A monochromatic portrait of the first black dancer to graduate from the world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Russia
Gabe Stone Shayer spent more than half of his high school years in Russia under the tutelage of what many consider to be the best ballet school in the world—the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. Shayer, who is a Philadelphia native, was the first black dancer to graduate from the Academy; and is now making his mark on the ballet world as he dances for the esteemed American Ballet Theatre in NYC.
“I was contacted by Gabe Stone Shayer who wanted to make a film about his experience as a black ballet dancer,” says artistic director and choreographer Amy Gardner. “We discussed references, emotions, his childhood, and his experience at the Academy. This film is a black-and-white, solo portrait of Gabe dancing to express a pure, raw emotion. We also wanted to juxtapose portraits of Gabe during his time at the Bolshoi Academy with his life now, living in New York and feeling extremely isolated.”
One of the most affecting parts of this film is the story behind the soundtrack, “Come Out”, by pre-eminent minimalist composer Steve Reich. The track features a five-second loop taken from a 1960s tape recording of Daniel Hamm, who was severely beaten by police to get him to confess to a crime he did not commit as part of the trial of The Harlem Six.
“Historically, this song is connected to police brutality and we wanted to echo the injustice that was happening during that time through Gabe‘s movements and the overall tone of the film,” says Gardner. “We also felt that by using this reference we could subtly highlight the lack of evolution in the past 56 years with these types of hate crimes and racism.”April 29, 2020