on Dec. 10-12 and Dec. 17-19 at DeVos Performance Hall at 303 Monroe Ave NW in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Evening shows begin at 7:30 pm and matinees are at 2 pm. Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased online at Ticketmaster or by calling the Grand Rapids Ballet Box Office at (616) 454-4771, ext. 10. There is also a $25 virtual option for anyone who cannot attend the live show, which can be viewed online multiple times after opening night through January 2, 2022. Tickets for Clara’s Nutcracker Party on Dec. 12 begin at $55 plus the cost of the matinee ticket to “The Nutcracker.” Visit Grand Rapids Ballet’s website or their Facebook page for more details on “The Nutcracker.”
To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, masks and proof of vaccination status or a negative Covid test results from within 72 hours of the show are required for attending each Grand Rapids Ballet performance. Please review Grand Rapids Ballet’s Covid-19 Safety Protocols for details on requirements for masks, proof of vaccination status, and DeVos Performance Hall’s no bag policy.
Come and experience the joy of Christmas and the art of dance with this special holiday West Michigan “Nutcracker” tradition. It will spread a little Christmas magic to hearts of all ages.