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ArtPrize ballet performance created to spark people’s hearts regarding homelessness

The Grand Rapids Ballet and Dégagé Ministries team up to create a performance that brings awareness to the homelessness crisis in the area.
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Posted at 7:24 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-15 20:23:47-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When Gretchen Steimle was asked by the Grand Rapids Ballet to choreograph a dance that would incorporate both art and social justice, she jumped on board.

“I think whenever an artist can put their passion behind something that impacts the lives of other people, there’s no greater feeling,” Steimle said during an interview with FOX 17 on Wednesday afternoon. “Whatever I can do to share what I love in a way that hopefully impacts other people positively, there’s just nothing better than that.”

The ballet company, whom she dances with professionally, teamed up with Dégagé Ministries last year to put together a performance that would bring awareness to homelessness for this year’s ArtPrize.

After she created it — which involved musicians who once were patrons at Dégagé — and then had it filmed, they’re finally going to perform it live next week.

“It’s honestly a little surreal,” Steimle said. “I think whenever premieres happen they kind of come at a rush that we don’t expect. But, I’m so excited to again see audience interaction and to have our musicians and our dancers on stage interacting together.”

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Their first performance will be next Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 5:30 p.m. at Heartside Park, an area known for its homeless population.

The dance is called Created by Circumstance.

“We are just all one or two circumstances away from [homelessness]: health crisis, losing a loved one, a traumatic experience,” said Thelma Ensink, executive director of Dégagé Ministries. “This really tells the story through art. Often those experiencing homelessness don’t have access to the arts. This provides an opportunity to, through the arts, tell the story of a very vulnerable population.”

Ensink said every night 700–900 people experience homelessness in the Grand Rapids area. The pandemic exacerbated the crisis. However, they’re grateful that ArtPrize will help them get the word out that homelessness is prevalent and serious.

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“We’re all excited to be a part of ArtPrize again. So, we’re just grateful we have this platform to showcase this to our whole community,” Ensink said. “Homelessness isn't just an issue for a very few of us. It’s a community issue. We’re excited for the whole community to learn more about this with us.”

Two additional performances are scheduled. One for Friday, Sept. 24 at the Monroe social zone at 5:30 p.m. and then a few days later on Sunday at Rosa Parks Circle by the GRAM at 3 p.m.

Steimle hopes that when people watch the six-minute performance, it’ll inspire them to get involved at Dégagé or other organizations that helps people overcome homelessness.

“What I want people to bring to this is their human experience and connect to the subject matter in whatever way they can,” Steimle said. “Any initial spark that this can create in an audience member’s heart to go forward and to learn more about what they can do to get involved or to learn more, that would be wonderful.”

READ MORE: How COVID-19 is changing the future of homelessness in the Seattle area

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