Las Vegas Sun

June 20, 2018

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Steve Marcus

Yoomi Lee, a principal dancer for the Nevada Ballet Theatre from Korea, likes the audiences in Las Vegas.

Beyond the Sun

Name: Yoomi Lee

Age: 39

Job: Principal dancer, Nevada Ballet Theatre

Education: Sun Hwa Arts School, Seoul, Korea, and the Kirov Academy in Washington, D.C.

On dancing: “If you go onstage you can be whoever you can be. Ballet is a lot of pain. Even with the pain you still want to do it. You have to have a strong mind because otherwise you can’t do it long.”

Favorite style: Still loves classical ballet such as “Swan Lake,” “Giselle.” “You have to go home. Whenever I do classical, it’s like going home. You already know the music. There’s a story inside the music that’s very beautiful.”

Hobbies/interests: Tending to her beaten toes after so many years in dance. Teaches summer intensive at Nevada Ballet. Also travels back to Korea during the summer to teach. Married to Nevada Ballet principal Kyudong Kwak. They have a 6-year-old son, Samuel. Watches Korean dramas on TV. Attends the Korean Community Church. During the season, Lee says, “I Just go home, watch TV, cook, do homework with my son. Once you get home, you’re tired. That’s my life.”

On teaching: “It’s a different situation from when I started ballet. Young people need to be more serious. Right now, the kids I teach I don’t want to push them because they just give up. They realize ballet is getting too hard so they stop dancing.”

Why Vegas? Born and raised in Seoul. Started dancing at age 10, trained in the Vaganova system, joined Universal Ballet Company at 18. Stayed with it for 11 years. In 1998 husband Kyudong came to Las Vegas to dance with the company for “Romeo and Juliet.” The couple moved to Las Vegas in 1999 and joined Nevada Ballet in 2000. Nevada Ballet Theatre is in its 37th season. This weekend the company performs at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Transition to Vegas: “First year hard. Even now I’m thinking, ‘How did I come over here? Living here?’ I never thought I’d live outside Korea.” (Laughs).

“Las Vegas (audiences) are very direct for me. When they like it they clap. That helps a lot for the performers. You feel each other — audience and dancers. I like that.”

Sticking around? “We don’t have plans to move. We tried to settle here because of my son’s plans for school. Also, we don’t know other people who live in the United States. All of my family is still in Korea.”

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