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11-year-old boy killed in Edgewater was a dancer


Jayden Perkins had everything to be a good dancer: pointy toes, straight legs, strong arms. But it’s 11-year-old Jayden’s work ethic that underpins his technique, said friend and fellow dancer Nathaniel Vodak.

“He tried everything he could,” said 12-year-old Nathaniel. “If something was bothering him, he would continue to work on it.”

Now those who loved Jayden are struggling with his sudden loss. Wednesday morning, Jayden died at his home in Edgewater Her 33-year-old pregnant mother is also in critical condition in a knife attack that resulted in multiple stab wounds.

An autopsy performed Thursday by the Cook County medical examiner’s office, which identified him as Jaydone Perkins, revealed that he died from a stab wound to the chest.

Chicago police arrested a suspect on Wednesday and said the attack occurred domestically. Jayden’s mother was in stable condition as of Thursday night, friends said.

Neighbors, some of whom were angry when they heard about the attack, described the family as calm, loving, kind and respectful. They said the violence was devastating in apartment complexes that were normally quiet and safe.

Nathaniel said that he last saw his friend, who went to Jayden’s side, at a dance class on Tuesday, where they were the only two boys in the dance group of 16 people.

Tuesday’s class was a special lesson in hip-hop and bounces and spins, one of Jayden’s preferred genres. The children also take ballet, tap, contemporary and jazz dance lessons, he said.

The two had known each other for a while — Nathaniel said he remembers first meeting Jayden in his locker room about two years ago — but grew closer when Jayden joined the company and began practicing four days a week with the rest of the dance troupe.

Nathaniel said he and Jayden were good confidants for each other.

“We could tell each other everything that was going on at our schools because we were at different schools, drama and stuff,” he said. “He was a good keeper of secrets and really kind.”

Armensue Vodak, Nathaniel’s mother, described Jayden as a cheerful, well-balanced child with a large vocabulary.

“He was a very popular child,” he said. “Always happy, always smiling.”

Nathaniel and Jayden spent the weekend before his death at a dance competition in Rosemont with the rest of the troupe, where both boys were recognized for their performances.

In the video, which captures the contemporary dance that earned their company second place in their category, Jayden and Nathaniel stand upright, facing each other, while the rest of the group lies on the floor.

As the music begins, they walk toward each other, crossing paths and falling downwards before spinning together, exploding again and beginning to dance along with the other company members, at which time they rise above the ground.

Nathaniel said that when the kids weren’t on stage, they were playing hide-and-seek at the hotel, taking selfies and enjoying easy access to Starbucks’ specialty drinks.

His friend said Jayden especially loved the Frappuccinos from the coffee chain. And he loved to twirl during dance choreography: He could reliably do three pirouettes in a row, Nathaniel said, “and sometimes four at random.”

Jayden was less enthusiastic about tap and ballet, which Nathaniel said were newer forms of dance to him, and got on his nerves about people who didn’t try as hard as he did in class “because they would give us a bad reputation.”

The children also shared a passion for musical theatre. Both played Jojo in different productions of the musical “Seussical,” Nathaniel said, and Jayden was cast as Nemo in the Peirce School of International Studies’ production of “Finding Nemo” when he was in sixth grade.

“He told me he auditioned and got (the lead role) just for fun,” Nathaniel said. “I think it was a talent he didn’t know he had. But he can’t do that.”

The show hasn’t opened yet.


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