Last week I flew back from the east coast by way of Michigan, to spend three days shadowing Whim W’Him artistic director Olivier Wevers as he worked on a new Midsummer Night’s Dream for Grand Rapids Ballet. GRB‘s facility is impressive,
a handsome all-in-one building housing rehearsal space, offices, the ballet school and a 300-seat theater.
The company could not have been more welcoming—artistic director Patricia Barker, her husband Michael Auer who teaches for the company and is working on development among his many jobs, the wonderful dancers, donors like Melissa & Michael Lojek and Marilyn Titche (who kindly put me up), and the staff, from Melissa Leitch up in the top floor costume shop to marketing & design director Amber Stout and the others down in the first floor office, as well as company & facilities manager John Ferraro, who seems to be everywhere at once. My stay also coincided with Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize festival and the ballet’s Season Kickoff gala, plus I got to spend a lovely morning at the astonishing Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Even the weather co-operated.
But enough effusions already! Let’s take a peek at what Olivier has been concocting in Grand Rapids. These were the last days of a month’s residency, which was previewed and summed up in a performance at Saturday’s gala of his new ballet’s culminating pas de deux. Yuka Oba & Nicholas Schultz danced Titania & Oberon, king & queen of the forest fairyland where most of Shakespeare’s play and all of Olivier’s rendering (to be called simply Midsummer) take place.
The older versions that balletomanes know and love best are George Balanchine‘s 1962 A Midsummer Night‘s Dream…