Grand Rapids, MI, May 4, 2020 – Michigan’s only professional ballet company, Grand Rapids Ballet, announced today it will release a “virtual hug” performance video to honor and salute the healthcare and other essential workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
“My wife had been finding articles about messages of support having a positive impact on the mental state of workers in the healthcare industry, so we started brainstorming about how we, as ballet dancers, could use our talents to send a special message of our own,” said Artistic Director James Sofranko. “It is heartbreaking to me that the very people tasked with solving this pandemic may end up suffering from PTSD. I am very proud of the dancers of Grand Rapids Ballet who volunteered to participate in this one-of-a-kind video message to offer our moral support. It is our desire that this video will offer them strength and encouragement during the difficult times. We hope this message can be shared with health care workers across the state of Michigan and the entire country. We will not get through this without them, and we must do everything we can to show our gratitude. We are behind them, we are inspired by them, and we stay home for them.”
The dancers—who are all wearing blue in a sign of solidarity with healthcare workers—volunteered their time and talents for the cause. They are James Cunningham, Steven Houser, Ingrid Lewis, Celeste Lopez-Keranen, Madison Massara, Alexandra Meister-Upleger, Yuka Oba-Muschiana, Emily Reed, Gretchen Steimle, Nigel Tau, Julia Turner, Adriana Wagenveld, Matt Wenckowski, and Nathan Young. Cellist Jeremy Crosmer of Grand Rapids’ ESME (Eclectic String Music Ensemble) appears on the video playing the prelude from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major. The piece was produced by James Sofranko and Cindy Sheppard Sofranko and edited by Joe Sofranko and Lili Fuller.
The video will be posted to Grand Rapids Ballet’s YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, and Facebook and on its website on Tuesday, May 5 at 9 am. The direct link to the video is bit.ly/grbvirtualhug. All fans and followers are encouraged to like and share the uplifting message to their own social media channels with #GRBVirtualHug and #GRBatHome.