I'm Still Here: Bossov Ballet Gives Voice to Veterans
- May 16, 2022
New York Times bestselling author and founding director of the Center for American War Letters, Andrew Carroll, will provide a pre-performance presentation at the Bossov Ballet Theatre (BBT) performance of their original ballet, I’m Still Here, at the Strider Theatre at Colby College, over Memorial Day weekend. Inspired by Carroll’s book, War Letters, BBT Director, Natalya Getman’s original creation is an imaginative response to the last letter written by 21-year-old Lt. Tommie Kennedy to his parents, knowing that he was not going to live to see them again. Kennedy had endured the Bataan Death March in the Pacific during World War II, and he was a prisoner of war for almost three years living often on “hellships” with little food or water. The original letter was written on the back of a family photograph he had managed to conceal, and he gave the letter to a fellow POW before escaping to the ship’s deck and jumping overboard to end his misery. The letter was passed along a chain of friends until it eventually made it home. Carroll will show the original letter as part of his presentation on Saturday, May 28.
According to Getman, the extraordinary journey Kennedy’s letter took illustrates not only the fragility of our connection with the past, but also the power of the individual story to bring it to life in the present: “When I read Tommie’s letter, I couldn't stop hearing his ‘voice.’ I thought it was important to make it heard by others, especially by our younger generation.”
At a time when the impact of war has come center stage for a new generation, Getman feels exploring it through the medium of dance helps her students connect with an experience that might otherwise remain abstract and remote. BBT dancer, Hector Bligh, recognizes this opportunity and responsibility: “I am from a generation that has been unscathed by the cruelties of war, but that means that this ballet is exceedingly important for me to portray accurately and respectfully, in the hopes of touching someone who may have experienced the feelings I’m aiming to portray.” Taylor Pronovost also values the experience: “It is a privilege to tell the stories of those we have lost and connect deeper to our history outside of the classroom.”
“I’m very excited about this performance,” says Andrew Carroll, “because I’ve seen these war letters used in books, films, and in readings, but never as an inspiration for a ballet. I think it demonstrates how evocative these letters are and how they resonate with so many people, even if they have no connection to the military. And if anyone who comes to the Saturday event has war letters or emails to share, we're always looking!”
Performances will take place on Saturday, May 28 at 7:00 p.m., and Sunday, May 29 at 2:00 p.m. at the Strider Theatre on the campus of Colby College. Ticket reservations can be made in advance at www.mci-school.org/bbt-tickets. BBT welcomes donations to help defray production costs. BBT will dedicate a portion of the proceeds to support the American Legion Department of Maine.
Led by Artistic Director Natalya Getman, Bossov Ballet Theatre at Maine Central Institute is both a performing company and an international pre-professional ballet school. The program offers students a unique opportunity to study and perform classical ballet as part of the academic curriculum, allowing them to earn full academic credit for ballet training. For more information about Bossov Ballet Theatre, please visit www.mci-school.org/ballet.