Stuff That Works - Grand Rapids Ballet MOVEMEDIA

I received this cool postcard in the mail a couple of weeks ago - it piqued my interest, I jumped on the website for the Grand Rapids Ballet to find out more and thought it looked like something Julie and I would enjoy. So I bought us a couple of tickets for the Sunday matinee.

Here are some of the descriptive words that caught my attention: "MOVEMEDIA features dance works merging visual elements of sets, props, costumes and lighting, framed by technology and digital media to enhance the body in space."

We enjoyed everything about our afternoon with the GR Ballet. Nice, welcoming people met us at the door(s) - the Peter Martin Wege Theatre is a wonderful, comfortable and intimate venue with no bad seats in the house. Did I mention the Company of dancers?  They were fantastic. The show consisted of five pieces - each choreographed by a different person - Pedro Lozano Gomez, Yuka Oba, Mario Radacovsky, Robyn Mineko Williams, and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa.

I enjoyed each of the five for different and sometimes overlapping reasons, but my favorite one was the first, "Juana", by Gomez. It represented the struggle of his mother, Juana, with Alzheimer's and the way he and his siblings have had to come to terms with it. It was very moving and powerful. (Being the fan of electronic music that I am - his use of same is what gave this piece my top billing.)

It was our first visit to the Wege theatre, but it will not be our last. The rapid rise of the seats means no one is looking at the back of somebodies head and there is a nice view from every seat in the house. I loved the fact that we could hear the sound of the dancers feet moving and squeaking a bit on the floor - it was wonderful when half a dozen of the ladies moved across the stage on point and you could hear the staccato tapping of their toes. 

We really enjoyed the introductions given before each piece from Artistic Director Patricia Barker. She is obviously a woman who loves what she does - (read her bio and you will know she has fantastic credentials) - but she presented the pieces as if she was talking to a room full of friends.

I almost hesitate to mention specific dancers because the whole lot of them were wonderful. But I feel that the husband and wife team of Nicholas Shultz and Laura McQueen Shultz deserve a pat on the back for their outstanding contributions to the afternoon. Julie and I were very impressed by two young ladies (as in 17 and 18 years old kind of young). Morgan Fraiser and Caroline Wiley represented mother and daughter in a piece conceived by Company member Yuka Oba. Their talent belied their youth.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa

The final piece of the afternoon was a wonderful finale. It showcased 16 dancers in a piece by the 2014 Artist In Residence, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. It was a wonderful blend of the fluid grace of ballet with quirky moves one might expect from a group of kids break dancing on a piece of cardboard in the street. The grace of the ladies and the athleticism of the men throughout the piece was a treat. (Kyohei Giovanni Yoshida threw in a couple of back flips for good measure.)

To the cast, crew, and volunteers at the Grand Rapids Ballet -
thank you all very much for the enjoyable program.

I regret that I have missed the first two seasons of Movemedia. If YOU have never experienced the Grand Rapids Ballet in their new home, the second program of Movemedia is coming up in just a few weeks: April 25-27.

Go ahead - get some tickets and enjoy these wonderfully talented ladies and gentlemen.

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