[Originally published by John Kissane in culturedGR January 2018]
Grand Rapids Ballet to celebrate diversity with MOVEMEDIA
This year’s pair of events, the first happening February 9–11, premiere new works by choregraphers like Jennifer Archibald, founder of Arch Dance Company.
Jennifer Archibald, founder and Artistic Director of Arch Dance Company, is one of three choregraphers for the world premiere of “MOVEMEDIA: Diversity I” at Grand Rapids Ballet February 9–11.
Years ago, African American ballerina Michaela DePrince was asked about diversity in ballet.
“I think that artistic directors like the corp to look homogenous,” she said. “One red poppy in a field of yellow daffodils draws the audience’s eye to the one poppy. However, I don’t think the answer is to cull the poppy.”
“MOVEMEDIA: Diversity,” coming to Grand Rapids Ballet, seeks not to cull but to celebrate the poppies. Its first installment will be performed February 9–11, and consists of new work by multiple choreographers, including Jennifer Archibald.
Left: Archibald working with Grand Rapids Ballet dancers.
Archibald, founder and Artistic Director of Arch Dance Company, has taught master classes in Brazil, Italy, France, Russa, Mexico, China, and more — everywhere but the moon. Her work has been performed more or less everywhere.
If you haven’t seen her work yet — perhaps you’re on the moon — a single click will take you there .
“Ailey II: Wings,” a portion of which is available on YouTube, does what dance often promises but only intermittently offers: it gives us the human form seemingly transcending itself, through motion that is alternating between fast and slow, and is always beautiful. While hours and hours of effort went into its production, the dancing appears effortless, as if done by the weather, or by ghosts.
Grand Rapids Ballet Artistic Director Patricia Parker approached Archibald last summer about the possibility of contributing a piece. She agreed, drawing on her life experience.
“I grew up in a city where diversity was always reflected as a mosaic — culture, fashion, art, music, language, and culinary styles,” says Archibald. “My experiences in this mosaic were the inspiration for this piece.”
After some thought, she selected music relevant to the concept and that would, she hoped, move an audience. She spent a considerable amount of time on site in Grand Rapids, working with local dancers to bring her vision to life.
Archibald has found the dance community to be not just tolerant of diversity but welcoming of it. She says that the people she’s worked with “share diverse backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints.”
She says that attendees “can experience the versatility and the great athleticism of the Grand Rapids Ballet dancers. From a choreographic perspective, attendees will have an opportunity to experience my high energy blend of traditional and non-traditional dance aesthetics.”
Daffodils and poppies welcome.
MOVEMEDIA: Diversity at Grand Rapids Ballet
February 9–11, 2018 (MOVEMEDIA I)
March 23–25, 2018 (MOVEMEDIA II)
Peter Martin Wege Theatre
Tickets available online here.