Under the guidance of cofounders and brothers Mikhail and Arkadiy Sarkisov, the skilled coaches at Grand Rapids Fencing Academy enlighten budding swordsmiths on the essential techniques of modern fencing. During informative classes for all experience levels, students learn the foot moves, blade work, and confetti-cutting skills of èpèe-, foil-, and saber-style fencing. Each session is designed to improve mind-body coordination and flexibility while providing aerobic exercise. A wall of full-length mirrors allows pupils to view and modify their techniques inside the sprawling hardwood studio.
Mikhail and Arkadiy Sarkisov sharpened their fencing skills on the former Soviet Union's national fencing team before earning medals in their home country's national championship. In 2004, the United States Olympic Committee named Mikhail the Developmental Coach of the Year in fencing. Both brothers hold master's degrees in fencing and have placed highly in numerous tournaments across multiple globes.
Since 1993, Cirque Dreams' family-friendly variety extravaganzas have called upon a cast of acrobats, strongmen, and daredevils to wring the oohs and aahs out of audiences with tremendous feats of derring-do. During each themed production, more than 100 performers garbed in dazzling outfits twirl high in the air, contort their bodies into impossible shapes, and solve long division problems to earn uproarious applause from the crowd. At Dream Studios in Pompano Beach, Florida, hundreds of contracted artists from around the world develop their skills and prep for Cirque Dreams performances under the direction of Neil Goldberg and his team of choreographers, contortionists, and designers.
Although officially founded in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony's history stretches back to 1917 when an enterprising group of local musicians began practicing together and holding regular concerts. In the years since, the ensemble has retained this self-starter mentality while growing into one of the nation's preeminent regional orchestras. Always asserting its idiosyncratic individuality, the organization earned a 2007 Grammy nomination for its collaboration with flamboyant electric harpist Deborah Henson-Conant and the ire of conductors for its rule that all batons should be able to shoot sparks.
In the decade following World War II, the only grand opera to be enjoyed in West Michigan was when a touring company passed through or a local Viking was carried away by valkyries. That's why, in the mid-1950s, a group of opera enthusiasts started the St. Cecilia Music Society, focused on modest productions with high-culture aspirations. Meanwhile, a group known as Opera Association Committee began laying the foundations of something larger by seeking partnerships with Grand Rapids Civic Theater and the Grand Rapids Symphony. By 1966, these organizations joined their formidable forces, and Opera Grand Rapids was born. Today, under the direction of Artistic Director Robert Lyall, who's held that position since 1989, the opera specializes in full-scale productions of classic masterpieces such as Madame Butterfly and newer works such as A Streetcar Named Desire.
Laughter is the best medicine, though it tends to be the worst legal defense. Salute the healing art of comedy with today's Groupon: for $8, you get two tickets to see River City Improv (an $18 value) at the Ladies Literary Club downtown. This Groupon is valid for two admissions ($9 each) to one of six performances: Sept. 18, Oct. 2, Oct. 16, Nov. 6, Nov. 20, or Dec. 4. Both tickets must be used at the same show. Shows start at 7:33 p.m., with doors opening an hour before.
The friendly, experienced teachers at Allegro School of Music delight ears and bolster brains with a variety of music and movement activities for learners of all ages. The summer music pass offers tune-thusiasts two private lessons, with choices ranging from classical violin to blues kazoo (a $40 value). Children ages 5 and younger can enjoy sing-along songs, puppet theater, and tent-fort jam sessions at four open-play sessions (a $20 value), and those 7 and younger may attend four craft- and story-filled classes with their parents and other families, exploring exciting themes such as farm life, dinosaur kingdoms, and cat ennui (a $60 value). Hit up the Family Music Festival on July 26 at 10 a.m. and use the included $5 for food toward concession delights. Festival admission is free.