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Ballet ready to warm up right for ‘The Nutcracker’

There’s a sigh of relief at the Las Vegas Ballet Company. Performers had a full rehearsal schedule before this month’s show, something it wasn’t able to do for its last performance because of an increase in rental fees for Las Vegas-Clark County Library District facilities.

The company plans to present "The Nutcracker" at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Summerlin Library and Performing Arts Center Theatre, 1771 Inner Circle Drive. Since the library district readjusted its fee schedule this year, the company said it can now afford to conduct a full rehearsal schedule.

This year’s production has another an added element, a "pre-performance" dress rehearsal, which is planned for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the library theater. Military personnel with ID will receive free admission for the rehearsal, which has limited seating for 300 on a first-come, first-served basis.

Originally, Kyudong Kwak, artistic director of the Kwak Ballet Academy, 350 S. Jones Blvd., and head of the Las Vegas Ballet Company, had planned to have a short rehearsal, only four hours, and booked the venue accordingly. The short rehearsal time slot was due to facility rental fees skyrocketing last spring.

After the fees were scaled back this fall, Kwak added two days to the ballet’s schedule for "The Nutcracker," all of it dedicated to rehearsals.

Kwak said the increased rates had the ballet company "struggling all last year. I had to change it, the theater schedule; basically I had to work it out so that maybe 16 hours of work had to be done in five hours. It was hard work. … everyone is rushing. You just don’t have enough time to prepare the show. But the show must go on."

To save money for "Giselle ACT II" this summer, dancers gathered at the academy’s studio for warm-ups, then were driven to the Summerlin venue to perform.

"Normally you warm up in the theater," Kwak said. "Normally you don’t waste time driving, (but) we could not work it out to have those extra hours. So we had to do the warm-up in the studio then go drive up there. Some of the kids, they could not make it to the studio. They had to come directly to the theater. So they didn’t even get to do a warm-up. It’s not safe; it could cause some injuries. But you had to do what you had to. The show was OK, but I was still kind of sorry for the audience. We could’ve made it better."

Lindy Kelley, 13, has been dancing since she was 3 and has entertained the idea of making it a career. Formerly with the Nevada Ballet Theatre, she’s been dancing with Kwak Ballet Academy for the past two years.

Lindy said jumping in her parents’ car after an hourlong warm-up and hurrying to the Summerlin facility was "kind of a rush. We had to hurry over to the place where we were performing, and we had to get everything together."

She said even though they got to warm up at the studio, it was always in the back of her mind that her body might not be at optimum readiness for the demanding moves.

Kwak said the lack of rehearsal time even had him, a professional with years of experience, unable to fully concentrate on his performance that time.

"Emotionally, just myself as a dancer on stage, I was not prepared," he said. "I was not focused because of putting on the show. I was not ready. Actually, I was dancing on stage, but half of my brain was not there. It was just not there. It was very difficult."

This year, Lindy plays Dewdrop in "The Nutcracker," which means she’s on pointe for all of her numbers. Her longest one, "Waltz of the Flowers," runs about 10 minutes.

"We know it’s very important, warm-ups are, before you start dancing just because you might injure yourself and then you might not be able to dance anymore," she said.

The library district’s rental fees had not been changed since 1994, but they increased so much this spring that performance groups were scared away. Kwak said he was determined to present shows at the library theater and bit the bullet. As a way to save money, he cut out rehearsals.

In September, the library district’s Board of Trustees spoke of its own frustration with the increased fees and with not having been able to speak publicly about the reasoning behind them and voted to reduce the fees.

The hourly rental for the library theater is now $40, down from the $170 in April. The dark-day fee was lowered from $100 to $70.

According to the Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, dancers put themselves at risk for injury mostly due to the repetitive movements that require extreme flexibility, strength and endurance, which makes them prime candidates for injury due to overuse.

"The foot/ankle/lower leg area is vulnerable to a wide range of injuries, including stress fractures, tendon injuries, sprains, and strains," it said. "These injuries show up with greater frequency in dancers as they age, so it is extremely important to emphasize what the young dancer can do to prevent future injuries."

The British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that to prepare for any intense activity, do those movements at a less intense level. Warming up the body’s tissues requires metabolic activity that results in heat and causes physical changes in connective tissues. The changes make them more pliable, the journal reported.

Lindy said she was grateful to have more time to rehearse and warm up.

"A lot of people ask how important is it to warm up, and it just is. It’s very important," she said. If not warmed up, "just getting up on your pointe shoes, you can feel all your metatarsals. You can just feel them. They kind of ache because they’re not warmed up."

Kwak was one of the speakers at the library district’s board meeting Sept. 13, when it decided to lower fees.

After the decision was announced, he spoke with the theater manager and was told that because he’d put down 50 percent, or $3,000, under the increased rates, his down payment for the next production might already be covered.

"So that helps already to know that … what I can do is prepare for the next event, the next program," he said. "Hopefully we will break even, and whatever we make (from) the show, we can use the next time."

The show runs 90 minutes. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students and seniors. For tickets or more information, call 702-240-3262 or visit lasvegasballet.org.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

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