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Digital Premiere—Silas Farley: Songs from the Spirit

June 6, 2020 59 MINUTES

A message from choreographer and dancer Silas Farley:

"Guide my feet, Lord, while I run this race,
For I don't want to run this race in vain."
—African-American Spiritual

These words are the heart of this ballet. They are like one
unified pilgrimage prayer that rises from the voices and
bodies of the artists who have come together to make this
work of art. I invite you to accompany us on this journey: from
darkness to light, bondage to freedom, exile to home. I hope
you find something of yourself in this story and that you will
be strengthened by these Songs from the Spirit.
—Silas Farley (March 2019)

When I wrote these words last year for this ballet's live performances at The Met, I could not have known that just one year later this same work would be both impossible and timely. Impossible, in that coronavirus social distancing does not allow large audiences to gather close together in the galleries. And timely, in that the date of this ballet's digital premiere has arrived in the midst of international protests against systemic racism in the United States, recently manifested in the unjust killing of George Floyd. Though the MetLiveArts team chose this June date months ago, it feels like destiny that we can share Songs from the Spirit afresh at this time.

I developed this work with a group of current and recently released incarcerated musicians at San Quentin State Prison. As part of our collaboration, my wife and I went to meet with them in San Francisco. During our time together, they shared their breathtakingly vulnerable and beautiful music. These men and I found that we were brothers in a multidimensional way. Their songs included in this ballet speak mightily of divine justice and mercy, both of which I sought to embody in the choreography.

A section from one of these songs is my prayer for all of us right now:

"Through our tears we're reaching to you, our heart's desire.
Father, lift us up, lift us up, lift us up."
—Quentin Blue

—Silas Farley (June 2020)
In Songs from the Spirit, New York City Ballet dancer and choreographer Silas Farley asks, "What does freedom mean?"

Featuring spirituals and new music created by currently and formerly incarcerated men at San Quentin State Prison in California, the work explores separation from community and finding grace in the midst of darkness.

Choreographed for seven dancers, the piece "moves from darkness (the staid and somber Assyrian Court) to tranquility (the meditative Chinese Garden Court) and finally lightness (a bright court in the American Wing). Mr. Farley takes the audience on a journey laced with history and spirituality." (New York Times)

In collaboration with PRX Radiotopia's Ear Hustle, these artists offer a nuanced view of an exiled population and the irrepressible human drive to create.
Silas Farley, choreographer and dancer

Cassia Farley
Rachel Hutsell
James Shee
Taylor Stanley
Claire Kretzschmar
Alizah Wilson

Kelly Griffin, soprano
Robert May, tenor

Michael Adams, vocals
Amador "AJ" Gonzales, vocals
Gary Harrell, harmonica
David Jassy, production
Calvin Johnson, vocals, table percussion
Le'Mar "Maverick" Harrison, vocals, backing instrumental
Quincy A. Peoples, spoken word
Charlie Spencer, vocals, guitar
Quentin Blue: Greg Jordan and Mark Kinney (guitar), Chris Kopp (keyboard), Dwight Krizman (bass) and Richie Morris (guitar, vocals)
This program is supported by William H. Wright II and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Howard and Sarah D. Solomon Foundation, the Jerome Robbins Foundation, and Jody and John Arnhold, with additional funding provided by the Harkness Foundation for Dance.

Special Thanks:
Ancient Near Eastern Art Department
Asian Art Department
The American Wing Department

Production and Venue Operations Staff

General Manager, Administration, Communications & Operations:
Jody Heher

Associate General Manager, Production and Venue Operations:
Kwabena Slaughter

Production Manager:
Andrea Theodore

Head Usher/Interim Assistant Manager, Front of House:
Keisha J

Video Editor:
Andy Biskin

Steadicam Operator:
Marius Becker

Production Crew:
Ross Backenkeller
Ryan Caruso
Jeff Glovsky
Jamal Jones
Eric Mercado
Jorge Morillo
Michael Petre
Jason Smith
Dan Wilburn

Additional Thanks:
Kim Benzel
Sarah Graff
Dennis Kaiser
Stephanie Kwai
Catherine Mackay
Paul McHale
Shawn Osborne
Beatrice Pinto
Brooke Stoker
Daira Szostak
Thayer Toles

Open rehearsals are supported by The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation.

© 2020 The Metropolitan Museum of Art