Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode


Oct 10, 2023

This week on 5.6.7.EIGHT, Aleksandra speaks with Steven Melendez, Artistic Director at the New York Theatre Ballet. Steven’s journey with dance began through his current company’s LIFT Program, which teaches dance to homeless or home insecure youth. Steven has since danced as a Soloist and Principal dancer at a collection of ballet companies across three continents. Steven’s story is also explored in the award-winning film LIFT, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2022.

Steven’s life was changed because New York Theatre Ballet made the arts more accessible to New York City youth. Now, Steven is on a mission to take that mission even further. On the podcast, Steven retells his incredible transformation story, discusses the importance of diversity in the arts, and explains how making dance more accessible to all people benefits the dancer, the company, and society at large.


Moving Quotes:

"As an industry, we can get back to the root of what dance is. It's an art. Connecting human people with other human people. If we can get more people on stage that represent more diversity within society, I think our art will be stronger. And the industry will be stronger."

"What I call 'relevant art' is why I think being a dance company is not opposite from being a social justice organization. I think you can do both by having [sensitive] conversations in public."

"Through dance, we're all equal. The person who doesn't fall over is the person that practiced. It's not the person whose parents have a lot of money. It's not the person with a fancy house. It's not the person that's white or Spanish or whatever. It's the person that practiced. And I really liked that. It really spoke to me."

"Diversity needs to be a priority. The parts of an organization tasked with considering how to create more diversity in the industry can't be a department down the hall run by one or two people. It needs to be a fundamental element of what the administrative leadership are thinking about all the time."

"There are three ways to take over the world. First, through military might. Second, through owning everything or a critical resource. Or third, by being a good human. By getting people to understand that, fundamentally, you are the same as them... In a way, that's how I think about my work. The product that we create is bigger than the single performance."

"We need to do the work of educating and cultivating new adult dance audiences so that the young people who are involved actually have a future. It prevents dance from being ‘a thing they did one time’ and turns it into an inhabited part of who they are."


Bullet Points (w/ timestamps) - Highlighting key topics discussed:

2:20: Steven speaks to his responsibility as an artistic director in helping define the role of dance in future society.

6:23: Steven discusses the importance of diversity in the arts and how making the arts more accessible for all people is critical.

9:21: Melendez explains the main programs at the New York Theatre Ballet, including the company’s renowned LIFT program and new efforts aimed at young people.

14:42: Melendez discusses the company’s new efforts aimed at new-to-dance adult audiences and the importance of reaching out to this segment.

24:04: Steven describes a new multi-year project, aimed at exploring the dynamics between fathers and sons.

34:40: Steven walks through his dance journey and explains why he continued with dance once his own run with the LIFT program ended.

43:17: Melendez discusses his dreams for the New York Theatre Ballet in the coming years.


Bullet List of Resources – 

Steven Melendez

New York Theatre Ballet