Grand Rapids Ballet’s ‘Jumpstart 2023’ Showcases Top Cast Talent
By Adrienne Warber
Grand Rapids Ballet has enjoyed a successful 2022-23 Season and “Jumpstart 2023” is one of its key highlights. West Michigan’s only professional ballet company held their annual “Jumpstart” choreography showcase in late March. It was a great lead-up to their exciting new production, “Ballet and Broadway,” which opened on April 21, and will hold three more shows on April 28-30. “Jumpstart 2023,” which features choreography created by company dancers, was a delightful blend of creativity and excellent dancing. It was a great example of why dance fans should be excited to see what Grand Rapids Ballet will do next.
Grand Rapids Ballet’s Talented Cast
Grand Rapids Ballet is flourishing under the artistic direction of James Sofranko, who has built a strong cast of dancers and impressive repertoire for the company. Sofranko’s dedication to mentoring dancers as they explore choreography and his own choreographic works have been a gift to the West Michigan dance community. The opportunity to choreograph will also help current dancers grow their artistry in new ways and attract new talent who have an interest in both dance and choreography. The annual “Jumpstart” program gives the West Michigan dance community a chance to see the diverse talent of Grand Rapids Ballet’s cast. “Jumpstart 2023” was one of their best to date.
10 World Premieres
“Jumpstart 2023” presented an impressive 10 world premieres of works choreographed by Grand Rapids Ballet dancers. Even more impressive is the fact that the dancers only worked on the showcase for two weeks prior to the production and presented a fantastic and inventive show. The ability to create and pull off an excellent show in such a short period of time demonstrates the company dancers’ high level of talent and dedication to their craft.
Highlights of the Show
The dancers presented an entertaining show with excellent dance technique and compelling works. The performances were all staged well, with costumes that fit the works, and ran at a good pace. The choreography, dancing, staging, and lighting all worked seamlessly together to create a superb production. Dancers displayed impressive acting abilities that conveyed the right emotions and character development. The mix of classical ballet and contemporary movement played beautifully together. There were moments that moved the heart and inspired humor.
“Jumpstart 2023” included works from both company dancers and apprentices. The production introduced new dancer-choreographers and showed the growing talent of those dancers who choreographed in previous showcases. Company dancers Nathan Young, Alexandra Meister-Upleger, Nigel Tau, Adrien Malof, James Cunningham, Isaac Aoki, Emily Reed, Arianna Hughlett, Adriana Wagenveld, and Yuka Oba-Muschiana all choreographed works at the show. The production also featured a piece by choreographer Darrel Grand Moultrie, commissioned by Grand Rapids Ballet during its 2020-21 Virtual Season.
All of the dancers performed with expert technique, beautiful artistry, and strong acting skills in the production. “Jumpstart 2023” presented 11 works, which included the 10 world premieres by company dancers and guest choreographer Darrel Grand Moultrie’s piece. It was an enjoyable experience to witness the creativity and talent of Grand Rapids Ballet in a showcase that included a variety of dance expressions.
The first half of the show featured six works. Nathan Young’s “La Valse” was a lovely work with enchanting dancing by Isaac Aoki, Yuko Horisawa, and Julia Turner. Alexandra Meister-Upleger’s “Happy Birthday Leslie” was a fun piece featuring delightful dancing by Sarah Marley and the seven other dancers, Josué Justiz, Brodie Donougher, Evan Arredondo, Mackenzie Davis, Nia Lessard, Simon Squires, and Rianna Talento. Nigel Tau’s well-crafted choreography, “Before Dark,” was danced cleverly by Rowan Allegra, Alexandra Mester-Upleger, and Nathan Young. Adrien Malof’s creative choreography “Seeking” explored self-reflection in the expressive dancing by the Angelina de la Nuez, Rianna Talento, Ashley Rosendahl, Evan Arredondo, Serafina Wagenveld, and Nia Lessard. James Cunningham’s beautiful choreography in “Bioluminous” was beautiful in its use of light and shadow and enchanting dancing by Emily Reed, Julian Gan, Brodie Donougher, Adriana Wagenveld, Sarah Marley, Claudia Rhett, Avery Held, Isabella Marino, and Evan Arredondo. Isaac Aoki’s “Bahnhof” commented on the relationship of parents and children with his clever choreography and through high quality dancing by Rowan Allegra, Yuka Oba-Muschiana, Nigel Tau, and the full cast of dancers.
The second half of the show was comprised of five works. Emily Reed’s delightful choreography in “A Dream,” inspired by golden-era musicals, entertained with classic Gene Kelly style dancing by James Cunningham, Evan Arredondo, Angelina de la Nuez, Simon Squires, Julian Gan, Julia Turner. Mackenzie Davis, Ashely Rosendahl. And Josephine Shadle. Nigel Tau danced with expert technique and emotion in Darrell Grand Moultrie’s “An Offering,” which originally premiered online during Grand Rapids Ballet’s 2020-21 Virtual Season. Arianna Hughlett’s “A New Satisfaction” featured inventive choreography, danced with strong technique by Avery Held, Isabella Marino, and Serafina Wagenveld. Adriana Wagenveld’s lovely “The Truth About Forever” was cleverly danced by Isaac Aoki and Emily Reed. Yuka Oba-Muschiana’s “Glazunov Symphony” was one of the highlights of the show with beautiful classical ballet choreography and showcased both the superb talent of featured dancers Sarah Marley and Josué Justiz along with Yuko Horisawa, Julian Gan, Claudia Rhett, and Brodie Donougher as well as the excellence of the corps de ballet. The corps de ballet dancers were Mackenzie Davis, Avery Held, Arianna Hughlett, Nia Lessard, Isabella Marino, Serafina Wagenveld, Angelina de la Nuez, Adrien Malof, Ashely Rosendahl, Josephine Shadle, and Rianna Talento.
“Jumpstart 2023” was both entertaining and a work of beautiful dance art. Being in the audience was to be both a witness and participant in the experience of high dance art. Grand Rapids Ballet’s cast of dancers and choreographers should be proud of their achievements in this excellent showcase.
Grand Rapids Ballet’s ‘Ballet + Broadway’
Grand Rapids Ballet is currently performing “Ballet + Broadway,” featuring choreography from Tony Award winner and “Hamilton” choreographer, Andy Blankenbuehler. “Ballet + Broadway,” premiered on April 21, with great praise from West Michigan dance fans. Grand Raids will perform three more shows on April 28-30. This is a show that dance and musical theatre fans should both enjoy. Purchase tickets online at TicketMaster. Tickets can also be purchased by phone by calling 616-454-4771, ext. 110, or purchased in-person at the Grand Rapids Ballet Box Office. For more information, please visit Grand Rapids Ballet’s Facebook page.