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Grand Rapids Ballet gives inspirational and innovative performance in Movemedia

Grand Rapids Ballet presents Movemedia I
Grand Rapids Ballet presents Movemedia I
Photo by Grand Rapids Ballet

The Grand Rapids Ballet's Movemedia dance series returned this weekend with an emotional and creative performance that left West Michigan audiences eager for more from the featured choreographers. Movemedia I featured the works of choreographers Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Pedro Lozano Gomez, Robyn Mineko Williams, Mario Radacovsky and Yuka Oba.

Movemedia Dance Series

The Grand Rapids Ballet's Movemedia is an annual contemporary dance series that showcases the new works of internationally recognized choreographers. The pieces blend dance with digital technology and media to create original modern works. Each year, the Grand Rapids Ballet searches all over the world for gifted choreographers to showcase in Movemedia. Selected choreographers collaborate with Grand Rapids Ballet dancers on their contemporary works and present them at Movemedia. A $10,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts made this third season of Movemedia possible. This year over 100 choreographers applied for the 2014 Movemedia.

The Grand Rapids Ballet held three performances of Movemedia I that ran Friday, March 28 through Sunday, March 30. Movemedia II will take place on April 25-27. The programs are two separate shows with different themes, but will both feature works from Grand Rapids Ballet artist-in-residence Annabelle Lopez Ochoa

"This year's choreographers have experimented with infusing storytelling into the choreography," said Patricia Barker, Artistic Director of the Grand Rapids Ballet. "Movemedia I and II will display works from an entirely different group of choreographers. Each with their own set of experiences that help to create their ideas on stage. Annabelle will present a world premiere created on our dancers exclusively for Movemedia II."

Movemedia I Choreographers

Movemedia I featured the works from internationally recognized choreographers Annabelle Lopez Ochoa (Colombian-Belgian), Robyn Mineko Williams (USA), Pedro Lozano Gomez (Spain), Mario Radacovsky (Slovakia) and Yuka Oba (Japan).

The primary choreographer in the 2014 Movemedia is Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, who choreographed pieces for both Movemedia I and II. Ochoa is an artist-in-residence at the Grand Rapids Ballet and winner of the Olivier award for her production of "A Streetcar Named Desire" for the Scottish Ballet.

"Annabelle is a highly sought after choreographer that has created ballets for many companies all over the world," said Barker. "Her worldwide perspective is not missed on the dancers and the choreography she sets on them. She is truly a contemporary great in the dance industry."

The credentials of the other Movemedia I choreographers is also impressive. Robyn Mineko Williams is a Princess Grace Choreographic Fellowship award winner. Pedro Lozano Gomez is an internationally acclaimed choreographer from Barcelona, Spain and has choreographed works all over the world. Mario Radacovsky is the Artistic Director for Balet Bratislava in Slovakia. He is an award-winning choreographer and dancer. Radacovsky's critically acclaimed choreography includes several pieces performed at the Grand Rapids Ballet - "Romeo and Juliet," "Bolero," and "Black Swan, White Swan." Yuka Oba is a gifted member of the Grand Rapids Ballet, making her choreography debut at Movemedia I.

'Juana' by Pedro Lozano Gomez

Movemedia I opened with Pedro Lozano Gomez's piece, "Juana." The piece was inspired by Gomez's mother's battle with Alzheimer's disease and how it impacted her sons. The piece began with the shadow of a figure behind a white screen that was struggling to untwist and stand upright like a moth breaking out of a cocoon. The lighting was shadowy, and there was smoke to convey the darkness of the Alzheimer's battle. Dancers twisted, untwisted and fell to the ground in movements portraying the agony of a body struggling with itself to stay upright and move forward in the fog of Alzheimer's. A light shined around the stage like a search light for the missing. A bittersweet partnering between Nicholas Schultz and Cassidy Issacson showed a son tenderly trying to help his mother, who refuses his help with her hands behind her back. "Juana" was haunting and passionate.

'Her Secret' by Yuka Oba

Yuka Oba's "Her Secret" was a story about a woman's internal struggle told by a pair of dancers. The two dancers begin as young girls dancing together, who seem to disagree and part, only to come back together as various conflicts arise. The movements involve many deep bends from the waist and leg kicks. Morgan Fraiser and Caroline Wiley showed a wide range of emotion to convey the message of a woman's inner turmoil.

'Meet the Swan' by Mario Radacovsky

Mario Radacovsky's "Meet the Swan" was danced by husband and wife dance partners Nicholas Schultz and Laura McQueen Schultz. McQueen Schultz's precise, graceful fluttering movements made you see her as the swan. When the couple danced, they seemed like swans dancing in water. The movements were also very sensual as they moved together, and the number was romantic, ending with a kiss.

'One Take' by Robyn Mineko Williams

Robyn Mineko Williams' "One Take" used a movie screen in the background, silent film era music, and showed black and white film clips in the background. The piece started with two men facing each other - one old and bent and the other young - copying each other like a mirror reflection. Other sequences used shadows that appeared to dance with the dancers. The piece ended with another memorable partnering between the Schultzes that showed the pain of heartbreak, reflected in the dance and in a series of film clips in the background.

'Memorias Del Dorado' by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa

"Memorias Del Dorado", which means "Memories of the Land of Gold," was the showcase performance by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. The piece told the story of how the Spanish Conquistadors stole gold from the indigenous people of Colombia, and how Colombia grew out of the intermingling of the Spanish and native peoples. The men were the Spanish Conquistadors and the women represented the gold. Sounds of the Amazon rainforest were the backdrop to the precise movements of the dancers. Women representing gold framed their faces with their hands, and held their arms at angles reminiscent of tribal statue poses. Men ran, grabbed, and even threw women in the air, showing the brutality of stolen treasure. The movements were beautiful, artistic and athletic.

Movemedia Delivers

The Grand Rapids Ballet and the choreographers delivered a beautiful and thought-provoking performance that was full of excellent technique and innovative ideas. Movemedia I left audiences eagerly anticipating Movemedia II.