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Grand Rapids Ballet reinvents 'The Nutcracker' with 'Polar Express' author

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The Grand Rapids Ballet's annual "Nutcracker" performance is a treasured holiday tradition for many West Michigan families. The company's top notch dancing, costumes and sets bring the magic of the classic story to life. This year, the Grand Rapids Ballet will feature a new version of "The Nutcracker." On Tuesday, March 25, the Grand Rapids Ballet announced that the company will partner with "Polar Express" author and Grand Rapids native Chris Van Allsberg and two nationally recognized talents to recreate the classic Christmas tale.

A New "Nutcracker" Vision

The Grand Rapids Ballet is bringing in three nationally recognized talents to revamp "The Nutcracker" - author Chris Van Allsburg, Tony Award-winning set designer Eugene Lee, and world famous choreographer Val Caniparoli.

Chris Allsburg is a leading children's author, best known for "The Polar Express" and "Jumanji." Both "The Nutcracker" and Van Allsberg's children's stories capture the special magic of childhood. Van Allsberg's vision will reinvent "The Nutcracker" in a way that pays homage to the original story in a fresh, engaging manner for today's audience.

Eugene Lee will design the set for "The Nutcracker." Lee won Tony Awards for his set designs for "Sweeny Todd" and "Wicked." Since 1974, he has been the production designer for NBC's "Saturday Night Live" and recently designed the set for "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."

Val Caniparoli will choreograph "The Nutcracker." Winner of the Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Choreography, Caniparoli has choreographed productions for ballet, theater and opera for companies all over the world.

This unique collaboration promises to create an unforgettable new holiday classic.

"We are absolutely thrilled to bring some of the greatest artistic talents from around the country, the world for that matter, together to create very special, new, exciting and fully reimagined Nutcracker production for West Michigan," said Glenn Del Vecchio, Grand Rapids Ballet Executive Director. "After 30 years of offering the current Nutcracker to West Michigan audiences, a new tradition will be born this holiday season. We are so excited to unveil the new production and see the response from both those who made "The Nutcracker" a part of their holiday tradition for years, and those who will be discovering it for the first time."

Dancing for a Cause

The Grand Rapids Ballet's new "Nutcracker" production will also support an important cause, Hospice of Michigan's Pediatric Hospice Program. The new "Nutcracker" production will debut at the Premiere Gala on Thursday, December 11th at DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids. The Grand Rapids Ballet will cohost the gala with Hospice of Michigan. The gala will raise funds for both the Hospice of Michigan's Pediatric Hospice Program and the Grand Rapids Ballet. The gala features a formal dinner, "The Nutcracker" premiere performance, and a reception. Tickets are $250 per person.

The Wege Foundation will also match donations made to the Grand Rapids Ballet in support of "The Nutcracker" project 100% up to $50,000. Those interested in making donations can download a donation form at the Grand Rapids Ballet website or call Kyle Amanda Dutkiewicz at (616) 454-4771, ext. 11.

"Nutcracker" Opens 2014-15 Season

"The Nutcracker" opens the 2014-15 Season for the Grand Rapids Ballet. The Grand Rapids Ballet's 2014-15 Season features:

  • "The Nutcracker" - December 12-14 and December 19-21, 2014
  • "Swan Lake" - February 6-8 and February 13-15, 2015
  • "Movemedia I" - March 13-15, 2015
  • "Movemedia II" - April 16-17 and 19, 2015
  • "Beethoven"- May 8-10 and 15-17, 2015

Both "The Nutcracker" and "Beethoven" are world premiere productions.

The mix of classical ballet and innovative new dance featured in upcoming season productions should please loyal ballet fans of all ages.

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