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Maria V. Gallagher discovers the power of dance to overcome adversity in the new documentary LIFT, for adult and teen viewers.

Celebrated ballerina Misty Copeland has brought us a jewel of a film in the new documentary LIFT. Copeland served as Executive Producer for this award-winning work, which chronicles the power of dance to transform the lives of children living in shelters in the greater New York City area. 

It is inspiring to see these young people embrace the arts amidst the tremendous struggles in their lives—from home insecurity to transportation troubles to fractured families. The story is movingly told through the eyes of world-famous ballet dancer Steven Melendez, who himself rose from homelessness and family strife to become an internationally-acclaimed star. 




The title of the movie refers to the LIFT Community Service Program, which offers scholarships to at-risk children at the School of the New York Theater Ballet. The film follows Melendez, the Ballet’s new artistic director, as he returns to the shelter of his youth to recruit dancers for this incredible program. 

There is something stirring about seeing children dancing on subways and sidewalks, expressing themselves through their art. While the documentary’s subject matter is dance, it is also about hope in the face of daunting odds. Dance teaches discipline, responsibility, and accountability—traits that can help these children escape poverty and live out their dreams. 



We see these attributes play out in the life of Victor Abreu, one of the young people profiled in the film. He learns through the gift of dance to become a polished professional, winning a role as principal dancer for the New York City Ballet.           

This documentary took me back to the days when I would accompany my daughter to ballet lessons when she was just a preschooler. Long before the term “Dance Moms” became a cultural phenomenon, I was among the mothers who would scrimp and save to be able to afford dance lessons for our daughters and sons.  

To this day, one of my all-time favorite memories is when my 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter improvised her own expressive dance in the middle of a recital on a university stage. She stole the show—and stole my heart in the process. 




Some of the most moving scenes in the movie are those that involve parents—sometimes observing, other times participating—in the dance. Through such vignettes, we catch a glimpse into their world and the way that dance revolutionizes it.  

Because of the serious issues involved, this film would be appropriate for viewers ages 13 and up.   

Paramount will be releasing the film September 15th in theaters and On Demand on September 22nd. Don’t miss the opportunity to have your heart and soul elevated by LIFT. 




Copyright 2023 Maria V. Gallagher
Images: copyright 2023 Vulcan Productions, all rights reserved.