New play tackles complex social issues

Geordie's latest play deals with injustice and cultural barriers faced by ballerinas

Set against the backdrop of an anonymous, urban city, Geordie Theatre’s latest play is a coming-of-age production that tackles issues of social injustice and cultural barriers.

The new play, based on Kristy Dempsey’s children’s book A Dance Like Starlight, tells the story of Reenie, a young black ballerina at the top of her class who is auditioning for the leading role in the big final recital.

As she begins the audition process for Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird, she realizes that not all her peers are getting the same opportunity, and that many of them are not being treated equally. Her friend Maia, for example, is dismissed outright for not fitting the ideal look of a traditional ballerina. 

Unlike the original story set in the 1950s, this modern retelling of Reaching For Starlight is set in an unnamed metropolis. The idea behind this, says director Mike Payette, is that these types of incidents take place in real life across North America. Some types of art have been historically inaccessible to certain parts of the population, including ballet, says Payette.

Throughout the play, Reenie and her peers try to navigate discrimination and cultural barriers. At the same time, the parents of the ballerinas are also faced with the challenge of how to communicate with their children about these complex social realities. Adapted by playwright Donna-

Michelle St. Bernard, it blends traditional theatre elements with hip hop and contemporary choreography to present viewers with a uniquely modern theatrical experience.

“Through this production, we want to make sure that young people are exposed to different types of art,” Payette says. “We want to show them that there is so much to be learned from these universal art forms and that art really is for everyone.”

Geared to kids over the age of 7, Reaching For Starlight is part of the Raise Your Voice series of plays selected for their recognition of young people and their ability to affect change in the world. Payette says the series was in part inspired by the bravery and perseverance of young people like Emma Gonzalez, the Parkland, Florida school shooting survivor, as well as Nobel Peace Prize winner and activist Malala Yousafzai.

It runs from April 26-28, and May 4-5 at the D.B. Clarke Theatre, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

For more information, visit geordie.ca/reaching-for-starlight

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