Nashville Ballet Brings Shakespeare and the Spoken Word On Stage

Her eyes were “raven black.” Her hair “black wires.” And of her, Shakespeare wrote, “I swear beauty herself is black.” The mysterious “Dark Lady” showed up in William Shakespeare’s sonnets. Some people believe her to be a madam called “Lucy Negro” or “Black Luce,” but no one is sure about her true identity, which may be one of the greatest mysteries of English literature.

Lucy Negro Redux is an original ballet choreographed by Nashville Ballet’s Artistic Director Paul Vasterling based on Caroline Randall Williams’s book of poetry of the same name. The piece explores the author’s thesis that the “Dark Lady” and the “Fair Youth”— the subjects and inspiration of hundreds of Shakespeare’s love sonnets—were undoubtedly a black woman and a young man, respectively. A non-linear story of present-day and historical characters—the author/narrator, a professor, William Shakespeare, Lucy Negro, and Fair Youth—is strung together by a score featuring original compositions by Rhiannon Giddens and spoken word from Williams’s book. The ballet explores themes of love, otherness, equality, and beauty.

After debuting in Nashville in 2019 with three sold-out performances, Nashville Ballet’s nationally acclaimed Lucy Negro Redux is touring the country in 2022, including two dates at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts on March 2930. Hailed by The New York Times as “wildly original” and “a full-throated, full-bodied exploration of love and desire, exultation and loss, belonging and expulsion, ownership, and autonomy,” this groundbreaking work explores the mysterious love life of William Shakespeare and his illustrious muses, the “Dark Lady” and the “Fair Youth.” A cross-disciplinary tour de force, Lucy Negro Redux is not to be missed.

Please note that the show contains sexually explicit language and references. While children under the age of 18 are not prohibited from attending this performance, it is important that parents and guardians be aware of the nature of the work prior to attending. We strongly encourage that anyone under the age of 18 is accompanied by a parent and/or guardian.