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Over 10 years in the making, the new documentary LIFT shines a spotlight on the invisible story of homelessness in America through the eyes of young homeless and home insecure ballet dancers. Guided by their mentor, Steven Melendez, who began his dance career in a shelter, these children make this aristocratic art form their own when they step from the shelter to the stage.

Please join Steven Melendez, Artistic Director of New York Theatre Ballet and star of LIFT, for a special outreach screening and discussion with Robyn Gardenhire, Founder and Artistic Director of City Ballet of Los Angeles, and Mary Recine, producer of this award-winning documentary about ballet and homelessness.

This ALOUD event is the premiere showing of LIFT in Los Angeles and part of the film’s outreach efforts to inspire audiences, arts and social service organizations, and families experiencing home insecurity.

Steven Melendez

Named as the Artistic Director of New York Theatre Ballet in April of 2022, Steven Melendez was born in New York City in 1986 and started his ballet training with the LIFT Program at Ballet School New York at the age of 7. He has danced as a Soloist dancer with Ballet Concierto in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a Principal dancer with The Vanemuine Theater Ballet Company in Tartu, Estonia, and for over 15 years with New York Theatre Ballet. He is a national and international guest artist and teacher and has worked across Europe, Asia, and Central and South America. Steven co-choreographed his first large-scale work, Song Before Spring, for New York Theatre Ballet which was named a Dance Europe critic’s choice “Best Premiere” of 2016. Steven is currently a member of the alumni advisory committee on diversity and inclusion for School of American Ballet and serves as the Hiland Artistic Director for National Dance Institute New Mexico.

Robyn Gardenhire

Robyn Gardenhire is the Founder and Artistic Director of City Ballet of Los Angeles. A Los Angeles native, Gardenhire began her dance training with former Los Angeles Ballet and continued her studies at the San Francisco Ballet School and in New York at the American Ballet Theatre School and New York City Ballet’s School of American Ballet (SAB). After performing at City Center and Jacobs Pillow, creating original work and performing at Cleveland Ballet, and touring all over Europe with avant-garde choreographer Karole Armitage, Gardenhire was personally invited to join American Ballet Theatre, where she was the driving force behind the company’s diversity committee. Overseen City Ballet of Los Angeles for the last twenty years, Gardenhire has created a dance institution whose curriculum covers classical ballet as well as cutting edge bring new stories and prospective to the ballet. As the Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer, She has also developed a dance institution that reflects the economic and racial diversity of Los Angeles.

Mary Recine

Mary Recine is an award-winning producer of documentary films, television series, and cultural programs. Her work has been recognized with three Peabody Awards, multiple Emmy Award nominations, and has premiered at Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, the New York Film Festival and MoMA. She is best known for producing the Netflix Original documentary Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, directed by Joan’s nephew Griffin Dunne, and for her work as archival producer of the Academy Award nominated What Happened, Miss Simone? directed by Liz Garbus. As a producer for live events, she has created video projections for the Broadway stage, cultural institutions, and for performers ranging from Elton John to Chris Rock.

Photo Credits: “Victor Leaps Toward Girl with Kids” (still from LIFT) © Fyodor Shiryaev; Steven Melendez © Rachel Neville

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