How the Grand Rapids Ballet Put a New Spin on The Nutcracker

Is The Nutcracker one of your yearly holiday traditions? This December, see it live at the Grand Rapids Ballet! Today, our guest blogger from Experience Grand Rapids shares how Michigan-born writer and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg and team put a new spin on an old favorite.

TheNutcrackerArtworkChris Van Allsburg, the East Grand Rapids native known for writing and illustrating books including The Polar Express and Jumanji, can add another credit to his impressive list. He, along with Tony and Emmy award winning set designer Eugene Lee and renowned choreographer Val Caniparoli, are giving new life to the Grand Rapids Ballet version of The Nutcracker under the direction of Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB) Artistic Director Patricia Barker.

Barker is quite fond of traditions. She was a principal dancer in the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) production of The Nutcracker with set designs by children’s author Maurice Sendak. The lavish production became a holiday tradition in Seattle, and upon her arrival in Grand Rapids, she knew she wanted to create a similar tradition here.

Photo courtesy of The Grand Rapids Ballet

Photo courtesy of The Grand Rapids Ballet

It was Barker’s dream for a new Grand Rapids tradition that set the ball rolling. The Grand Rapids Ballet asked Van Allsburg to design The Nutcracker with his own vision two years ago. Although his daughter Sophia has danced the role of Clara with Festival Ballet Providence in Rhode Island, he still needed some “encouragement” from his wife Lisa along with friend and co-designer Eugene Lee to take on the project.

While Van Allsburg is not in Grand Rapids currently, Barker said he was an integral part in creating the aesthetic for this re-imagined production and is still involved. “I have been in conversation with Chris weekly, sometimes daily,” said Barker.

With the help of Barker’s German speaking husband, Barker and Caniparoli spent more than a year going over the E.T.A Hoffman story that The Nutcracker is based upon in its original German. And although the set design, production and costumes are all new, the heart of The Nutcracker remains the same.

Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Ballet

Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Ballet

Van Allsburg and Caniparoli were steadfast in their determination to focus on the original story of The Nutcracker. Eugene Lee also played a large role in ensuring from beginning to end the audience sees the complete story line of Clara coming of age and going through a wonderful adventure for all ages.

“We uncovered interesting nuances that have been lost over multiple translations such as architecture, clothing, embellishments, etc.,” said Barker. “But with that being said, there will still be recognizable plot lines from modern renditions of The Nutcracker.”

The spirit of The Nutcracker isn’t limited to Grand Rapids Ballet.

Opening Curtain - Photo courtesy of Grad Rapids Ballet

Opening Curtain – Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Ballet

Hotels will be offering Nutcracker Season packages along with special “Land of Sweets” desserts and a Nutcracker Cocktail contest at participating restaurants and bars.

For a more behind the scenes look, from November 20-January 15 the Grand Rapids Art Museum will have original artwork on display illustrating the process of this amazing production, along with costumes and set models that will give insight on how a production goes from conception to stage.

So get your tickets and plan a trip to Grand Rapids to the world premiere performance of the largest production in Grand Rapids Ballet history starting December 12. You won’t be disappointed.

Have you ever seen a performance at the Grand Rapids Ballet? Tell us about it!

Lions and Tigers and Wings, Oh MI!: Detroit Sports Hot Spots Roundup

10Best_Sports_FB_Share_v3[1]Detroit was recently named #1 among USA TODAY Travel’s 10 Best Cities for Sports! With four professional sports team centered in Detroit, we asked Visit Detroit to share some suggestions for pre-game excitement around the city.

Detroit’s roar is loud enough to be named the 2014 USA Today 10Best Sports City. We don’t take sports lightly in this town.

The Detroit Red Wings have reached the post season 23 consecutive years – the only professional sports organization in history ever to do so, while the Detroit Tigers have achieved four consecutive AL Championships.

Throw in a couple champion seasons from the Pistons and Red Wings in the last decade and a Winter Classic outdoor hockey game and you have the equation for sports city success!

Spirt of Detroit TigersPre-Game Tailgating
Eastern Market is the official home to Detroit Lions Tailgating. There are 750 tailgate spaces and it’s just a 10-minute walk to Ford Field or if you prefer to ride, hop on a shuttle to the game. Costs run $45 for a car, $75 for a camper or bus, $130 for RVs and $160 for Motor Coaches. General parking is also available for $15. Eastern Market also operates round-trip shuttle service to Ford Field for $5 per person.

Bar Food/Post-Game Celebrations
Having tickets to a game is the ultimate fan experience, but when you can’t snag some game seats, let your rump rest in a booth with some bar food and a stellar experience, bar none.

ComericaParkTiger_5395_BillBowenThe diner burger at Firebird Tavern is a house specialty. Two patties are smashed together and topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle and special sauce. Kick up the flavor by adding bacon.

There’s a reason this bar bears the name of the man with the team plan. Coaches Corner Bar & Grill is loaded with HDTVs and an outdoor patio, perfect for pre-game hype and post-game celebrations.

Irish pubs are always great and The Old Shillelagh is no exception. Add 25 TVs and a free shuttle to the game and you have a downtown game day experience, with or without tickets!

FordfieldAnother popular burger joint just outside downtown (located near old Tiger Stadium) is Nemo’s Bar and Grill. Nemo’s has been featured on many “best burgers” lists because of their sizeable burgers and mustard sauce. Be sure to take advantage of the free parking and $3 shuttles to Tigers and Red Wings games.

Stadium Tours
If you can’t attend the game, check out a Ford Field stadium tour for a behind-the-scenes look at the guest suites and team locker rooms and a chance to run through the tunnel and onto the field.

Sports are serious business in Pure Michigan. Do you follow any unique tailgating traditions to support your favorite Michigan team?

Dan Fuoco is the Interactive Marketing Manager for the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau (VisitDetroit) and is responsible for building and engaging with VisitDetroit’s social media and blog communities.  You can find him geeking out over: social media infographics, muscle cars and Detroit. Follow him on TwitterInstagram and periodically on Pinterest.

Eight Things to Know About Slippery Rock University’s Big House Battle in Ann Arbor

Today, guest blogger Laura Berarducci from Visit Ann Arbor shares eight fun facts about Slippery Rock University’s Big House Battle versus Mercyhurst University on October 18, 2014.

Photo courtesy of Slippery Rock Athletics

Photo courtesy of Slippery Rock Athletics

The voices of many football fans will echo throughout The Big House this year—and not just during University of Michigan games. Fan favorites Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania will play its conference rival Mercyhurst University at Michigan Stadium on Saturday, October 18 in the Big House Battle. Below are some fun facts and inside information about this legendary event!

1. The University of Michigan football public address announcer, Steve Filipiak, started a 55-year tradition (and counting) when he announced the Slippery Rock score during the 1959 Wolverine football game. The score has been read at every home football game since.

2. Slippery Rock’s school colors are green and white. Mercyhurst colors are green and blue. Special apparel celebrating the event will be for sale at the game.

Photo courtesy of Slippery Rock Athletics

Photo courtesy of Slippery Rock Athletics

3. This will be the third visit by Slippery Rock to the Big House. The first visit was in 1979 against Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. The second was in 1981 versus Wayne State. The Rock lost both games.

4. The Slippery Rock football attendance record was set during the 1979 game: 61,143.

5. Rocky, The Pride of the Rock, is the school’s unofficial mascot. His appearance resembles a lion, but with a mossy green mane. This will be Rocky’s second visit to the Big House after being introduced to fans in 2010 during a halftime ceremony honoring Slippery Rock.

Slippery Rock's Mascot, Rocky - Photo by Steve Wiseman and 104.3 WOMC

Slippery Rock’s Mascot, Rocky – Photo by Steve Wiseman and 104.3 WOMC

6. Slippery Rock University (also known as “The Rock”), located north of Pittsburgh and 265 miles east of Ann Arbor, is a NCAA Division II school and part of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Michigan Division II schools include Wayne State University and Northern Michigan University.

7. Fans wishing to purchase individual tickets can do so online through the U-M ticket office. Individual tickets are $20; groups of 10 or more can purchase tickets at $5 each; a family package that includes four tickets, four hot dogs and four soft drinks is available for $50.

8. All students at Slippery Rock, Mercyhurst and Michigan will be admitted to the game for free.

Laura Berarducci is the Director of Marketing for the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and has been an Ann Arbor resident for more than 30 years. Even though she graduated from Indiana University, her heart bleeds Maize and Blue — except for on October 18 when she’ll wear green in the Big House to cheer on The Rock. For more information about Ann Arbor and festive fall activities, check out www.VisitAnnArbor.org