Talented Teens

By: Hal de Becker


When 14 year old Monika Haczkiewicz, traveled to Los Angeles recently to participate in the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP), the world’s largest student scholarship ballet competition, all she expected to gain was experience.

Instead, out of approximately 150 contestants, she was among the few to win eligibility to compete in the upcoming international finals in New York City.

Monika is no stranger to art and theatre: her mother and father were skilled acrobatic performers in Cirque du Soleil’s “Mystere” at Treasure Island.

She began studying ballet when she was three years of age and was a long-time student at the Academy of Nevada Ballet Theatre.For the past three years she’s studied exclusively with husband and wife team Yoomi Lee and Kyudong Kwak at the Kwak Academy, home of the Las Vegas Ballet Company.

At the recent YAGP event she performed two challenging solo variations, one from “Le Corsaire” the other from “Paquita”.Both included complex turns and entrechat six (six aerial crossing of the legs).For both dances she was taught, coached and intensely rehearsed by the Kwak’s.

As a member of Las Vegas Ballet Company she will perform the same “Paquita” solo

at Charleston Heights Cultural Center when the troupe appears there at 2:00 pm on March 10th.

She admits to having been nervous before performing her solos at the competition, but says that as soon as she heard the music the only thing she was aware of was the joy of dancing.

Monika is a native of Las Vegas and attended Goolspy and Faith Lutheran elementary schools.She’s now in the Odyssey Charter Home School program and is a straight ‘A’ student.

Although she enjoys singing, swimming and even track and field activities, nothing else comes even close to her love of and dedication to ballet.

Year after year, Clark County’s Winchester Cultural Center has been providing high quality theatrical events in dance, opera, jazz and chamber music, as well as international folkloric companies from (in just the last two months!), Mexico, Hawaii and the one I saw, Russia.

The “Golden Gates & Moscow Nights” song, dance and musical troupe from St. Petersburg, Russia appeared at ‘Winchester’ as part of its five week, 30 State USA tour performing in theatres, schools and churches.

Most of its twelve performers were talented teenagers who had been selected to participate in the tour during their regular school holiday.

Included were three male and three female dancers; four female singers; and two adult musicians on accordion and the guitar-like balalaika, plus one of the dancers who doubled on the huge contrabass balalaika.

The troupe’s founder, director, master of ceremonies and accordionist, is Vitaliy Bezrodnov.He is also impresario for other traditional Russian cultural events including the Georgian National Dance Company.

The program began with an interesting short film on Russian history, culture, sports,

food and drink – vodka, of course, and included charming interviews with the youthful dancers and singers.

Costumes were colorful, elaborate, richly decorated and typical of some of the geographical areas of the vocal repertoire with songs originating as far north as Siberia and as south as Rostov.

The dance highlight of the program was a story number in which three village maidens washing clothes attract the attention of Cossack warriors riding by on their horses.A dispute over the girls results in the men drawing their swords but before any harm is done each of the girls select a beau and peace is restored.

The dancing and choreography were strong and rhythmic with virtuoso jumps and turns and, of course, kazatsky’s (deep knee bends and kicks). The miming of horseback- riding, washing clothes, battle and romance were all executed with skill and clarity.

Thanks to the charm and persuasive powers of Mr. Bezrodnov there was much audience participation during the program.Members of the audience discovered that they had hidden talents for playing tambourines, singing and even dancing.

His dry Russian humor was a source of much amusement:He poked fun at Russia’s minister (and next president?) Putin; he said the 3000 year old accordion came, “like everything else,” from China and, in reaction to an amplifier problem, that in Russia “one never knows for sure if things are going to work or not.”

One thing which definitely worked was this warm, youthfully appealing production.