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Grand Rapids Ballet, Degage Ministries partner for ArtPrize performance

Posted at 12:11 PM, Sep 14, 2021

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Ballet is partnering with Degage Ministries for three ArtPrize performances meant to share a message of hope, help and awareness.

Dancers from the ballet company collaborated with Degage Ministries to create a moving work called “Created by Circumstances,” aimed at sharing a glimpse into the lives of those experiencing homelessness in the Heartside neighborhood.

The organizations shared details about the performances in a news release Tuesday.

Gretchen Steimle, a professional dancer at Grand Rapids Ballet, set out to bring awareness to the resources Degage provides the community through choreographic work that includes saxophone and vocals from patrons served by Degage.

“Art has the power to connect us through our human experiences,” Steimle said. “Watching human bodies move and express music is something that every person knows and can connect to. It’s so importance to use those mediums to incorporate significant subject matter and create a connecting moment to share an understanding of the experience of homelessness.”

The vocals, voiced by Thomas as Degage, include real-life testimonials from Degage patrons, which are accompanied by saxophone performed by Isaac at Degage.

Grand Rapids Ballet’s dancers will perform live alongside Thomas and Isaac at three venues during ArtPrize beginning Wednesday, Sept. 22 at Heartside Park at 5:30 p.m.

The other performances will take place Sept. 24 at Monroe Social Zone at 5:30 p.m. and Sept. 26 at Rosa Parks Circle by the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

“I am so proud of Gretchen for creating a work about such an important subject matter and I’m proud of Grand Rapids Ballet’s collaboration with Degage engaging with our community and using our art to impact lives in a positive way,” Artistic Director James Sofranko said.

According to Degage Ministries, more than 9,200 people in Kent County experienced at least one episode of homelessness in 2019 – a 52% increase since 2016.

In addition, over the past five years, homelessness has increased by 94%.

“Created by Circumstance” was a recipient of one of ArtPrize’s curatorial grants, which organizers say will be featured in prominent outdoor locations in downtown Grand Rapids, exploring themes relevant to the community.

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