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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.