12.12.14: Ballet company teams with ‘Polar Express’ creator
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — The Grand Rapids Ballet is unveiling a new production of “The Nutcracker” that’s co-designed by Chris Van Allsburg, known for his book “The Polar Express.”
A private performance Thursday to benefit the Grand Rapids Ballet and Hospice of Michigan raised $500,000, with $250,000 going to the ballet company and $250,000 going toward the Pediatric Hospice Program.
Grand Rapids Ballet executive director Glenn Del Vecchio says the ballet company and Hospice of Michigan are “here to improve the quality of life in West Michigan” in their own ways.
The Wege Foundation also offered a $20,000 challenge grant, promising to match donations and pledges resulting from Thursday’s event. By the end of the night, organizers reported raising a total of $51,000 with the challenge grant. The first public performance is Friday night.
Grand Rapids Ballet, in preparation for the production’s premiere, mounted a $2.5 million fundraising campaign called “Stepping Forward” to retire long-term debts and build up a cash reserve as well as to fund the show. Performances are planned through Dec. 21.
“The Nutcracker” is choreographed by Val Caniparoli and co-designed by Van Allsburg and award-winning designer Eugene Lee. Caniparoli has created two previous productions of “The Nutcracker,” for the Cincinnati Ballet in 2001 and for the Louisville Ballet in 2009.
Van Allsburg grew up in Grand Rapids and “The Polar Express” movie was based on his book. The production of “The Nutcracker” could travel in coming years.