By Lauren Means | Photos Courtesy Ballet Austin
As a part of Nashville Ballet’s Attitude series, internationally acclaimed contemporary ballet Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project comes to Nashville February 9th-11th, courtesy of Stephen Mills, artistic Director of Ballet Austin. Light promotes the protection of human rights against bigotry and hate through arts, education, and public dialogue. It explores the devastating outcomes of unlearned lessons revealed through the story of Holocaust survivor, Naomi Warren (right).
With the illumination of a single light, we begin the tumultuous journey of Warren’s first hand account of survival. Accompanied by a score from renowned composers Philip Glass, Evelyn Glennie, Michael Gordon, Arvo Pärt and Steve Reich, we are taken through a range of emotions from happiness and joy to fear, terror, and loneliness.
The dancers do a superb job of emitting feelings of panic and humiliation of being separated, disrobed, and isolated from family and loved ones. The fear and terror in unmistakable with every movement including the piling of bodies, carrying the dead, and even the lifelessness as they lie on the ground. Even without words, the anguish is felt as we are taken through each section of the story.
However, this is a story of survival and we are able to feel the hope that is present even after all the heartbreak and injustice. We are able to understand the courage and resilience that was imperative in order to survive such a time of devastation.
In a 2010 TED Talk, Mills describes the extensive study he completed prior to composing Light including a week studying at the Holocaust Museum of Houston, interviewing 15 Holocaust survivors, followed by three weeks in Europe visiting various camps and one week in Israel. “I not only wanted to know the physical history of what happened but the psychic energy as well,” he explains. All of his preparation paid off because Light effectively translates that psychic energy into feeling and emotions you experience throughout the production.
Since it’s debut with Ballet Austin in 2005, Light has been accompanied by additional programming that provides opportunities for the community to participate in a variety of ways. The focus is on answering the questions:
- How are the issues of the Holocaust relevant in our community today?
- What is our responsibility when confronted with acts of bigotry and hate?
- What actions will we take to promote understanding in our community?
This community involvement will continue in Nashville with a variety of community events including Living On: Portraits of Survivors & Liberators in Tennessee, a documentary project presenting the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and U.S. Army liberators now living in Tennessee, and Violins of Hope, a collection of instruments played by musicians interned in concentration camps during the Holocaust.
Performances are Friday, February 9th at 7:30 pm / Saturday, February 10th at 7:30 pm / Sunday, February 11th at 2 pm. Talk-back with Ballet Austin artistic director/choreographer Stephen Mills, Nashville Ballet artistic director & CEO Paul Vasterling and Tennessee Human Rights Commission executive director Beverly Watts after each performance. For more information and to purchase tickets visit TPAC.org or call 615.782.4040.
For more information on Violins of Hope and other upcoming community events please visit Violins of Hope Nashville.