By: Hal de Becker
They may not be The Smith Center, but Clark County’s Winchester Cultural Center and the City of Las Vegas’ Charleston Heights Arts Center (CHAC) provide the community with many excellent programs of dance, music and drama.
At CHAC recently, it was ‘standing room only’ for a performance of three works by Las Vegas Ballet Company (mis-billed as “Kwak Ballet”): “Paquita”, “Glory” and “Les Patineurs”.
Las Vegas Ballet Company (LVBC) was founded by Kyudong Kwak and Yoomi Lee the husband and wife team who also direct the Kwak Academy.They were principal dancers with Nevada Ballet Theatre for 10 years and performed internationally before that.
Their dedication to the art of classical ballet is reflected in the company’s repertoire, which also includes “Swan Lake”, “Giselle” and “Nutcracker”, and in the purity of the young dancers’ performances all of which are conducted on ‘pointe’.
“Paquita”, the Petipa version, was the major highlight of the program.The cast of approximately 25 included a corps de ballet, soloists and principals.
Once the troupe’s youngest dancers LVBC’s corps and soloists are now teenagers who have grown in more ways than one.Taller, of course, but artistically and technically too. Musically attuned and with precise execution of the choreography they make their dancing look – as it should – effortless.
In the ballet’s grand pas de deux Ms. Lee was luminous.Her sensitive musicality found expression in her eyes, her hands and long slender fingers, a tilt of her head and even her breathing which responded to melodious swells in the music.
As she’d approach the last few turns in a series of supported pirouettes she gradually shifted the focus of her spotting from the front and towards the position of her next pose, perhaps an arabesque, thus enhancing the smooth uninterrupted flow of one step into the other.
Her attention to technical detail was exemplary.One example being her releves from flat fifth position up onto full pointe, her toes so close together that from the front they appeared to be part a single foot.Yes, just basic technique, but frequently neglected even by other ballerinas.
Mr. Kwak’s partnering was elegant and unobtrusive.In true cavalier fashion he did nothing to distract from his partner and molded his lines to compliment hers.
For a dancer whose leaps have a wide breadth and who is accustomed to dancing on some of the world’s largest stages, including Russia’s Maryinsky, he does wonders within the limited space of smaller venues.
His series of double revoltades across the stage wherein the dancer executes two horizontal air turns landing on one leg with the other extended in front were thrilling and something I hadn’t seen done as well locally since the Kirov and Bolshoi were here.
“Glory” was an original work created by Mr. Kwak for eight soloists and two principals to music by J.S. Bach. The neo-classic dance was intricate, interesting and musical and gave the dancers an opportunity to expand their range of movement.
In an extended adagio, Ms. Lee and Mr. Kwak captured the music’s darkly romantic overtones of unfulfilled longing.The brighter moods of the music, the sprightly melodies and rhythms, were mirrored by the soloists.
As the piece ended the dancers were arranged in a triangle.At the front point a dancer began a series of fouette turns in which she was gradually joined by each of the others until they were all spinning furiously.Fouettes at such close quarters aren’t easy and it was an exciting finale.
“Les Patineurs” (The Skaters) was choreographed by Frederick Ashton in 1937 for the English troupe that would eventually become the Royal Ballet.With movements resembling those of ice skaters, the scene depicted the fun and falls that might typically take place at a skating rink on a cold winter’s day.
Mr. Kwak took the role of the show-off Blue Boy who, even as the curtain slowly closed at the end, refused to end his pirouettes and kept whirling around.
Among the dance notables attending the event were Louis Kavouras director of UNLV’s dance department; Heather Victorson formerly of England’s Royal Ballet and now principal ballet instructor at Backstage Studio; James Jeon renowned choreographer and artistic director ofSeoul Ballet Theatre, Korea; and Keena Smith former UNLV dancer who, afterperforming for a decade in “Lion King” on Broadway and on tour, is back in Las Vegas and teaching dance.
With charm and a few dance steps of his own, Ellis Rice, cultural director of CHAC, introduced the program while also noting the ballroom, ethnic, contra and other dance classes regularly sponsored by the Center.More information available at 229-6383.