Sunday, December 7, 2003



Rachel Lam, 6, takes a spin in her pretty pink dress while awaiting the start of a dress rehearsal of Hawaii State Ballet's "Nutcracker."

At Home on Stage

Ballet flows in the Lam kids’
blood with three of five siblings
in the art

By all appearances, the Lams, of Palolo, enjoy an idyllic, middle-class lifestyle replete with family excursions, ballet lessons and Christmas craft-making. Though no family can be wholly perfect, the Lams are a shining example of what can be accomplished with forethought and a little risk.

Family Tree logo Thirteen years ago, Patricia and Calvin Lam decided to break with tradition and home-school their children. For most or all of their lives, 20-year-old Christopher, currently away at UCLA; Nicole, 17; Joanna, 15; Carter, 11; and Rachel, 6, have spent a good portion of their waking hours in each other's company, with Mom as head tutor.

"Back then, home schooling was considered a little more radical than it is today," notes Patricia. "But there were financial considerations.

"With a lot of children, private school seemed a little overwhelming. Public school doesn't quite cater to our moral values, so it was a hard choice to make because it was a little scary to start, but I've never looked back or considered not home schooling. It's been a blessing for our family."


Presented by Hawaii State Ballet

Where: Mamiya Theatre, Saint Louis High School

When: 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Friday through Dec. 21; additional performance at 6 p.m. next Sunday

Admission: $16, $18 and $22, with $2 discounts for seniors and children

Call: 947-2755 or 783-2747

It would be hard to argue against a system that has cultivated such productive and well-adjusted youngsters as the Lam kids. Nicole and Joanna have excelled at ballet, making numerous stage appearances for Hawaii State Ballet. Two years ago, baby sister Rachel entered ballet classes, as well.

And although Carter has yet to follow his sisters into the performing arts, he has cheerfully agreed to join them in HSB's "Nutcracker" production, opening at 7 p.m. Friday and continuing through Dec. 21 at Mamiya Theatre, as a nondancing trouper. It's the first time all four of the at-home siblings have performed onstage together. "My sisters told me about it, and I like to act anyway," Carter says about his decision to play the role of young Fritz. "For the part I'm doing, there's no dancing."

Which suits Carter just fine, as he has no plans to take up ballet any time soon. "He plays tennis," Patricia says. "We keep trying to get him involved because he's been around ballet since he was 4, so maybe this will motivate him. We haven't given up hope."

The Lams concede that may take some time, as it took Nicole and Joanna years to develop the resolve and determination necessary to gain their expertise. Under the tutelage of John Landovsky, an accomplished dancer, instructor and HSB director, the Lam girls have blossomed into junior company performers. Though they endure a six-day-a-week training regimen, they say Landovsky makes practice a pleasure.

"Mr. Landovsky helps me motivate myself," Nicole said. "He's that kind of teacher. He makes you want to dance. It's his passion. He is totally committed to ballet, and he knows every student's weaknesses and strong points, and he'll remind you over and over and over again what you need to work on, and that's very helpful because we like to forget our weaknesses."

Nicole Lam helps sister Joanna get into her costume. Below, Nicole ties her own ballet shoes.

While practice sessions often last up to three hours in the weeks leading up to a major HSB production, there are few holiday season activities that are as popular with Joanna and Nicole as preparing for a "Nutcracker" performance. Skipping practice is unthinkable. Ballet, it seems, is in their blood.

"It's a big commitment to go (to practice) six days a week, but I can't imagine not going," Nicole said. "When we go on vacation for, like, one week, I'm dying to go back to ballet. It seems like I spend half of my life at home and the rest of my life at ballet, so it's very ingrained in me."

Joanna adds: "I always complain, but I really don't think I could ever quit. I'm definitely going to keep on dancing. I just really like to dance."

Which, for Calvin and Patricia, is all the more reason to continue home schooling. "It's been really helpful with the heavy ballet schedule," Patricia says. "It gives us family time together, whereas if they were in school, we'd probably never see each other. After school, there'd be long hours at ballet or tennis, they'd come home to do homework and into bed, and pretty much the whole day is shot. So this way, we've been able to spend a lot of time together."

art It also offers the Lams the flexibility to work on "Nutcracker" costumes during the holiday season. Best of all, there's no homework to pore over at night.

The children, naturally, wouldn't have it any other way. "I can't imagine not having siblings or being home by myself," Nicole says. "They're my family and I've always been with them. There are times when we get on each other's nerves, but that passes. They're basically my best friends."

Other "Nutcrackers"

>> Ballet Hawaii presents "Nutcracker," with Xiomara Reyes, from American Ballet Theatre, as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Joaquin de Luz, from the New York City Ballet, as her Cavalier Prince, at the Blaisdell Concert Hall. Shows are at 8 p.m. Dec. 19, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20 and 2 p.m. Dec. 21. Tickets are $25, 40 and $55 at the Blaisdell box office, Foodland, Sack 'N Save, or by calling toll-free at 877-750-4400 or going online at A gala $125 dinner package is available for opening night. Reserve by calling 395-7216.

>> Honolulu Dance Theatre presents "King Kalakaua's Nutcracker Ballet," a Hawaiian adaptation of the classic. The ballet places the young Princess Ka'iulani in the traditional Clara role and follows her on a journey to a fantastic wonderland, guided by a gallant Warrior. At Hawaii Theatre. Show times are 2 p.m. Dec. 20 and 21, and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20. Tickets are $16, $20 and $24, with a $4 discount for seniors, students, children and military. Call 988-3202.

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