LAS VEGAS BALLET CO. GROWING STRONG AGAIN
By: Hal de Becker
A new generation of youngsters has stepped into the shoes (toe shoes, of course) of Las Vegas Ballet Company’s former dancers who have matured beyond ‘youth company’ status.
While a youth company isn’t held to the same high standards as a professional adult troupe, LVBC’s recent Nutcracker performance was impressive and enjoyable.
Many of the new youngsters joined the company only last season and in just one year have shown remarkable development under the guidance of Yoomi Lee the troupe’s co-founder and Ballet Mistress.
She and Kyudong Kwak, LVBC’s artistic director, also provide the young dancers with expert training at the Kwak Ballet Academy. Many of the guest artists appearing in the Nutcracker performance also train there.
This year’s Nutcracker at Summerlin Library Performing Arts Center was an excellent example of what good training and professional direction can produce in artistically inclined youngsters of any age.
In Act I, the ballet’s well known story began with separate family groups on their way to a Christmas party. Brief bits of light hearted pantomime added interest to each.
Guest Artists Mary La Croix and Mr. Kwak were charming as the party’s hosts and parents of little Clara who receives the Nutcracker Doll as a gift. There was frequent humor in their efforts to control the excited, occasionally mischievous children.
Clara was portrayed by Siera Millaudon. Her acting and dancing – all on pointe – were outstanding. The surprise was that she is only 10 years old! The casting of a real child made the role especially appealing.
Choreography by Ms. Lee and Mr. Kwak gave the 25 company members ample opportunity to display their formidable skills. The inventive and often complex patterns were well executed by everyone. Even the 12 tiny tots of the junior company had real ballet steps to do.
Danced versions of familiar childhood games like London Bridges were part of the children’s interplay. And their acting had a spontaneous quality that convinced me they were truly enjoying themselves.
Adult guest performers, portraying friends, relatives and parents, were persuasive, and danced their own group numbers well.
Clara’s Godfather, the mysterious Drosselmeyer, portrayed by Mark Early, presented three mechanical dolls to entertain the youngsters. They were danced impressively by Alehssia Reinhart, Daniela Burgos and Samuel Kwak who also took the role of the Nutcracker.
After the party, Clara dreams she is embroiled in a battle between a troop of soldiers and 12 little mice, and is rescued by the Nutcracker Prince. The mice were performed by LVBC’s tiny tots and led by the Mouse Queen, especially well danced by guest artist Summer Reece.
The juxtaposition of the teeny weeny mice fighting the older, bigger soldiers endeared them to the audience even more than usual. There were cheers when a tiny mouse jumped up and bit one of the nasty soldiers.
Other notable sections that included the tots were in Act I when they danced as couples and later in Act II as Bon Bons and in their long white dresses as Angels.
The Snow Scene’s Snow King and Queen were danced respectively by long lined, but unsteady, Katherine Candelaria and guest artist Kyrie Ogloza whose strong lifting was noteworthy. The dancing of the 14 Snowflakes was fluid and precise.
The national dances of Act II were introduced by Sugar Plum and her Prince portrayed, respectively, by LaCroix and another guest artist Barrington Lohr. Later they danced the grand pas de deux in which her stage presence and musicality and his high double tours and overhead lifts were well received.
The Spanish Dance, performed by guest artist Nao Hayakawa, Reece, Ogloza, and Yerin Baek, was one of the Act’s highlights. Mirlitons and Chinese also received outstanding dancing from Jessica Epley, Hayakawa, Burgos, Irene Caredis and Kennedy Hsu.
The Arabian utilized acro moves and had an effective ending as a long chiffon scarf suspended in the air slowly descended onto the six dancers. The Russian was danced with flair by Madison Strider, Reinhart and Samuel Kwak.
Twelve dancers, led by Yoomi Lee as Dew Drop, delivered an uplifting performance of the lilting Waltz of the Flowers.
The dancing of Ms. Lee with her slender delicate lines, exquisite port de bras (arm movements), superb professionalism and sparkling smile was a total delight.
The nicely dressed sets included a warm family ambience and tall illuminated
Christmas tree for the Party Scene; the background for the Snow Scene was snow covered pines; and ice cream and candy decorated the Sugar Plum Kingdom.
Costuming was imaginative and colorful. The venue’s tech crew provided good lighting and technical support.