Steven Melendez, Artistic Director of New York Theatre Ballet, returned to the shelter where he lived as a youth and introduced children in the South Bronx to the world of ballet.
He fainted on the spot. For real.
His years at the shelter, Seneca House, had been traumatic. He hadn’t had a chance to process what they meant.
All he knew was that after his family had lost their home, they had needed to “break into” their own house to retrieve his clothing.
And that ballet had saved him and given him a way out of the circumstances he had found himself in.
The documentary LIFT — a journey from homelessness to the ballet stage — chronicles how Steven has mentored and guided a new generation of unhoused and home-insecure children to experience the gifts of ballet. The film takes place over a period of ten years, which means that the audience can watch the children evolve and grow as they learn ballet steps and life lessons.
Representatives of LSSNY screened the film earlier this week, alongside NYC Department of Homeless Services senior staff and providers. The film is especially meaningful for us at LSSNY as we assumed leadership of Seneca House — the very same shelter where Steven lived as a tween — July 1st of this year.
Says LSSNY’s Rachel Bleecker, LMSW, “LIFT is a testament to hard work and resilience, a story of triumph over adversity. This powerful film was both gut-wrenching and uplifting. It is a reminder of the struggles that many of our families face, and it only further solidifies my commitment to the families we serve at Seneca House and throughout LSSNY’s programs.”
Adds Rudy Chacin, Shelter Director at Seneca House, “LIFT was uplifting and inspiring. Knowing that Steven was a resident at Seneca House, and he was able to go on with his career regardless of income and hardships in life, makes me proud. I believe in dreams, hope, and self-discipline. Mr. Melendez is indeed a gem in this world.”
Run, don’t walk. Or rather leap across the stage to see it.
The film will move you and inspire you. It will challenge your assumptions and stereotypes about unhoused and home-insecure children.
As Steven says, “Most people are home-insecure. They just don’t know it. They’re one paycheck away.” He knows too well from his own family’s experience how quick a journey it is to being told, “You can’t live here anymore.”
As of today, the film is available on demand via Amazon Prime and AppleTV.
For more information, visit liftdocumentary.com