LEE & GISELLE: MEANT FOR EACH OTHER

By: Hal de Becker

 

The role most ballerinas aspire to is not Odile in Swan Lake or Aurora in Sleeping Beauty but that of Giselle.  It is to a ballerina what the role of Hamlet is to an actor: the pinnacle of their chosen art. 

 

Giselle requires a ballerina whose dancing embodies classical balletic purity and a special feeling for the Romantic ballets of the early 19th century. She must also have the dramatic ability to enact an innocent peasant maiden and later an ethereal spirit.

 

Another challenge is projecting the dark, ahead-of-its-time, psychological aspects of the role.  Giselle, like Shakespeare’s teenage Juliet, may be a young girl, but it takes a woman to portray her.   

 

Just such a ballerina is Yoomi Lee.

 

Ms. Lee is co-founder of Las Vegas Ballet Company, now in its tenth year.  The troupe performs the full length Giselle June 22 and 23 at Summerlin library Performing Arts Center with Ms. Lee in the title role. 

 

Her slender lines and delicate features are ideal for the fragile but dramatic Act I Giselle.   In the famous ‘mad scene’ Giselle succumbs to a weak heart upon learning that Albrecht, the nobleman she loves, is already betrothed and has merely taken a fancy to her.   

 

In the eerie Act II, Giselle is a spirit protecting the man who betrayed her.  The illusion of floating on air is created with slow, sustained movements of seamless lyricism, qualities that abundantly inform Ms. Lee’s artistic style and technique.

 

I asked her if she felt ready to tackle the role.  “Well,” she replied, “in my dance and life experience I think the timing is good for me but I don’t underestimate the challenges.  I know I can’t let up for a moment preparing and concentrating not just on my performance but on the whole production and the other dancers in it.”

 

“Are you especially nervous about this particular role,” I asked.  “No, not exactly nervous,” she said, “but very excited.”  She then added with a chuckle, “Well, maybe nervous, too.  I respect this ballet so much and I want to give it my very best – more than my best.”    

 

The part of Albrecht, who breaks Giselle’s heart, will be danced by guest artist Steven Goforth.   He is a prominent artist with Nevada Ballet Theatre where he has danced numerous solo and principal roles. 

 

Hilarion, Giselle’s honest suitor before Albrecht’s arrival, requires an outstanding actor-dancer who can persuade the audience to have sympathy for him while at the same time blame him for exposing Albrecht’s true identity to Giselle.  

 

The role will be performed by another guest artist, the internationally renowned dancer and LVBC’s other co-founder, Ku Dong Kwak.  I’ve seen him in this part before and his portrayal was superb.       

 

Laura Zimmerman, a former NBT dancer and Daniela Burgos will alternate as Myrtha the vengeful spirit queen who forces men who have betrayed their sweethearts to dance themselves to death.    

 

Aside from Ms. Lee and her guest artists, LVBC is a ‘youth company’ where aspiring young dancers are given the opportunity to perform in professional productions of the great classical ballets. 

 

Tickets for Giselle are available at lasvegasballet.org and 702-240-3262.

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