In many ways, Monika Haczkiewicz is your typical 15-year-old girl. She loves to shop and hang out with friends, she reads avidly and she peppers her conversations with the word like. But this petite, pre-professional ballerina is anything but average. The native Las Vegan and eldest daughter of Cirque du Soleil acrobats, Haczkiewicz (hutch-kuh-veech) has inherited some ideal genes. “Her body is super flexible,” says her ballet instructor, Kyudong Kwak of Kwak Ballet Academy, “and she has control.”
Haczkiewicz agrees: “I’m shorter and that helps with a lot of the lifts and stuff.” She’s 5’1” and 86 pounds.
But her parents’ genetic influence doesn’t stop there. “She has guts on stage. She’s not scared. That’s a huge thing,” says Kwak, who says that many dancers — heck, most people — get nervous come show time.
Haczkiewicz donned her first pair of ballet slippers at the age of three. Then she discovered the stage at six, as a cartwheeling bonbon in Nevada Ballet Theatre’s 2004 presentation of “The Nutcracker.” She hasn’t looked back, performing in one version or another of “The Nutcracker” every year since. For the past three years, she’s been dancing every young ballerina’s dream role — the coveted part of Clara — in the Las Vegas Ballet Company’s rendition of the Christmas classic.
“Being on stage is like the best thing in the world. I just feel I can let go and do whatever I want,” Haczkiewicz says. (Then the ballerina checks herself: “Obviously, I can’t. I wouldn’t.”)
Haczkiewicz trains for two hours, three or four evenings a week with Kwak and his wife Yoomi Lee, former principals with Nevada Ballet Theatre. She puts in another four hours on Saturdays. Also, as a student of the Las Vegas Academy’s dance program, she dances for 80 minutes each day as part of her school curriculum.
Barre work — the 30 to 45 minutes of each class when Kwak’s dancers utilize the ballet barre to warm up, strengthen muscles, build stamina, improve balance and perfect technique — is Haczkiewicz’s least favorite part. “I hate barre. I cannot stand it. I know it’s really important, but it’s just so boring,” she says, dramatically drawing out the “o” in so — reminding us again that under her tight ballet bun resides a typical teenager.
According to longtime ballet critic Hal de Becker, Haczkiewicz’s dreaded barre work is paying off. “She’s special for her attention to neatness, her clean dancing and her accurate footwork — that’s not something you see all the time,” he says.
For the second year in a row, Haczkiewicz’s been granted a full-tuition scholarship to attend Pacific Northwest Ballet’s five-week summer intensive program in Seattle, considered one of the best in the country.
“Monika is very gifted,” says Abbey Siegel, principal of Pacific Northwest Ballet school. “She has all the attributes you look for in a classical ballet dancer. She has the right proportions, she has long, lean muscles, she has gorgeous arched feet, she has extension and rotation — and she just has a spark to her presence. Those are the kinds of gifts you look for when you’re doing auditions.”
Before Haczkiewicz packs her leotards and pointe shoes into her summer bag, she has her work cut out for her. Having recently earned the role of Princess Aurora in Las Vegas Ballet Company’s spring production of “Sleeping Beauty,” she’s already well into rehearsals.
“(It’s) going to be challenging for me,” she says of her first principal role, but it’s the sort of challenge the tiny dancer — and anything-but-typical teen — lives for.