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Dance News: "Lucy Negro Redux" By The Nashville Ballet Poses The Question: "Who Was Shakespeare's Dark Lady?"

Dance News: "Lucy Negro Redux" By The Nashville Ballet Poses The Question: "Who Was Shakespeare's Dark Lady?"

Published on March 19, 2019
Photo Credit: Heather Thorne.

Choreographer Paul Vasterling, Musician Rhiannon Giddens, and Poet Caroline Williams On The Bard, The Book & The Ballet

Nashville Ballet in Lucy Negro Redux (On Tour)
Wednesday, March 20, 2019 @ 7:30pm: Tennessee Theatre, Knoxville, TN - Tickets
Thursday, March 21, 2019 @ 7:30pm: Big Ears Festival, Knoxville, TN - Tickets

About Lucy Nego Redux:

Nashville Ballet in Lucy Negro Redux. Photo credit: Karyn Photography.

It's been a long-running Shakespeare debate: "Who is the 'Dark Lady' Shakespeare describes with such lust and longing in his sonnets?

Various scholars have pursued the question over the years, whittling down the possibilities to select candidates of Mediterranean origin. But in her compelling 2015 collection of poetry called Lucy Negro, Redux, Nashville writer Caroline Randall Williams took a more literal (and, for some, more controversial) approach by identifying the Dark Lady as someone of African descent. She gave personality and meaning to Shakespeare’s muse, developing her as a person and not just as the bard’s spark.

In Lucy Negro Redux, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, Carolina Chocolate Drops cofounder, Big Ears veteran, and Nashville and Broadway actress Rhiannon Giddens uses Williams’ work as the springboard for a full ballet that explores ideas of love and equality in a world that does not make them easy. A collaboration with Williams (who narrates the night), The Nashville Ballet, and artistic director Paul Vasterling, Lucy made its world premiere in Nashville in February 2019. Its second performance happens in Knoxville for Big Ears 2019—fitting, as Giddens pursued the project after texting festival founder Ashley Capps a set of demos inspired by Williams’ book. She composed and will perform the score live with her recent collaborator, acclaimed Italian pianist and percussionist Francesco Turrisi. A testament to audacity and vision, Lucy Negro Redux seems destined to stand as a major work from Giddens, a major talent.

Nashville Ballet in Lucy Negro Redux. Photo credit: Karyn Photography.

The Team's Takeaways From The Production


"When I think about how Lucy has changed me as an artist, the first word that comes to mind is collaboration. The alchemy of interdisciplinary creative work has been so fully realized for me in the last few weeks and months. I'm so grateful for Paul's artistry, and Kayla's and Rhiannon's. I think, moving forward, this project will stay with me because this kind of togetherness is going to be the first thing I seek out as I create new works."Caroline Randall Williams, poet, cookbook author, and young adult novelist.

“It reminds me that the world is ready for what we have to say, and how we have to say it. It is time.” Rhiannon Giddens, co-founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Broadway actress, and solo performer.

"The process of creating and collaborating on Lucy has pushed me to think outside of my choreographic habits and boundaries. It’s what one, as a choreographer, would want with any new work. More importantly, I think I’ve found a new place in my exploration of narrative ballet. Telling stories through balletic movement has always been my focus, but I think I've found new ways of approaching it through this work and my work with Caroline, Rhiannon, and Kayla."— Paul Vasterling, artistic director of the Nashville Ballet.


Since its founding in 1986, Nashville Ballet has grown to become the largest professional ballet company in Tennessee, presenting a varied repertoire of classical ballet and contemporary works by noted choreographers, including original works by Artistic Director Paul Vasterling. Nashville Ballet owns its own building, The Martin Center for Nashville Ballet, a customized facility that serves as a home for our professional dancers, school students and administrative offices. Though some performances are held at The Martin Center for Nashville Ballet, most performances are held at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) in downtown Nashville.

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