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By Lauren Kay
Ballet Hispanico's radiant siren
Bounding onstage in a poufy purple dress in Eduardo Vilaro’s Asuka, raven-haired Ballet Hispanico dancer Kimberly Van Woesik radiates exuberance. While her precisely placed port de bras and arabesques hint at ballet training, fearless drops to the floor, extreme tilts, and pliable undulations display her contemporary prowess. “She’s like a siren,” says Vilaro, Ballet Hispanico’s artistic director. “Her beauty draws you in, and then you’re trapped by her dancing.”
Though Van Woesik was born in Mesa, Arizona, her family moved to Kansas City when she was 3. Her mother initially put her in the Miller Marley School of Dance and Voice to burn off energy. She didn’t realize what she had started. “My mother thought eventually I would choose another career, with dance as a hobby,” says Van Woesik. But she loved dance, and continued her studies when the family moved to Plano, Texas, at the Chamberlain School of Performing Arts.
Photo by Marty Sohl Photography, Courtesy BH.
As a youngster, Van Woesik wanted to be a classical ballerina. But she also was drawn toward medicine. “I always wanted to dance and I always wanted to be a pediatrician,” she says. “My mother encouraged my medical dreams. There was a lot of push-pull in gaining her support to dance professionally, especially when I was deciding whether to go to Miami City Ballet School on scholarship or go to college.”
In the end, Van Woesik followed her mother’s advice to go for a college degree. She chose Southern Methodist University, where she could earn a BFA in dance in a setting that challenged her academically. Van Woesik says it gave her more than she had expected. “Now that I’m in the professional world, it’s clear that directors value an educated dancer,” she says. “And it was at SMU that I fell in love with contemporary technique, fusing it with my classical training, and that eventually pointed me toward companies like Ballet Hispanico.”
A summer intensive studying with Summer Lee Rhatigan at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance “rocked my world and opened up my eyes to dancing in a new way,” remembers Van Woesik. Inspired by the edgy style she experienced there, she traveled to Europe to audition for contemporary companies. Though she didn’t get a job offer, she loved what she saw and dreamed of dancing with Nederlands Dans Theater. After her trip overseas, she sent resumés to American troupes, including Ballet Hispanico. (Before she had gone, she attended an open audition with the New York company that yielded interest on both sides.) When she returned, Van Woesik nabbed a contract. “I knew it was a great place to start my career: beautiful, established, and a part of AGMA,” she says.
Since joining Ballet Hispanico a year ago, Van Woesik has thrived on the repertoire and opportunity to explore her Hispanic heritage (she is half Mexican, half Dutch-Indonesian). Locked Up Laura by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and A Verme by Edwaard Liang are two she longs to dance.
Vilaro has been impressed by her commitment. “She doesn’t hold back,” he says. “She’s hungry to dance and experience all of what the work offers.” Van Woesik loves the range of the Ballet Hispanico repertoire, from contemporary ballet to postmodern work. “I never get bored,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to be able to do everything and I can keep reaching for that at Ballet Hispanico.”
She also feels grateful to be back onstage after a tendon sheath injury on her first tour with the company in September 2011. It made her even more passionate about her life and choices. “One day I will go back to school, complete the remainder of my pre-med classes, and apply to medical school,” she says. “But at a talkback at one of the shows, a girl asked me to describe what dancing is in one word,” she says. “I said, ‘Breathing.’ For me, dance is a force of life.”
Lauren Kay is a New York dancer and writer.