“I Am”

I AM lovingly chronicles the experiences of six students with intellectual disabilities and eight dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet as they create a performance choreographed by PA Ballet’s Jessica Kilpatrick. The dance project was designed by Art-Reach, a Philadelphia-based organization that believes that art is a human right, and that opportunities to engage with the arts should be available to all.

Filmmaker Glenn Holsten and his team documented the ten-week rehearsal process. Through patient observational filmmaking, the film allows viewers to watch and get to know the students and dancers as they learn about each other. Not only do the dancers learn to appreciate the individual gifts that each brings to the process, they also form a community of care and support. We watch with wonder how students and dancers who once stood at a distance from each other become closer and more comfortable over time, leaning on one another, or holding hands. The film captures candid moments in rehearsals and backstage, such as those involving the 14 performers acting very much like teenagers, tickling each other or taking selfies.

Viewers connect with the universal experience of overcoming vulnerabilities and insecurities. In the end, we are all rooting for the students on performance day, and are rewarded by a startlingly fresh and emotional performance of choreographer Jessica Kilpatrick’s I AM.