Ballet Des Moines launches series of free art+science events in advance of April 22 world premiere ballet “Of Gravity and Light”

Partnerships with the Harkin Institute at Drake University, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines Science Center, and Mainframe Studios showcase STEAM initiatives

Des Moines, Iowa (March 17, 2022) - Ballet Des Moines is launching a series of events exploring how the arts and sciences collide. From speaker panels featuring world-renowned artists and future astronauts, to a free student matinee introducing an interdisciplinary STEAM curriculum, and a world premiere performance of a ground-breaking score and ballet, this broad spectrum of events pull together local leaders in the arts and sciences to underscore that creativity and curiosity are essential drivers for change and innovation.

“Our work is founded on the knowledge that art transforms lives. Art transcends language to promote understanding, inspires confidence and curiosity, and fosters dialogue and community through shared experience,” said Blaire Massa, CEO of Ballet Des Moines. “The events surrounding Of Gravity and Light shine a light on the plethora of professions that are fundamentally based in creative problem solving, experimentation, and the progress that springs from being outside your comfort zone.” *See full events listing below.

A world premiere ballet exploring the wonder of space takes center stage on Earth Day

The series of events will culminate with Ballet Des Moines’ final performance of the 21-22 season, composer Beau Kenyon’s Of Gravity and Light — a contemporary ballet exploring the beauty and wonder of space through ethereal imagery, abstract sound, and remarkable movement. Set in eight movements, Of Gravity and Light features choreography by Ballet Des Moines Artistic Director, Tom Mattingly, video installation by Boston based artist Yu-Wen Wu, and live musicians under the direction of conductor Tim McMillin.

“Through art, the solar system becomes a metaphor for relationships, a guide to understanding ancient civilizations, and a source of inspiration for who we wish to be in this world,” said Beau Kenyon, Composer-in-Residence, Ballet Des Moines. “It paves the way for deeper understanding of these big, abstract scientific concepts while helping us grow into more empathetic and compassionate humans.”

Of Gravity and Light, performed one night only on April 22, includes the professional dancers of Ballet Des Moines, a nine-piece orchestra including members of the Des Moines Symphony and a 40-member choir composed of the Des Moines Vocal Arts Ensemble.

From the stage to the seventh grade: creating a middle-school science curriculum

In collaboration with Iowa PBS, 4-H Youth Development, and NASA Iowa Space Consortium, and led by Director of Outreach and Education Beau Kenyon, Ballet Des Moines will create a middle school STEM curriculum investigating the science of space while relating it to the complexity of human connection, joy, and wonder. Concepts like lunar eclipse and gravity are introduced to school classrooms and audiences alike through the lens of music and movement, providing an opportunity for comprehension beyond words and numbers and encouraging students to contemplate the expansive universe we live in and how we relate to it and to each other.

Curriculum details include:
  •  Alignment with state and national learning standards for middle-school science
  •  Curriculum is founded on the principles of Social-Emotional Learning, and uses creativity and research as vehicles to comprehension while creating equity in the classroom and cultivating student-centered learning
  • Pilot roll-out in Spring 2022, generating educator and student feedback prior to finalizing curriculum for maximum accessibility and ease of use in a variety of classroom settings
  • Video and Audio recordings of music and dance performances, as well as educational content and classroom footage, to be integrated into curriculum and broadcast via Iowa PBS and accessible through PBS LearningMedia
  • Digital and in-person dissemination across all 99 counties in Iowa in partnership with 4-H Youth Development
“Access to arts education can play a huge role in improving outcomes and building confidence, particularly for students who may be non-traditional learners or think of themselves as ‘less academic’ than their peers,” said Massa. “Bringing accessible programs like this to every county in our state introduces students across Iowa to ideas and professions that may spark careers, encourage further academic pursuits, and expand horizons for students who may not otherwise have experienced the performing arts or the science of space in such an immersive way.”


Exploring Art and Audience: Music, Dance, and Moving Images in partnership with the Des Moines Art Center
When: Thursday, March 31, 6 p.m.
Where: Des Moines Art Center, 4700 Grand Ave, Des Moines IA 50312
Free Event but reservations required here.

Audience members will hear about the creative process surrounding immersive audio, digital, and visual experiences from the following artists:
  • Oyoram, Artist and Founder of Off-Screen Motion Pictures, Toni and Tim Urban International Artist-in-Residence, Des Moines Art Center
  • Beau Kenyon, Composer-in-Residence, Ballet Des Moines; Faculty, College of Arts, Media + Design at Northeastern University
  • DaYoung Jung, Principal Dancer, Oklahoma City Ballet; Choreographer
Intergalactic: Mainframe First Friday with Ballet Des Moines
When: Friday, April 1, 5-8 p.m.
Where: Mainframe Studios, 900 Keo Way, Des Moines IA 50309
Free and open to the public

Ballet Des Moines presents a special preview from their upcoming world premiere "Of Gravity and Light” by composer and Mainframe artist Beau Kenyon. Attendees will be treated to excerpts of the highly anticipated production that explores the beauty and wonder of space.
  • Free and open to the public, First Friday festivities also include:
  • A special exhibition by visual artist Christopher Chiavetta
  • The musical soundscapes of Dartanyan Brown
  • Specialty cocktails and delicious dinner bites by Tangerine Food Company
  • Four floors full of Exceptional Artist Studios to explore
Ballet Des Moines presents When Worlds Collide: The intersection of art + science, in partnership with The Harkin Institute at Drake University

When: Monday, April 4, 7 p.m.
Where: Pomerantz Center in the Olmsted Building of Drake University, 2875 University Ave, Des Moines 
Free and open to the public

In the venn diagram of science, arts, and ethics lies a space for mindfulness, innovation, trust, and curiosity – ingredients that fuel collaboration, intrinsic motivation, and a stronger, more compassionate community. Composer Beau Kenyon’s Of Gravity and Light is a new contemporary ballet that interprets the science of our solar system through music, dance (choreographer Tom Mattingly) and video projection (artist Yu-Wen Wu) premiering April 22. Presented by Ballet Des Moines, this beautiful, interdisciplinary work also strives to make abstract concepts more human and accessible. How does the exploration of gravity help us better understand and practice trust? How can our perception of orbit and rotation support resilience and empathy in our relationships?

Join Dr. Moore, Dr. Pattee, and Dr. Vidrin as they explore the intersection of science, creativity, and ethics in a discussion moderated by Iowa State University Professor, Dr. Sara Nelson. The panel will delve into their own experiences while discussing how these three disciplines can be woven together to build new ideas and meaningful connections.

*The panel will be recorded and broadcast to a larger virtual audience. It will also be integrated into the Of
Gravity and Light science curriculum. A special thank you to our partner and host, Drake University and the Harkin Institute.

Beer + Ballet: Ballet Des Moines Open Studio Rehearsal
When: Thursday, April 7, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Ballet Des Moines Studios, 121 S. 11th Street, West Des Moines, IA 50265
Cost: $25. Tickets can be purchased at

Join Ballet Des Moines for a behind-the-scenes sneak peek of the upcoming world premiere Of Gravity and Light. Hear from composer Beau Kenyon, Artistic Director Tom Mattingly, and the dancers of Ballet Des Moines. Enjoy a cold one and conversation before and after the excerpt as we raise a glass to the cosmos.

Of Gravity and Light Concert
When: Monday, April 11
Where: Westminster Presbyterian Church, 4114 Allison Ave, Des Moines, IA 50310
Free and open to the public

Join composer Beau Kenyon for a conversation and concert of his new work on Monday, April 11 as part of the Westminster Concert Series.

Preview his original musical score that is at the very heart of the new ballet, Of Gravity and Light, which is set to premiere on Friday, April 22 at the Des Moines Civic Center. The hourlong piece is under the direction of Tim McMillin and will feature performances by the Des Moines Vocal Arts Ensemble, Kellie Motter [soprano], Ann Cravero [alto], Isaiah Feken [baritone], Greg Oakes [clarinet], Joshua Johnson [horn], Julie Fox Henson [violin + viola], Jonathan Sturm [viola + violin], Julie Sturm [cello], and Sonya Siebert [piano]. This is a free event and open to the public, no tickets required.

Balletomane Private Rehearsal - By Invitation Only
When: Thursday, April 14, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Ballet Des Moines Studios, 121 S. 11th Street, West Des Moines, IA 50265
An exclusive opportunity to meet the choreographer, composer, costume designer, and artists of Ballet Des Moines, this intimate event is by invitation-only. Members of the Balletomane Society provide essential support to Ballet Des Moines, and receive exclusive benefits that bring them closer to the creative process and enhance their theater experience, including invitations to company rehearsals, opening night celebrations, backstage tours, and tickets to exclusive events.

Of Gravity and Light School Matinee with Science Center of Iowa experience
When: Thursday, April 21, 10:30 a.m.
Where: Des Moines Civic Center, 221 Walnut St, Des Moines, IA 50309
School reservations can be made through Des Moines Public Arts here

Of Gravity and Light Student Matinee at the Des Moines Civic Center with composer Beau Kenyon, Artistic Director Tom Mattingly, and Assistant Director for Education and Outreach for the Iowa Space Grant Consortium Sara Nelson.

Students age 8 and up are invited to experience “Of Gravity and Light,” a new contemporary performance that interprets the science of our solar system through music, dance, and video. Students will experience creative interpretations of the Sun-Earth-Moon system while engaging with learning opportunities with professionals in the fields of science and the arts.

Additionally, educators will have access to register for a Science Center of Iowa visit following the Des Moines Civic Center performance in which students can travel through the cosmos, get up close with spacecraft and more in SCI’s Upper Level space science experience platform Why The Sky?

Of Gravity and Light World Premiere
When: Friday, April 22, 7 p.m.
Where: Des Moines Civic Center, 221 Walnut St, Des Moines, IA 50309
Tickets through Des Moines Performing Arts here

Ballet Des Moines proudly presents the world premiere of composer Beau Kenyon’s Of Gravity and Light – a contemporary ballet exploring the beauty and wonder of space through ethereal imagery, abstract sound, and remarkable movement. Set in eight movements, Of Gravity and Light features choreography by Ballet Des Moines Artistic Director, Tom Mattingly, video installation by artist Yu-Wen Wu, and live musicians under the direction of conductor Tim McMillin.

This beautiful, interdisciplinary work exemplifies how the universal language of music and movement can
make abstract concepts more human and accessible to audiences of all ages.

About Ballet Des Moines
Ballet Des Moines was launched as a professional ballet company in 2012, bringing world-class performing artists to the Des Moines community for classical and contemporary main stage productions. Ballet Des Moines offers training opportunities for pre-professional dancers and engages thousands of local youth each year through rich educational and outreach programs. The mission of Ballet Des Moines is to enrich lives through inspiring dance performances, inclusive education and outreach programs, and innovative community partnerships.

About Composer Bea Kenyon
Beau Kenyon is a queer composer who explores time-based sound performance, interdisciplinary
collaboration, and immersive audience techniques. After earning music composition degrees from Berklee
College of Music (B.M., 2004) and Tufts University (M.A., 2007), he dedicated the next decade to research in the fields of cognitive neuroscience (pub. Behavioral and Neural Correlates of Executive Functioning in Musicians and Non-Musicians. PLoS ONE. 2014), curiosity-based teaching practices, and community engagement strategies (pub. Listening to the City: Community Research and Action through Sound and Story. MIT Press. 2018). In 2016, Kenyon became the first composer-in-residence for the Boston Public Library, producing an hour-long public performance installation staged throughout the iconic Boston landmark (and all the men and women merely players for mixed live ensemble and four dancers). Kenyon has since created a portfolio of performance installations that explore non-linear storytelling for organizations, including the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, with support from the New England Foundation for the Arts, Northeastern Center for the Arts, the Boston Foundation, and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Kenyon's musical palette encompasses both traditional orchestration and musique concrète techniques,
drawing from systems and tonalities from around the world. His permanent multimedia sculpture, River
Constellation (2019, in collaboration with Brooklyn sculptor Natalia Zubko) responds to the landscape and
soundscape of the Des Moines Water Works Park, layering together musical phrases that are consonant with nearby traffic and trains as well as native bird songs. Tell Me (2020, in collaboration with Boston artist Yu-Wen Wu) is a single channel video, featuring a film score of recorded stories from first-generation refugees, found/fabricated sounds, choir and cello, originally exhibited at SITE Santa Fe. Beau Kenyon's current work, Of Gravity and Light is a 55-minute staged contemporary ballet that explores the science of the solar system through music (Kenyon), dance (Tom Mattingly), and video projection (Yu-Wen Wu), presented and premiered by Ballet Des Moines on April 22, 2022 at the Des Moines Civic Center. His work features nine dancers, performing with a live mixed chamber ensemble, choir, and soundtrack.

Beau Kenyon has earned national and international residencies, has fulfilled countless commissions, and has presented at local, regional, national, and international arts, science, and humanities organizations. Kenyon is currently on faculty at the College of Arts, Media + Design at Northeastern University, where he teaches graduate coursework in arts administration and cultural entrepreneurship.