Lucy Negro Redux is an original ballet choreographed by Nashville Ballet’s Artistic Director Paul Vasterling based on Caroline Randall Williams’s book of poetry of the same name. The piece explores the author’s thesis that the “Dark Lady” and the “Fair Youth”—the subjects and inspiration of hundreds of Shakespeare’s love sonnets—were undoubtedly a black woman and a young man, respectively.
A non-linear story of two present-day and three historical characters—the author/narrator, a professor, William Shakespeare, Lucy Negro and Fair Youth—is strung together by a score featuring original compositions by Rhiannon Giddens and spoken word from Williams’s book. The ballet explores themes of love, otherness, equality and beauty. As the piece alternates in time, Elizabethan and present day, we see through dance how relationship themes transcend time. The audience is privy to the exploration of Shakespeare’s romantic connection to both the male Fair Youth and the black Lucy Negro. Ultimately, in experiencing Lucy Negro, the narrator, and thus the audience, finds a powerful female voice.
Singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens is the co-founder of the Grammy Award-winning string band Carolina Chocolate Drops, in which she also plays banjo and fiddle. She began gaining recognition as a solo artist when she stole the show at the T Bone Burnett-produced “Another Day, Another Time” concert at New York City’s Town Hall in 2013. The elegant bearing, prodigious voice and fierce spirit that brought the audience to its feet that night is also abundantly evident on Giddens’ critically acclaimed solo debut, the Grammy-nominated album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, which masterfully blends American musical genres like gospel, jazz, blues and country, showcasing her extraordinary emotional range and dazzling vocal prowess.
Giddens’ follow-up album, Freedom Highway, was released in February 2017. It includes nine original songs Giddens wrote or co-wrote along with a traditional song and two civil rights-era songs, “Birmingham Sunday” and Staple Singers’ well-known “Freedom Highway,” from which the album takes its name.
Giddens composed the original ballet Lucy Negro Redux, choreographed by Nashville Ballet’s Artistic Director Paul Vasterling based on Caroline Randall Williams’s book of poetry of the same name. The piece explores the author’s thesis that the “Dark Lady” and the “Fair Youth” — the subjects and inspiration of hundreds of Shakespeare’s love sonnets — were undoubtedly a black woman and a young man, respectively. A non-linear story of two present-day and three historical characters: the author/narrator, a professor, William Shakespeare, Lucy Negro and Fair Youth, is strung together by Gidden’s original compositions and Williams’ word. The ballet explores themes of love, otherness, equality and beauty.
Giddens has performed for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, appeared on The Late Show, Austin City Limits, Later…with Jools Holland, and both CBS Saturday and Sunday Morning, and dueted with country superstar Eric Church on his powerful anti-racism song “Kill a Word” (including performing the song on The Tonight Show and the CMA Awards, among other programs). In 2017, Giddens was awarded a Macarthur Genius Award and she has also received the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Singer of the Year and the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo. She has performed a recurring role on the television drama Nashville, playing the role of Hanna Lee “Hallie” Jordan, a young social worker with “the voice of an angel.”
Caroline Randall Williams
Caroline Randall Williams is a writer and educator in Nashville, Tenn. She is co-author of the Phyllis Wheatley Award-winning The Diary of B.B. Bright, and the NAACP Image Award-winning Soul Food Love. The Cave Canem Fellow has been published in multiple journals, essay collections and news outlets, including The Iowa Review, The Massachusetts Review and the New York Times. Her debut collection, Lucy Negro, Redux, was published in 2016
and has been adapted for the stage by Nashville Ballet.
PAUL VASTERLING, Artistic Director
Paul Vasterling’s artistic career began at age 10 when he started studying piano, then expanded at age 16 when he started dancing. From this start, Mr. Vasterling landed at Nashville Ballet where he became a company dancer, teacher, ballet master and choreographer. He stepped into the role of Artistic Director of Nashville Ballet in 1998, 10 years after he began his association with the organization. A choreographer with a deep affinity for music, Mr. Vasterling has created over 40 works, ranging from classical, full-length story ballets to contemporary one-acts.
With a special focus on highlighting the wealth of artistry and rich history of Nashville, Mr. Vasterling’s connection to music and passion for community have led to collaborations with numerous nationally and internationally renowned musicians and institutions, including The Bluebird Cafe, Ben Folds, Rhiannon Giddens and more; Nashville Ballet has commissioned 22 original scores for brand-new ballets under his direction. Mr. Vasterling is also a gifted storyteller with a penchant for creating vivid narratives such as Peter Pan, Layla and the Majnun, Lizzie Borden, Cinderella, Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Nashville’s favorite holiday tradition, Nashville’s Nutcracker. Mr. Vasterling’s choreographic credits extend beyond ballet to the recent Nashville Children’s Theatre production Dragons Love Tacos. Beyond his own choreography, Mr. Vasterling has expanded the company’s repertoire to include works by Salvatore Aiello, George Balanchine, James Canfield, Lew Christensen, Jirí Kylián, Twyla Tharp and Christopher Wheeldon, among many others. He has also edited and updated the classic productions Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake and has grown the company from a troupe of 12 to 25 professional dancers. With a commitment to cultivating an organization high on artistry and dramatic power, Mr. Vasterling has taken Nashville Ballet across the country and beyond—Nashville Ballet’s company made its Kennedy Center debut in 2017 and has toured throughout the U.S., including performances in St. Louis, Charleston and a debut at the Chautauqua Institution in August 2018. The company has also toured internationally in South America and Europe, and many of Mr. Vasterling’s original works have been staged by companies nationally and internationally. Mr. Vasterling graduated Magna Cum Laude from Loyola University. He is a Fulbright Scholar and has been awarded many prestigious fellowships—Mr. Vasterling is a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Fellow and was selected as one of the Fellows in residence for the 2017-2018 academic year at The Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University.