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Women's Lifestyle Magazine

Grand Rapids Ballet to Premiere Two Virtual Performances

May 12, 2020 08:22PM ● By WLMagazine

Grand Rapids, MI, May 12, 2020 – Michigan’s only professional ballet company, Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB), will release two “new” virtual program performances online, one of which will include a world premiere piece from Choreographer-in-Residence Penny Saunders. 

This exclusive content (which will also showcase video from past performances) will be made available to those who generously make a tax-deductible donation of any amount to the organization between now and June 11, 2020. 

“As the COVID-19 crisis continues, I have been looking for new ways to fulfill our mission of lifting the human spirit through the art of dance,” said Artistic Director James Sofranko. “Our new Virtual Programs seek to replicate the experience of attending one of our performances by offering an evening of ballets handpicked by myself to reflect our times as well as highlight the talents of our company.” 

Program I, Classic & Contemporary, will “premiere” online May 15 and feature full versions of the following performances: 

• George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante as performed by GRB in October 2018 – One of Balanchine’s most joyous, pure dance pieces of expansive Russian romanticism. Of it he said: “It is everything I know about classical ballet in 13 minutes.” 

• Danielle Rowe’s November as performed by GRB in February 2020 – An exciting contemporary work that reminds us why love isn’t for the faint of heart. 

• Alejandro Cerrudo’s Extremely Close as performed by GRB in February 2019 – A unique piece of moving walls and falling feathers will have you seeing the world from a completely different perspective. 

I am particularly excited about the world premiere in Virtual Program II from our resident choreographer Penny Saunders,” said Sofranko. “Rather than feeling stifled by the limitation of social distancing, she is turning challenges into creative jumping off points. The idea this project will one day be re-imagined in a performance venue, integrating the final film with live dancers on stage, gives us all something to look forward to. I especially wish to thank our staff and crew, the dancers, Penny and all of the choreographers participating in the Virtual Programs for their efforts to keep art and beauty present in our world.” 

Artistic Director James Sofranko will do a Facebook LIVE with Rowe and Cerrudo on Thursday 3pm on the Company’s Facebook page prior to the premiere of Program I. 

Program II, An Evening with Penny Saunders, will “premiere” online June 12 and will showcase the works of Princess Grace Award winner and GRB’s resident choreographer, Penny Saunders: 

Amiss (world premiere) This never-before-seen work will feature the voices and talents of Grand Rapids Ballet dancers, staff, teachers, students, and board and audience members who have all generously volunteered their time to the creation of this unique piece during the COVID-19 hiatus. It is a collaboration with video editor Quinn Wharton and composer Michael Wall. 

Again as performed by GRB in October 2019 – A sensual, tension-filled pas de deux is a personal story of how a dancer’s life evolves when their career on stage ends and a new chapter begins. 

Testimony as performed by GRB in October 2018 – An important and topical piece influenced by the #MeToo movement. 

Ghost Light as performed by GRB in February 2019 – A haunting work inspired by the singular light often left on an unoccupied stage to provide the longing spirts of the theatre the opportunity to dance in the dark. 

“This project emerged to remain connected to my craft and to try and create something meaningful during this time of great uncertainty,” said Resident Choreographer Penny Saunders. “Over the years, Grand Rapids Ballet has become a creative home for me, and I felt the need to express my gratitude to such an amazing community. Quickly, over 30 individuals from across the organization — from young students to board members — answered the call and offered to join me in this collaboration. Dance, as it often does, provided comfort and connectedness. Amiss is a love story of sorts, highlighting what we cherish about our humanity, our creativity, and our arts community.” 

A link to view the programs will be emailed to anyone who makes a tax-deductible donation of any amount between now and May 14 

for Program I and May 16-June 11 for Program II. The videos will be available to view online for 72 hours. Donations can be made online at To learn more about these virtual programs and all of the good work GRB is doing “at home,” visit today.