Growing pains, explorations and possibilities.
1. Season One-Emerge.
Season one was exciting and also a great learning experience. Twelve people came to audition and ten were offered positions in the ensemble. We rehearsed once a week and had our first show at the beginning of December. I recruited family members to help with the show and on a very limited budget and with help from everyone in the ensemble, we were able to have a successful first show. The Saturday show was even sold out!
I chose the theme of "Emerge" as it seemed fitting for a new beginning and the first show for GRDE. I opened the show by dancing to the poem To Bless the Space Between Us by John O'Donohue read by my husband, Dan.
Looking back over season one, I learned much which has contributed to the growth of GRDE. Key areas of grow have been: improved organization of rehearsals, strategic planning for financial sustainability, and leadership development.
Taking the risk to start GRDE was a vulnerable step for me due to the uncertainty of the end result. However, that vulnerability became the first step for my dream to emerge and become a reality. I am so happy to be able to share the love of dance with the wonderful women in GRDE!
-Sarah Bethel, Artistic Director
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
To Bless the Space Between Us
“I chose the theme of "Emerge" as it seemed fitting for a new beginning and the first show for GRDE. “
— Sarah Bethel, Artistic Director
2. Master Class Offerings.
During Season 2 we explored more ways for GRDE to become a part of the dance community, to grow together as an ensemble and to continuously improve our technique. We offered three master classes taught by ensemble members, Sarah Bethel, Arye Shannon-Carmichael, and Annalise Hammerlund.
Each class had its own unique flavor and style, and a few members of the community came to join us.
There is a different atmosphere in the classroom than in rehearsal or on stage. Many of us have been out of the the dance classroom and away from the ballet barre for some time. It was both a challenge and refreshing to spend time together in this way.
Opportunities for grown-up dancers are limited—by our full time work schedules, our families, and a lack of consistent offerings of classes at an advanced level throughout the community.
Because GRDE is seeking to fill the ‘dance void’ in our grown-up dancing souls, we wanted to explore how facilitating our own master-classes could be a part of that vision.
For the time being, we are focusing on our performances and still growing together as an ensemble. But we did love our master classes, and hope to offer some again in the future.
-Annalise Hummerlund, Rehearsal Director
3. Season Two- UN.
There was a lot of excitement around Season 2 after such a successful show in December. Moving forward as part of the leadership team as Social Media Manager, I was excited to build on what we had started and adjust a few things upon reflection. We also held auditions for Season 2 which brought our number up to 16 members! However, what I was most excited about was returning to weekly rehearsals and moving and creating with women I now call friends.
Season 2 was given a theme which would be the inspiration for all choreography. It really could encompass anything, as long as it was connected to “UN” in some way. In ‘Untroubled’ we danced joyfully with red balloons, in ‘Unmasked’ we watched jewelry thieves at a masked ball, and explored the seven stages of grief in ‘Unglued by Grief’. It was indeed interesting to see the creativity that was invoked around a theme.
Being part of the leadership team, I was also privy to some of the more administrative challenges a small dance company can face. We needed to bring in more profit to cover expenses, so we started a GoFundMe and raised over $900!
We also tried to expand our social media presence on Facebook and Instagram, hoping to connect with more of the local arts community in Grand Rapids. Additionally, we also created our own official Grand Rapids Dance Ensemble website. The leadership team spent a lot of time discussing and experimenting ways to get sponsorship. The big question was how do we create sustainable funding opportunities for GRDE? We are still trying to answer that question as we explore new opportunities.
Financial questions aside, we had four successful shows at the Ambrosia Theatre in May. After a whirlwind of a weekend we also knew we needed a bigger performance space for next season. Even with performance space and sustainable sponsorship questions still unanswered, we finished the season strong and even performed at Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts.
As Season 2 ended, we reflected on what we learned. We redesigned the structure for warm-ups, rehearsal times, auditions, and the process for submitting and reviewing choreography. The end result: more refined and quality movement and choreography. Changes to leadership involved me accepting the Assistant Artistic Director position and bringing on Alyssa Ferguson to become our Collaborative Coordinator. Alyssa has a multitude of connections in the arts community and will be a great liaison for Grand Rapids Dance Ensemble. Bring on Season 3!
-Arye Shannon-Carmichael, Assistant Artistic Director