‘Lift’ – the ballet program uplifting young people living in homelessness

Category: Lifestyle/Entertainment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. peculiarity / pɪˌkyʊ liˈær ɪ ti / (n.) – a strange or unusual habit, quality, etc.

    Readers loved the peculiarities of the book. The story is not easy to predict.

  2. transient / ˈtræn ʃənt / (adj.) – lasting only for a short time

    The fire victims who lost their homes will stay in a transient home in the meantime.

  3. mature / məˈtyʊər / (adj.) – behaving and showing the mental and emotional qualities of an adult

    Ben is mature for his age. He understood his family’s financial situation and didn’t ask for a big birthday party.

  4. helm / hɛlm / (v.) – to direct

    The director asked for our manager’s help in helming the project.

  5. touching / ˈtʌtʃ ɪŋ / (adj.) – causing strong emotional reactions

    The touching reunion of the two sisters left us in tears.


Read the text below.

Academy Award-nominated director David Petersen’s latest documentary “Lift” shines a spotlight on New York Theatre Ballet’s ‘LIFT’ program, in which classical ballet training is used to improve the lives of young people, particularly those who are living in homeless shelters in the city.

The youngsters in the movie are guided by the Ballet’s Principal Artist and Artistic Director, Steven Melendez. This documentary leads him back to his own childhood shelter, in order to uncover past trauma and celebrate the joys that people experience through dancing in the face of adversity.

“It’s just kind of obvious to say. But they’re little humans,” says Melendez of the children featured in the film.

“They have their own ambitions and their own dreams and hopes and wishes, and they have their own peculiarities. And the children that we’re working with through the LIFT program, you know, from these difficult backgrounds, from these transient home lives, are especially complicated figures. They’re mature beyond their years, principally because they’ve experienced much more in the short time that they’ve been on Earth than others in their age bracket have.”

The documentary was shot over the course of a decade, allowing viewers to experience the highs and lows of its subjects. The opportunity to be allowed to film within homeless shelters was integral to the film’s success.

In helming the project, Petersen learned that a sense of security is vital for these young people to feel safe. He recounts a touching moment when one of the film’s subjects, Sharia, found a place to live.

“It’s the most joyful moment because she is just embracing the fact that she has a home. She’s looking out 26 stories that she’s above the city and suddenly she’s like, so empowered this young 10, 11-year-old girl. And suddenly she says, you know, ‘I’m so glad I made it.’ And I think there’s different degrees of what we consider home. But I think if you have more security that’s why we use that term ‘home and security.’ When you have that security, that is a home.”

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • In what ways can artistic expression, such as dancing, help transform the lives of youngsters from difficult and complicated backgrounds? Discuss.
  • How do you think various art forms can become a tool to discuss important issues in society, like homelessness? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • David Petersen’s latest documentary shines a spotlight on the ‘LIFT’ program, which uses ballet training to improve the lives of young people living in homeless shelters. If you could do a documentary, what issue would you like to shine a spotlight on? Why? Discuss.
  • In your opinion, does your government give enough attention to the issue you want to focus on? Why do you say so? Discuss.