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Corps Stars Bring South Bay Ballet’s Nutcracker to Life

12-01-2011 04:17 PM CET | Arts & Culture

Press release from: South Bay Ballet

Yumi Kanazawa dances as Clara with her Nutcracker Prince John-Paul Simoens

Yumi Kanazawa dances as Clara with her Nutcracker Prince John-Paul Simoens

(Torrance, CA) If you are one of those who look forward to the holiday season and enjoy the performing arts then more than likely you are not a stranger to the timeless story of The Nutcracker. Performed by ballet companies around the world year in and year out, the account of Clara and her Nutcracker Prince is an enchanting tale enjoyed by theatre-goers of all ages. And while these two leading characters pour themselves into their roles for audiences, scores of corps de ballet members bring the stage to life with delightful dances and breathtaking feats of their own.

Right here in the Southland, South Bay Ballet’s Nutcracker offers a brilliant example of how corps members have many opportunities to develop their artistry. Whether it is 35 infantry soldiers, 28 little mice, 15 snowflakes, eight gingerbread cookies, seven Russian dancers, four Arabian maidens, or countless others, these corps dancers, under the artistic direction of Diane Lauridsen, work tirelessly to help knit a full-length ballet and have found a place to shine.

Most of these young people already know that rising to the ranks of prima ballerina or even soloist is an arduous journey and an opportunity that is earned. Given the environment that Lauridsen fosters, it is no wonder that corps members understand this can be a stepping-stone to more challenging roles.

A shining example of Lauridsen’s training philosophy can be seen with South Bay Ballet alumni, Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theatre’s first female African-American soloist.

Copeland was recently quoted in Dance Teacher magazine saying, "When I was 15, I went to Diane because everyone said I had so much potential. But at her studio, I wasn't a star and she didn't treat me like one. I was like anyone else and I appreciate how hard she was on me. I was taking three classes a day: Beginning ballet with five and six-year-olds, an intermediate class and an advanced class.”

The same holds true for today’s students at Lauridsen Ballet Center. This close-knit company of dancers knows that the lead roles of Clara, danced this year by Yumi Kanazawa, 15, and the Nutcracker Prince, danced by John-Paul Simoens, 17, are well earned. Both principal dancers have been with South Bay Ballet for 10 years, and know that without the corps members, the company is not a company.

“I am so happy, excited and honored to dance Clara this year,” says Kanazawa. “I have been in The Nutcracker since I was a Ballet Three [a training level at Lauridsen Ballet Centre] and have danced most all of the corps de ballet roles. I know my friends put in just as much time and effort, and enjoy their stage-time as much as I do. Having grown-up together, we have a respect for one another on and off stage. We have fun and also take our role as mentors with the younger dancers very seriously.”

Simoens echoes these sentiments reflecting on his years growing up at South Bay Ballet and performing many different parts in The Nutcracker. “I have learned that every part has its own challenges whether it is a corps role or a lead role. I am very excited to have the opportunity to perform as the Prince this year. The role is not only a challenge both physically and mentally, but also it requires a graceful and noble quality in the way that I interact with the other dancers on stage.”

While most aspiring ballerinas dream far beyond being a corps member, they come to understand that the experience can be rewarding. Emma Silagy, 13, a relative newbie with just four seasons as a South Bay Ballet company member under her toes has learned a great deal rising through the ranks and this season is delighted to dance the part of an Arabian maiden. “Functioning as a part of a larger group in order to create a great piece of art is challenging. It’s important to be on the right counts and that’s why we are taught musicality to better understand the relationship between the choreography and the music,” says Silagy.

Adding to the delight of audiences, the Company’s youngest members manage to steal the show playing the roles of bow, button and bell mice. South Bay Ballet’s youngest company member, Ryan Lo, 4, will perform for the first time as a mouse. When questioned what the best part of being on stage is, Lo says he’s excited to be on stage “to dance like soldiers and to scare the monsters,” referring to the ballet’s dramatic Act One battle scene.

As an added highlight, each year South Bay Ballet’s Nutcracker features a notable community member in the guest role of Grandmother Clara. This year, Masako Kagasaki shares the stage with these pre-professional dancers to delight audiences in three performances. Ms. Kagasaki is the executive editor of BRIDGE U.S.A. a popular Japanese magazine in the South Bay and Greater Los Angeles area.

Whether family, friend or acquaintance, you are more than likely to know one of South Bay Ballet’s cast of 100. If you have yet to discover the magic of this classical ballet, or make it an annual tradition, South Bay Ballet will stage its Nutcracker performances December 16 at 7 pm, and December 17 and 18 at 2 pm at the Marsee Auditorium in Torrance. Tickets are $30, $20 children 12 and under. Phone 800.832.2787 or go to www.centerforthearts.org.

ABOUT SOUTH BAY BALLET:
South Bay Ballet, a non-profit organization, provides quality artistic performances to the community as well as outstanding training to young and pre-professional dancers. Under the guidance of Artistic Director Diane Lauridsen, and Assistant Artistic Director Elijah Pressman, the Company’s mission is to provide a nurturing environment for serious dance students to develop their skills while offering artistic excellence to the community. The Company is dedicated to providing performance opportunities that build character and confidence. The ultimate goal is to carry young dancers into their professional lives.

South Bay Ballet continues to present Southern California audiences with a professional level artistic experience. Each year South Bay Ballet offers an eclectic range of ballets, from classical to contemporary. In addition to The Nutcracker, the annual season includes both Bravo! A Classical & Contemporary Ballet Experience and Storybook Ballet, at the James R. Armstrong Theatre.

For additional information or to become a friend of South Bay Ballet visit www.southbayballet.org.

South Bay Ballet
1261 Sartori Avenue
Torrance, CA 90501
Lisa Silagy
3107558999
lisa@inkprfirm.com
www.southbayballet.org

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