YOUNG AT HEART
By: Hal de Becker
Las Vegas Ballet Company is a non-profit ‘youth company’ where young dancers receive expert training and performance experience. But inevitably, when the dancers reach the ‘ripe old age’ of older teenagers they move on to make room for a younger generation.
Without this turnover the troupe would soon become an adult professional company which is not what Yoomi Lee and Kyudong Kwak, the company’s founders, directors and choreographers, want to happen, at least not at the present time.
Their aim is to enable the public to enjoy, and the youngsters to dance, ballet classics such as Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker and Paquita all of which are part of LVBC’s repertory.
The troupe’s recent performance of Swan Lake Act II at Starbright Theatre in Sun City Summerlin introduced its new crop of youthful dancers together with dancers of longer standing who have been elevated to assume more challenging roles.
The highlight of any LVBC Swan Lake production has always been the participation of Yoomi and Kyudong in their respective roles of Odette the Swan Queen, and Prince Siegfried. This time they outdid themselves with an even more exquisite and heartfelt rendering than usual, perhaps because it was Yoomi’s last performance as Odette.
Yoomi’s delicate almost fragile aura, slender lines and expressive face, arms and hands are a perfect embodiment of the Swan Queen. Her effortless technique and musical sensitivity add icing to the cake.
Believing him to be a hunter, Odette’s first reaction to Prince Siegfried is one of fear.
In their famous ‘white swan’ pas de deux Siegfied overcomes her dread, gains her trust and ultimately her love.
In addition to his strong presence and masterful partnering, Kyudong’s subtle responses to every dramatic nuance in the music created a characterization of the Prince that went beyond that of a mere ballet porteur (lifter-supporter) and invested him with an artistic importance equal to that of Odette’s.
This pas de deux possesses emotional depths that are often overlooked by some dancers. Not however by Yoomi and Kyudong. Both these artists warmly and tenderly conveyed all the deeper sensibilities of the dance.
The youthful corps de ballet and soloists were well rehearsed and showed appropriate reverence for this great classic.
The program opened with a divertissement that included Bach Pas de Deux choreographed by Kyudong and danced by Yerin Baek and Austin Knudson; and a Pas de Trois in which Daniela Burgos and Lauren Tsung were partnered by Samuel Kwak.
Those numbers were followed by three variations (solos) from three classic ballets, La Esmeralda, La Bayadere and Don Quixote. They received good performances from the three young soloists, respectively, Claudia Alvarado, Natalie Browne and Yerin Baek.
All the girls in the company danced on pointe. Many had outstanding elevation and executed double pirouettes. One even did Italian fouettes which are hard to explain and much harder to do. The boys executed triple pirouettes and double air turns.
All these technical accomplishments attest to the good training the youngsters receive at the Kwak Ballet Academy.
Costuming was good, but especially lovely were the tu tu’s in the three solos and Swan Lake. Stage lighting was consistently effective.
Throughout the performance the audience, many of whom are residents of Sun City, expressed their appreciation to the young dancers with enthusiastic ovations.
The Starbright Theatre was new to me and easy to reach thanks to excellent directions from Rita Brown, Starbright’s ‘girl Friday’. The theater is a gem. Seats are comfortable and sight lines excellent. The walls of the plush lobby are adorned with a superb collection of black and white photo portraits of Hollywood movie stars from the 30’s and 40’s. What faces!