Review: Blackbird a story of exploitation told through dance

Brooks and Company premiere a show about child exploitation


  • Will Day
  • Caged Bird: Kristyn McGeehan performs in Brooks and Company’s Blackbird

Brooks and Company’s story ballet Blackbird had its world premiere this weekend at the Balzer Theater in downtown Atlanta. The work itself was inspired by an article about the sex trade in Cambodia that artistic director Joanna Brooks read and couldn’t get out of her mind. The work told the story of two sisters who are sold into a brothel: Themes of exploitation, greed, and abuse ran through the work, but more touchingly, the work highlighted the scars of degradation that such exploitation leaves on victims. It became a very personal and contemplative show about a troubling and difficult subject.

The movement was strong throughout, both by the members of Brooks and Company and by the guest children dancers of the Good Moves Consort. I loved the use of occasional, audible intakes of breath, both in Brooks’ show and in the short, elegant balletic pre-show piece “Trinity,” choreographed by Brooks dancer Kristyn McGeehan. Like movement itself, breath calls us back to the physicality and presence of a body, which became particularly resonant in this show. A standout dancer for me was McGeehan herself as the social worker who rescues the girls. Her pretty elegant turns, as well as her always present and compelling interaction with the other dancers, came across as healing and restorative in every sense.