Ballet 5:8 Brings Re-Imagined C.S. Lewis to Grand Rapids

CHICAGO – Now in its 7th performance season, Ballet 5:8 returns to Grand Rapids this October with The Space in Between, after a debut performance of Compass: Navigating Cultural Tension with Compassion in 2017. What if heaven is nearer than we think?  What if we carry inside of us the darkness of hell? Artistic Director Julianna Rubio Slager’s newest work draws inspiration from The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, using Ballet 5:8’s signature blend of innovative storytelling and breathtaking dance to explore the nature of eternity and the joy found on its shores. A single Grand Rapids performance will be held on Saturday, October 6 at 7:00pm at the Devos Center for Arts and Worship, 2300 Plymouth Avenue Southeast. Attendees are additionally invited to attend a post-performance Q&A. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for students and seniors, and $12 for children. Tickets can be purchased at ballet58.org or by calling 312-725-4752. Performance information is available at ballet58.org/space-in-between.

Ballet 5:8 tours nationally each season and has a reputation for providing audiences with a unique opportunity to engage in conversation on relevant life and faith topics addressed in the company’s repertoire. In 2017, Ken Norris of WKTV Journal wrote that Ballet 5:8’s performance was a “welcome addition” to the dance opportunities in the Grand Rapids area, noting the “on-stage presence and prowess” of Stephanie Joe and Antonio Rosario, and the “dancing perfection” of Lorianne Barclay. In Chicago, Kristi Licera of Dancermusic.com called Ballet 5:8’s Compass “an evening of inspired choreography and thought-provoking performance,” and Kristian Jamie of March Magazine, San Antonio, called Ballet 5:8’s Scarlet an “effortless” adaptation of classic literature through a combination of film, spoken word and ballet. In New York City, Pilar Garcia, Mime Coach at Gelsey Kirkland Ballet and Academy, said that, in Compass, Slager “deftly weaves the emotional questions that live on after such hard choices are made no matter the reasons.”

Ballet 5:8’s two-act program for the 2018/19 Season pairs the world premiere of The Space in Between, and a re-creation of a Ballet 5:8’s signature work, Four Seasons of the Soul. According to Slager, The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis is a timeless and timely work of literature that deserves a fresh, 21st century revisiting. Slager’s The Space in Between invites audiences into a riveting story that begins in a grey town where the rain falls continuously, where a man stands at a bus stop on the brink of heaven and hell. In Lewis’ work, Hell is not a place where a vengeful God tortures his victims, but a place where, according to Lewis, “the gates are locked from the inside.” Also featured in the program will be Four Seasons of the Soul, a poignant Ballet 5:8 audience favorite. Seasons explores how the turning of the seasons in nature parallels the recurring themes of human life. With vivid color and emotion, the work paints a moving picture of the soft innocence of youth, the impassioned zeal of adolescence, the celebrations and tragedies of adulthood, and the coming winter of life’s final chapter. Using Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Slager lets this classic work influence and inspire yet another generation as it strikes the deep chords of humanity and nature in harmony.  

Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer Julianna Rubio Slager is co-founder of the company and brings a wealth of experience to her work. Slager’s choreography has been performed at festivals and events across the Midwest: Dance Chicago, Project Dance, Chicago International Arts Festival, Detroit City Dance Festival. Beginning in 2014, Ballet 5:8 began touring nationally, bringing Slager's critically acclaimed ballets such as Scarlet, The Stor(ies) of You and Me, and Compass to audiences across the nation. Slager is also a groundbreaking figure within the field, as one of the few Mexican-American Artistic Directors and Resident Choreographers of professional ballet companies in the world. She hopes that her leadership and creative work at Ballet 5:8 will pave the way for other women and minorities in professional ballet.

Among the Ballet 5:8 dancers performing in Grand Rapids is Company Artist Emily Ratkos, an alumna of the Grand Rapids Ballet School. Ratkos moved to Grand Rapids at the age of sixteen to train under Attila Mosolygo before joining Ballet 5:8 as a trainee in 2016. She joined Ballet 5:8 as an apprentice in 2017 and was promoted to Company Artist in 2018.