Blackbird ballet takes on tough topic

Image Never let it be said that Joanna Brooks is an artist who shies away from heavy subject matter. Her latest show, Blackbird, premiering this weekend at the Balzer Theater in downtown Atlanta, is a story ballet that takes on the difficult topic of the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The narrative, told entirely through dance, follows the lives of two sisters who are sold into a brothel and what happens to them afterwords. The show includes the atmospheric recordings of composer Thomas Newman and video instillation of 30 televisions by artist Christopher Chambers.

“It took quite a while from inception when I started thinking about doing it a few years ago,” says Brooks, who is the founder and artistic director of Brooks and Company. But she says she was haunted by an article she read on the subject. “The idea of how daunting it was to take on a topic like this was actually really helpful in that it made me narrow my focus on the story I was trying to tell. We're just shining a light on this tiny little corner.”

The story is not set in a particular time or place, which Brooks says is meant to drive home the notion that such problems are not particularized to any one place. “It's a problem that people think of as taking place in other places and in developing countries, but it happens here, too. So I tried to stay away from denoting any time or place.”

Blackbird will be performed this weekend at the Balzer Theater on Friday, November 12, and Saturday, November 13, at 8 pm and Sunday, November 14, at 3 pm. Tickets are $15-25. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Balzer's website or call 678-528-1500.

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