Michigan couple finds way to keep dancing through COVID pandemic

Getting through the COVID pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone. One Michigan couple saw their dancing careers halted, but they managed to get through it together.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Getting through the COVID pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone. One Michigan couple saw their dancing careers halted, but they managed to get through it together.

Alexandra Meister-Upleger and Jon Upleger are a newly married couple who had not lived together due to their careers, but they were suddenly thrust together due to the COVID pandemic. They had no income and few options to stay in shape, so they decided to dance their way through lockdown together.

Their story -- part survival, part love-story -- was a surprise collaboration and one of the greatest joint productions of their careers. When the global pandemic ended the professional season in 2020, the Grand Rapids Ballet went on hiatus and ultimately decided to end the 2020-21 season early.

For the newlywed couple, this was devastating news.

Alexandra Meister-Upleger is a Michigan transplant and principal dancer with Michigan’s only professional Ballet Company -- The Grand Rapids Ballet. Her husband, Jon Upleger, a Sterling Heights native, has been a professional dancer for more than two decades.

When the pandemic hit, Upleger was in the process of retiring and Meister-Upleger was preparing for a marquise of performances. They were both sent home without salaries.

Because the elite athletes had no where to stay in condition, their workshops, training and rehearsals stopped. It was a potential death-knell to a dancer, so they turned their apartment into a dance studio and got busy. The two had found a way to stay in shape in less than 500 square feet and made the best of their situation by using what they had.

Shortly after the Grand Rapids Ballet canceled their 2020-21 season, Meister-Upleger felt nauseous and she began to feel sore. Realizing she was pregnant, she took their baby along with her while she stayed in shape away from the stage. After Hudson was born, he continued to rehearse with his mother.

As difficult as the COVID pandemic was for the family, the three said the time was a blessing for them.

As the world slowly reopens, Upleger is teaching ballet at Grand Valley State University and Meister-Upleger easily lipped back into professional dancing shape.

You can watch Meister-Upleger and the rest of the Grand Rapids Ballet Company perform as they’ve opened up their season virtually. You can subscribe to stream this year’s performances. For more information, visit the official Grand Rapids Ballet website here.


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About the Author:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.