Brothers Alex and Ivan Antropov-Kalashnikov, ages 7 and 8, perform during the Garden of Dreams Talent Show rehearsal on May 28. Photo by Amanda Schwab/Starpix.
Nearly two years ago, Victoria Ledeneva and her family lost everything they owned in Hurricane Sandy. In the thick of the storm, their Staten Island neighborhood was flooded in 8 feet of water and Victoria, her husband, and her two young sons, Alex and Ivan, were forced to evacuate their ground-floor apartment to seek shelter with an upstairs neighbor. The family was rescued by boat the following day and spent the next 2 months living in a shelter before being moved into housing in Connecticut.
Following the trauma of the super storm, the young boys were plagued by stress and nightmares, and in hopes of taking their minds off of the family's ordeal their father began giving the boys guitar lessons. In the year since playing their first riff, the brother's nightmares have vanished and their newfound musical talent has brought them to the stage at Radio City Music Hall to perform in the annual Garden of Dreams Talent Show.
Garden of Dreams is a non-profit organization that works with notable teams including the New York Knicks, Rangers, and Liberty to help dreams come true for local kids facing challenges of homelessness, poverty, illness, foster care issues, or tragedy. The talent show, which takes place June 17 at Radio City Music Hall for no cost, is an annual event with kids ages 6-18 who are members of Garden of Dreams partner organizations. Along with the opportunity to perform on the legendary Radio City Music Hall stage, participants in the talent show are given the chance to work with celebrity mentors like model and dancer Damaris Lewis, who attended the May 28 rehearsal and is excited to watch Alex, Ivan, and their fellow performers grace the legendary stage.
"It's Radio City. These kids are all from this area, and it's kind of like growing up and finally going to the Empire State Building," said Damaris. "You grow up and you see the Rockettes and you grow up and you see the Christmas Spectacular and you never think that you're actually going to be the person who's on the stage. This is actually happening, and it's going to be epic."
Other guest mentors for this rehearsal included Disney Channel's Ryan McCartan, New York Liberty player Essence Carson, Darryl McDaniels of Run DMC, and two of Radio City's own Rockettes, Dani Betchel and Danelle Morgan, who was returning as a mentor for a third year and was happy to share her home stage with visitors from around the city.
"It's really cool because that's how we started. We were these little kids with these ideas of some day doing it big on the great stage," she said. "You see how hard they work and how innately talented they are. It's so inspiring."
When their names were called, the young brothers from Staten Island took their place in the center of the rehearsal room and performed the classical guitar duet "La Partida" for their peers and mentors. As their performance ended, the crowd applauded, mentors offered feedback, and their proud mother watched on as she saw how far her sons had come since their family's harrowing experience 2 years prior.
The brothers may be young now, but the experience and memories provided by Garden of Dreams of performing on a legendary stage and meeting with celebrity mentors will surely last long past the final curtain call.
"When they're 20-something, they can never say they never accomplished anything, because when they were a teenager or younger than that, they were on the Radio City stage. It's pretty awesome."
For more information about Garden of Dreams, visit their website at gardenofdreamsfoundation.org.