A dance program for underprivileged children operating out of the New York Theater Ballet is the focus of a documentary now in production from Vulcan Productions (Body Team 12, Ghost Fleet, The Ivory Game) and director David Petersen (Let the Church Say Amen) and his Beaufort 9 Films imprint.
Lift (working title) follows the dance program of the same name, presided over by artistic director Diana Byer and with American classical dancer Steven Melendez (pictured) acting as a mentor for several students. The film has been shot over the course of several years and follows various dancers as they endeavor to both hone their talents and contribute to their communities.
The Lift program was founded 30 years ago out of the New York Theater Ballet, and enrolls up to 30 disadvantaged children each year, providing partial or full scholarship assistance and other support. For 26 of those years, Byer faced uncertainty regarding how to keep the program afloat while also running her own ballet company, and, according to the producers, sacrificed her own financial security to ensure that the program could continue.
An upcoming shoot for the film will feature the performance of a new work choreographed by Melendez, Rapidly and Freely Without Control, which will be performed by soloist Victor Rosario, a recent addition to the New York City ballet’s company and a prominent character in the doc.
“For the last eight years, this film has been a true labor of love, because we have had the chance to witness, over time, the astonishing development of each student through Steven’s mentorship, and the transformative power of making this aristocratic art form their own by contributing gestures and movement to a dance that tells their story of stepping from the streets to the New York stage,” Petersen said in a statement, adding: “In capturing this remarkable journey, the film shines a spotlight on the invisible story of underserved children in America.”
“The influence and power of the Lift program is evident and unique,” said Ruth Johnston, general manager for Vulcan Productions. “We are honored to work with the Lift team, and can’t wait to share the story of this program, its people and their inspiring journeys with the world.”
Photo credit: Richard Termine