For the first time in history, the renowned American Ballet Theatre staged a production where the dancers and creative team are all Black, reports Playbill.
Lifted, which is curated by Jamaican-born choreographer and dancer Christopher Rudd is a breathtaking work that centers on the beauty and pain of Black bodies. With costumes designed by Carly Cushnie, compelling music composed by Carlos Simon, innovative set designs, and everything else in between, the production emerged from the genius of Black creativity.
Additionally, Lifted features six skillful dancers pushing, moving, pushing, and lifting mirrored walls "as part of a massive reflective set with 360-degree vantage points" that is sure to capture the imagination of the audience.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rudd drew inspiration for the production from the massive protest of Black people against social injustices and the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police.
“After battling COVID and watching George Floyd murdered, the world was burning around me and I felt a need to create a work that is a protest, an activist’s work,” he recalled. “It reinforced that if I was going to fight to live, I needed to fight for something that spoke to me, spoke to my legacy and spoke to my mortality.”
In Lifted, Rudd was intentional in including the Black gay experince that he says was missing from most ballets. His mission was, to tell the truth about his experince in the ballet.
“For most of a dancer’s life, you learn to speak the language of other people, you learn to embody Shakespeare’s words, you learn to embody whoever the choreographer of that work was,” he explained. “Frankly, in my entire existence in ballet, I’ve not accounted for myself in the work I’m doing. Even when I started choreographing, I wouldn’t tell my stories, I wouldn’t tell things I can relate to. [As I conceptualized] Touché, I watched the dancers go across the stage and I was like, ‘Where is me? Where’s a gay narrative? Where is a love story that I can really truly connect to?’”
Instead of traditional ballet attire, dancers wore costumes that reflect their individuality and the collective journey of the story.
“We’re using really fluid fabrics that are soft and super drapey, with a lot of twisting details, that resonate with the journey,” she said. “Everything is highlighting shades of brown. We wanted it to really celebrate the Blackness and feeling good in your own skin.”
“It’s exciting to be able to showcase all these Black artists working together,” she said. “Whether it’s a dancer, the choreographer, costume designer, lighting, whatever. We’ve never had an opportunity to work together like this. Even the shop, the factory that is making the costumes, is Black-owned as well. It’s a really special thing to be a part of.”
Because of Rudd’s bold and inclusive vision, the future of ballet can be a space where Black dreams and freedom are realized.