The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

October 18, 2012

NY dancer nominated for award

Staff Writer

TARBORO — A ballet dancer in Edgecombe County for the week has been nominated for a prestigious award — The Clive Barnes Foundation Award.

Steven Melendez, 26, a principal dancer with the New York Theatre Ballet, received news of his nomination on Tuesday, just after his arrival in Tarboro for the ballet’s performance tonight in Keihin Auditorium.

“It’s pretty special,” said Melendez. “This is exciting for me. I had no idea that it was coming. I didn’t know that they [the Foundation] were even looking at me or considering me.”

The Foundation gives awards each year to two talented young professionals, one in the field of Theatre and one in the field of dance. A panel of experts in each field judges nominees. Previous winners of the Barnes Foundation Award include Chase Finlay, Nina Arianda, Mi Rodriguez and Isabella B.

Melendez described dance as “my whole life.” The New York native began dancing with Ballet School New York at the age of 7 and joined the NY Theatre Ballet Company as an apprentice at the age of 14.

“I couldn’t imagine my life without dance right now,” he said. “For as much as it’s my passion, it’s also my job. I have the benefit of really enjoying my work.”

Melendez celebrated the news of his nomination at the home of Joe and Bernice Pitt Tuesday night.

“I really like Tarboro. We’ve had some really nice host families here, which is really unique,” said Melendez. “There’s a great sort of cliché about Southern hospitality.”

On Wednesday, Melendez rehearsed at Edgecombe Community College (ECC) but also had a chance to spend time in Edgecombe County’s corn, cotton and peanut fields.

“I didn’t know that you could boil peanuts,” he said.

Melendez will dance with the ballet in a free performance for the community tonight in Keihin Auditorium and again Friday morning in a special performance for second- and third-grade public school students.

If Melendez wins the Clive Barnes Foundation Award, he will be honored at a ceremony on Monday, Dec. 10 at the Walter Reade Theatre in New York’s Lincoln Center. Barnes was a Theatre and dance critic whose work appeared in “The New York Times” and “The New York Post,” among other notable publications. He died in 2008 at the age of 81. In 2009, Barnes’ widow, Valerie Taylor Barnes, a former soloist with the Royal Ballet, formed the foundation.

As of Wednesday afternoon, only 25 tickets remained for tonight’s performance, made possible through a grant from the Furman Mathewson Trust. For reservations, call 823-5166, ext. 187.