This month, a multi-racial youth ballet company featuring nearly 25 pre-professional dancers will bring to the virtual stage a celebrated ballet production exploring the history of slavery and racism and recognizing the accomplishments of African Americans.
The ballet, which premiered in 2018, was directed and choreographed by Gerald Watson, a former Nashville Ballet company dancer and Rejoice faculty member. This year’s production will be presented virtually for two weeks in June with the Juneteenth holiday weekend falling during the streaming period. The ballet will include modern and African dance and feature students ages 8-17.
“This ballet is at the heart of our mission,” said Patricia Cross, founding executive director of Rejoice. “Our dancers have been studying history, reading books about slavery and Civil Rights and participating in discussions about what it means to tell this painful, but hopeful, story about race in America. We have been a community of diverse dancers and staff for 20 years, which gives us the foundation of diversity and collaboration to tell this story.”
Saam Psalms was co-written by Cross and Watson, and this virtual production will feature Nashville native and award-winning poet and novelist Caroline Randall Williams as the narrator. The show will be presented virtually in three acts:
Resilience: Act I opens with African drum and dance as Africans are stolen from their homeland, make passage to America and are separated and sold.
Resistance: Act II will portray slave life in America, the Underground Railroad and Watch Night. The act ends with the Emancipation Proclamation and freed slaves searching for family members.
Restoration: Act III highlights the accomplishments of African Americans including Ruby Bridges, George Washington Carver, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and others.
The ballet run time is 55 minutes and will be presented virtually June 11-28. Ticket buyers will receive a link to the show June 10.
Rejoice, a non-profit ballet school in East Nashville, serves nearly 150 students from diverse backgrounds. Each family pays on a sliding-scale, which removes barriers to access to quality ballet training.
About Rejoice School of Ballet Rejoice School of Ballet in East Nashville empowers youth to realize their potential by training, nurturing and celebrating dancers from diverse racial, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. This year the studio celebrates its 18th year of empowering diverse students through the study of classical ballet. Find out more at rejoiceballet.com.
Rejoice School of Ballet By the Numbers:
78 percent from low-income families, as defined by federal poverty standards.