Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB)—Michigan’s only professional ballet company—and Dawnell Dryja—long-time company member and audience favorite—announced today her retirement from the stage during her 16th season. She will dance in the first show of the 2017-18 season (From Russia with Love) and continue to be involved at GRB in her new role as artistic coordinator.

“Dawnell will be missed from our stage, but not from our hearts or the joyful memories we have of her wonderful performances,” said GRB Artistic Director Patricia Barker.

Ms. Dryja was born and raised in Canton, Michigan and formally trained under her mother, Dawn Greene, the owner and artistic director of Grosse Ile Academy of Dance. She also studied at the School of Ballet Chicago, Cleveland Ballet School, and Milwaukee Ballet School—all on scholarship. Prior to joining GRB, she danced with Tulsa Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Dayton Ballet, and Metropolitan Ballet Theatre of Detroit. She is proficient in ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, and modern dance.

“The time that I have spent at GRB have been some of the most rewarding of my life—both personally and professionally,” said Dryja. “I will always remember my time dancing here with great fondness. The timing of my retirement aligns perfectly my new role as artistic coordinator working with Patricia Barker on the 2017-18 season and with the new artistic director on upcoming seasons.”

Her repertoire includes many leading roles from the classics to contemporary masterpieces, including Swan Lake, Giselle, Coppelia, Don Quixote, Sleeping Beauty, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Where The Wild Things Are, Dracula, Red Angels, Rapture, Celts, Fingerprints, Jewels, Serenade, Who Cares?, Allegro Brilliante, Concerto Barocco, Slaughter On Tenth Avenue, Con Amore, and Il Distratto. She has worked with esteemed choreographers such as Nils Christe, Frederick Franklin, Kirk Peterson, Val Caniparoli, Suzanne Ferrell, Mario Radacovsky, Gordon Peirce Schmidt, Bruce Wells, Stanton Welch and Raymond Lukens.

“Dawnell came into my life as a bright light when she danced in the opening night of my production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ for Detroit Ballet,” said choreographer Bruce Wells. “We would reunite again at GRB when she danced the role of Fairy Godmother in the world premiere of my production of ‘Cinderella.’ From the first rehearsals to the last, Dawnell and I had a sincere, unique connection and immediate respect for one another. She’s a consummate professional with an amazing career.”

Her final performances as a GRB company member will take place over the run of the first show of the 2017-18 season, From Russia with Love.

 She is also the owner and artistic director of Academy of Dance Arts. She is married to Bryce Black and the couple have one daughter, Tevyn, who has inherited her mother’s love of dance and performing. 

The CCA extends best wishes to Dawnell as she begins the next phase of her career.