See Grand Rapids' very own ‘Land of Sweets’ in DeVos Hall for symphony's and ballet's holiday shows

Media Contact
Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk
Senior Manager of Communications and Media Relations
616.454.9451 ext. 139

GRAND RAPIDS, MI, Nov. 8, 2019 – In Act II of “The Nutcracker Ballet,” the Prince whisks the slumbering Clara away to the Land of Sweets, where the Sugar Plum Fairy holds court in a magical land of make believe.

Guests at the Grand Rapids Symphony and Grand Rapids Ballet holiday programs in December will discover a Land of Sweets as soon as the walk through the doors of DeVos Performance hall.

To celebrate the season, culinary students at Grand Rapids Community College’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education are creating a sugary wonderland filled with ballerinas in stained-glass sugar and bells made from blown sugar in DeVos Performance Hall in December.

Guests attending performances of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Wolverine Worldwide Holiday Pops and Old National Bank 'Cirque de Noel' and Grand Rapids Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” will be greeted by the confectionary delight in the lobby of DeVos Hall.

The Land of Sweets created by baking and pastry students at GRCC will be on unveiled on Thursday, Dec. 5 for the opening of the Wolverine Worldwide Holiday Pops. It will remain on view through the final performance of “The Nutcracker” on Sunday, Dec. 22.

Led by their professor Chef Gilles Renusson, a certified master pastry chef and renowned sugar artist, students already are at work building the elaborate display that will be installed in the outer lobby.

Passersby will be able to see portions of it through the window, but only concert goers will be able to see the entire display up close from every angle.

Such elements as sugar ribbons, royal icing and marzipan will be used to create figures including the Sugar Plum Fairy, Nutcracker and a symphony orchestra conductor as well as musical motifs and depictions of dancers in the display that will include a 6-foot-tall croquembouche.

Some 14 students enrolled in the Pastry Centerpiece and Wedding Cake class, a capstone course in the Secchia Institute, are working on the project. The class teaches the major aspects of artistic decorations in pastry arts such as creating wedding cakes and centerpieces for tables and buffet presentations.

The class has been working on this project since the start of the semester, brainstorming, designing and then creating all the components. Soon they'll begin the painstaking process of transporting the delicate confectionary artwork from the GRCC bakeshop to DeVos Performance Hall.

The project is a practical application of the skills the students are learning in class, with the added bonus of having their work on display for thousands of people to see and add to the excitement of the holiday.

Chef Gilles Renusson, who recently was awarded the Chevalier du Merite Agricole – The Order of Agricultural Merit – from the French Minister of Agriculture for his decades of outstanding service in the culinary arts, is directing the project.

“For the students, this is a wonderful opportunity for them to gain practical skills and really master them and also to have their work be seen and appreciated,” Renusson said. “And we get to work with our partners in the city and tell people about the programs we have and work we do at the college.”

Shows coming to DeVos Performance Hall in December

Grand Rapids Symphony’s Wolverine Worldwide Holiday Pops

Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt welcomes guest vocalist Capathia Jenkins, the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, and the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus for holiday favorites and a Christmas carol singalong. Shows are at:

  • 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5

  • 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6

  • 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7

  • 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8

Tickets for the Fox Motors Pops series start at $18 adults, $5 students. Call the Grand Rapids Symphony at (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 or go online to

Grand Rapids Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” Ballet

West Michigan’s favorite holiday tradition returns to DeVos Performance Hall with sets designed by Grand Rapids’ own Chris Van Allsburg, author and illustrator of The Polar Express, and built by Tony Award-winner Eugene Lee; choreography by Val Caniparoli, and Tchaikovsky’s timeless score performed by the Grand Rapids Symphony under Associate Conductor John Varineau. Shows are at:

  • 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13-14

  • 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14

  • 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15

  • 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 20-21

  • 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21

  • 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22

Tickets for “The Nutcracker” start at $20 for evening performances while supplies last. Call the Grand Rapids Ballet at (616) 454-4771 or go online to

Grand Rapids Symphony’s Old National Bank 'Cirque de Noel'

Associate conductor John Varineau welcomes Cirque de la Symphonie, a company of acrobats, jugglers, contortionists and aerial artists, who make merry with amazing feats of agility and strength, accompanied by beloved Christmas songs and classical favorites. Shows are at:

  • 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 18-19

Tickets for the Gerber SymphonicBoom series start at $18 adults, $5 students. Call the Grand Rapids Symphony at (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 or go online to

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts, the breadth of its educational programs, and the innovation of its efforts to support diversity, equity and inclusion as well as to serve the wider community in non-traditional settings. Led by Music Director Marcelo Lehninger, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, the Grand Rapids Symphony presents nine concert series each year. Its Gateway to Music provides a matrix of 18 unique access and educational programs for adults and children of all ages. Altogether, West Michigan’s largest performing arts organization offers more than 400 performances per year, touching the lives of some 200,000, nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens or people with disabilities. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus, and the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival, which returns in April 2021. GRS collaborates annually with Opera Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Ballet and biennially with the Gilmore Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo.

To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit the website or

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This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.

About Grand Rapids Ballet

Celebrating its 50th anniversary season in 2021-22, Grand Rapids Ballet – Michigan’s only professional ballet company – is committed to lifting the human spirit through the art of dance under the current leadership of James Sofranko as artistic director, Glenn Del Vecchio as executive director, and Attila Mosolygo as director of Grand Rapids Ballet School and its Junior Company.

A proud recipient of the ArtServe Michigan Governor’s Arts Award for Outstanding Cultural Organization, Grand Rapids Ballet has a rich history marked by steady growth, a commitment to excellence, and strong community support.

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