En pointe at the hospital
Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
There they were: the dancing toy soldiers, the sugar plum fairies, the towering holiday tree, bursting with ornaments and satin ribbons.
But the corps of New York Theatre Ballet (NYBT) dancers, including one special dancer from the Bronx, which has assembled for this performance on Thurs., Nov. 28th of the perennial holiday classic The Nutcracker was not filing into just any auditorium.
Instead, the dancers, including one as young as 4, performed before Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital’s pediatric care patients, many of whom were expecting to spend most of their holiday season at the hospital.
The Nutcracker, ultimately, is about a girl’s holiday fantasy, and for years, audiences have loved watching her dreams come to life.
Dreams were also turning into reality for three-year-old Jeyron Paredes and his mother Geraldine.
The Paredes were looking forward to leaving the hospital after Jeyron received a heart transplant on the 17th of November.
“Thank God he’ll be home in time for Christmas,” said a relieved Geraldine.
Jeyron’s problem, explained Paredes, was that his heart was too big for him.
She explained that Jeyron was very lucky, and had been on the waiting list for less than a month.
“It was a miracle,” said Paredes.
Paredes wants know the child whose heart Jeyron is walking around with, but the information is confidential.
“I would love to meet the family,” she said.
Someone Jeydon and his mother did meet on Thursday was Steven Meléndez, a Bronx-born ballet dancer and member of the New York Theatre Ballet, who played the Prince Cavalier.
While many ballet dancers start training when they are Jeyron’s age, Meléndez started learning a little later, at the age of seven.
He recalled riding the train by himself from Midtown to his home in Hunts Point after enrolling in NYBT’s LIFT program, a year-round ballet study program for homeless and at-risk youth, who receive full or partial scholarships.
“For me, [the program] changed my life,” said Meléndez.
It seemed fitting that the adult with a changed life shared a moment next to a child with a saved life.
Jeydon certainly seemed in awe when the dancing prince sat right next to him.
“He definitely wants to see the ballet again. I’m going to have to take him to another show soon,” laughed mother Paredes, as Jeyron sat speechless. His smile spoke volumes, however.
This is Meléndez’s second year at performing at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.
He remembered one boy in particular, whose face lit up as he danced.
Meléndez remembered too how the boy’s mother also responded with joy: “She was [just] so relieved to see him so happy.”
And it cheers him, in turn, to make others happy.
“It’s great to brighten their day,” he said.