Director David Petersen takes audiences on a journey that spans ten years. In his documentary LIFT, he tells the world about the brilliant and titular program here in New York City that revolves around the art of dance. “New York Theatre Ballet’s LIFT Community Service Program provides scholarships for talented at-risk and underserved children at the School of NYTB, as well as programs that champion dance for the greater good.” Housing insecure youth have the opportunity to break free from the circumstances they cannot control. Steven Melendez once lived in a shelter. As a professional dancer and former student of the program, he returns to introduce ballet to other housing insecure children. The discipline and structure that comes along with ballet transcend the stage. It is vital for kids in school or home environments that would otherwise make them victims of socioeconomic circumstances. The purpose of LIFT is to provide a safe place for them to learn and grow. It is a beautiful safety net, but they have to be willing to commit. These kids have so many obstacles in their paths, and Steven does everything he can to push past his own trauma to better the lives of kids just like him.
The documentary follows a small group of kids that Steven nurtured over ten years of ballet. Tough love is necessary as these kids get into trouble. Steven does not have time to mince words. It is the honesty they need to survive and a place to put all their unbridled emotions. The culmination of the film arrives with one special performance. Steven creates a new piece of choreography based on his experiences and those of his handpicked students, and my god, it is a revelatory dance. This choreography is therapy. This choreography is healing. This choreography is lifesaving. Steven knows it, and as the credits roll on LIFT, Tribeca 2022 audiences will know it, too.
For more from Liz on Tribeca and regular releases check out her regular home at REEL NEWS DAILY