Starting this Sunday, July 26, watch as Pennsylvania Ballet II partners with students from the Philadelphia-based Overbrook School for the Blind in the new 50-minute documentary Live Out Loud. Directed by Glenn Holsten of FreshFly productions, the project features six dancers and six students from each school and focuses on the unifying power of dance, bringing all 12 together to learn to tap. Local viewers can tune in to watch the documentary's online premiere on PBS WHYY-TV at 4 pm EDT on Sunday; the film will be released for all audiences to stream online on the Pennsylvania Ballet website for free later this fall. The premiere commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The film tracks the students' and dancers' ten-week process from January to March 2018 rehearsing a new piece titled Live Out Loud, choreographed by tap and jazz choreographer Melissa Chasse (who also works as a school administrator at PAB.) The documentary, which shares the name of this new work, provides both an in-depth look at the rehearsal process and the final performance at Philadelphia's 2018 Art-Reach Cultural Access Awards ceremony.
This is not PABII's first collaboration with Art-Reach, an outreach nonprofit connecting people with disabilities or low incomes to the arts. In 2017, the two organizations worked together to produce I Am, a documentary following dancers from PABII and students from St. Katherine's Special Education School as they rehearsed and performed a new ballet work by Jessica Kilpatrick of the Pennsylvania Ballet School. "Dance has an amazing way of implementing itself into people's lives as the art form creates inspiration in so many different ways," says Art-Reach director Charlie Miller, "We hope that this film strengthens the power of dance and community and the magic it brings with it when everyone comes together with a common purpose of creating art."
While the students' and dancers' backgrounds may be different, all 12 of them bonded over the shared experience of learning a new dance form. With an equal number of participants from both schools, each dancer was able to work intimately with a partner at all times. Cooper explains that the documentary will follow two pairs especially closely, highlighting the connection that formed between them throughout the filming process. "What I hope it conveys to audiences is that each and every one of us can learn and grow from shared experiences," says Holsten. "The film captures a magical bond between dancers from completely different worlds, as they come together to learn a new art form and create a remarkable performance."