Grand Rapids Ballet’s brilliant “Jumpstart 2020” promises a bright future
By Adrienne Warber
Grand Rapids Ballet held a celebration of creativity and artistic expression with their new annual experimental dance showcase, “Jumpstart 2020,” last weekend. The show featured the choreographic works of Grand Rapids Ballet company dancers. Grand Rapids Ballet ran four shows of “Jumpstart 2020” on March 6-8 at the Peter Martin Wege Theatre. The “Jumpstart” program is an example of what a special place Grand Rapids Ballet is for both their dancers and the West Michigan dance community. Both the dancers and community get to explore the complexity of dance art in this annual program.
‘Jumpstart’ and The Opportunity to Choreograph
Choreography is important to Grand Rapids Ballet Artistic Director James Sofranko. Before joining Grand Rapids Ballet as Artistic Director, he had a long career of both dancing and choreographing at San Francisco Ballet and his company, SFDanceworks. Sofranko has already choreographed a number of original works on Grand Rapids Ballet dancers during his first two seasons there. He now begins the “Jumpstart” program to offer opportunities for the company dancers to explore choreography and choreograph new works on their fellow dancers. This program is the start of an annual showcase.
The “Jumpstart 2020” showcase features 10 pieces, nine of which are world premieres, all choreographed by current Grand Rapids Ballet company dancers. The show is a mix of contemporary movement and classical ballet. There is something for everyone to enjoy. Works represent both storytelling and abstract aspects. Costume selection, lighting, staging and use of props was well-thought and worked beautifully. The showcase is pure artistic expression and the audience gets to see it unfolding before their eyes.
The audience will notice that every piece is entertaining and feel the special gift of witnessing West Michigan’s dancers sharing their art in a new and personal way with them. It opens the eyes to the multifaceted art of dance and the beauty of how a body expresses emotion through movement. It conveys a joy of sharing an idea that only the human body can interpret. The show cries out the superb talent of Grand Rapids Ballet’s company dancers. West Michigan is fortunate to have them.
The selection of works comes together in a lovely, artistic showcase. Each piece holds a beauty and inventive expression that conveys both the choreographer’s and dancers’ high level of talent. All of the works are world premieres except a special reprise of Grand Rapids Ballet’s Project 1 by ArtPrize, “Voices,” a collaboration with DisArt, an arts and cultural organization that showcases the works of disabled artist and celebrates disabled cultural identity.
James Cunningham’s “Butterfly Wings” skillfully explores contemporary movement with dancers using flowing winglike garments to mimic flight. Sophia Stefanopolous’ “Chroma” features delightful pointework with colorful costumes. Matthew Wenckowski’s “Such As You” is a creative contemporary duet between two male dancers whose movements form sculpture-like art shapes. Isaac Aoki’s “This Piece Is About 5 Princesses” is full of pretty artistry with dancers often joining together as a unit to form artistic images. “Voices,” the collaboration with DisArt that premiered at ArtPrize, is a haunting creative exploration where Gretchen Steimle, Isaac Aoki, Nigel Tau and Matthew Wenckowski each choreograph and dance an interpretation of the narratives of people’s experience with disability as the audience listens to a recording of their stories. Nigel Tau’s “Escape” features a great combination of dance styles, media in an entertaining manner. Gretchen Steimle’s “Be Here Now” presents an inventive use of contemporary movement and lighting. Ednis Gomez’s “Hushed” has many moments of artistry and athleticism. Adriana Wagenveld’s “Departure//Reflection” is a work with lovely movement and emotion as it explores the sages of grief. Yuka Oba-Muschiana’s “Death And The Maiden” is a beautiful and moving exploration of how a person faces death and comes to terms with it.
Grand Rapids Ballet production of “Jumpstart 2020” was a highly successful launch of their new annual choreography program. Shows were well-attended last weekend and the audience had a great time. The choreographers and dancers performed with a high level of skill and artistic talent. The current cast of Grand Rapids Ballet dancers are extremely gifted in both dance and choreography. Under the leadership of Artistic Director James Sofranko, this leading company will continue to grow in many ways. The company has a promising future. West Michigan is fortunate to have a local professional dance company that can produce shows worthy of any national or international level stage.