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Korean ballet limbers up for new stages

Korea National Ballet, Universal Ballet fuse ballet with other dances, and plan world tours


Ballet is hot in Korea right now, and ballet companies are eager to make it even hotter.

The graceful dance, which used to enjoyed by only by a small portion of the population because of its seemingly “loftiness,” is gaining popularity among the public both on and off stage.

“Giselle,” which in February became the Korea National Ballet’s first-ever sellout show, proved that the public is perfectly willing to go see ballet.

Ballerinas appear on television talk shows and ballerinos in white tights are in the center of the popular comedy show on KBS 2TV, “BalleriNO.” Sportswear brands like adidas and Freddy are featuring ballet dancers on their campaigns and sha skirts and toe-shoes-inspired-flats are filling the racks in clothes stores.

Buoyed by the interest, two of South Korea’s major ballet companies ― Korea National Ballet and Universal Ballet ― are offering shows to fuel the popularity of ballet even more.

Merging with other dances

Kim Ji-young, the principal dancer at Korea National Ballet, organized a special fusion dance performance with Park Ji-woo, a member of the dance sport national team, who was one of the finalists to the World Professional Latin Final last year.

Titled “Latin Innovation,” the performance will be composed of a variety of dances including ballet, Latin dance and Jazz dance. 
An image of “Latin Innovation” which will take place on April 20 at Seoul Arts Center’s Towol Theater in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul. (Korea National Ballet)
An image of “Latin Innovation” which will take place on April 20 at Seoul Arts Center’s Towol Theater in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul. (Korea National Ballet)

The show will take place on April 20 at Seoul Arts Center’s Towol Theater in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul. Tickets range from 30,000 won to 70,000 won. For more information, call (02) 579-1402.

Kim Joo-won, another one of Korea National Ballet’s principal dancers, and Universal Ballet’s principal dancers Hwang Hye-min and Eom Jae-yong, are participating in The National Theater of Korea’s performance “The NTOK Choice ― Lee Jeong-yun & Etoile.”

In addition to the ballerinas and ballerinos, the performance features acclaimed artists from a variety of genres including Lee Jeong-yun, the star dancer of the National Theater of Korea; Nam Gung-yeon, a jazz musician; Shin Chang-ho, art director of Laboratory Dance Project; Lee Sang-eun, a singer. They will fuse their talents and present a variety of dance and music during the performance’s two-day run.

Among the parts, Kim Joo-won and Lee Jeong-yun’s dance “The One” will be notable. The two had premiered the dance in 2007 at Art Frontier (now Jeongdong Theater) and had received a favorable response. 
A scene from “The One” which was staged in 2007 at Art Frontier. (National Theater of Korea)
A scene from “The One” which was staged in 2007 at Art Frontier. (National Theater of Korea)

The show will run from April 9-10 at The National Theater of Korea’s Haeoreum Theater in Jangchung-dong, central Seoul. Tickets range from 10,000 won to 70,000 won. For more information, call (02) 2280-4115~6 or visit www.ntok.go.kr.

Expanding stages

Universal Ballet recently announced this year’s lineup for its world tour, from which it ultimately aims to visit about 40 different cities until 2013. The main repertoire will be “Simcheong,” the original ballet produced by the company in 1986.

The tour will start at the National Theater in Taiwan on April 4 and 5 and continue at the Esplanade in Singapore on May 6-7; the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, from July 22-24; the Center in Vancouver Performing Arts in Canada from July 29-30; and the Royal Opera House in Muscat, Oman, in Nov. 28.

The company already staged “Simcheong” in Japan in 2010. This year, it will showcase “Giselle” at Tokyo Yuphoto Hall in Tokyo, Yokosuka Art Theater in Yokosuka and Ichikawa-shi Bunka Kaikan in Ichikawa.

This is not the first time the company has held shows overseas. But if the previous shows were to introduce Universal Ballet to the world, this world tour is to reinvigorate the pride and name of classic ballet, said a PR official of the company.

The Korea National Ballet is heading for Italy.

“We have been invited to hold a show at Teatro di San Carlo in Napoli, Italy, in October this year and we are also discussing plans to perform at Terme di Caracalla in Rome in July 2012 and at Teatro dell ‘Opera di Roma in Sept. 2012. We were offered to perform at “les Etes de la Danse,” the annual dance festival held in Paris, in 2014,” said Hwang Bo Yu-mi, vice chief of the company’s planning and PR department.

The company is expanding stages in Korea as well. Although Seoul Arts Center is still the main venue for ballet shows, Korea National Ballet holds shows in other areas of Seoul and also other provinces at least 120 times a year.

This year, it showcased “Don Quixote” at Bucheon community center in Gyeonggi Province last Sunday and “Giselle” at the National Assembly on Tuesday.

By Park Min-young  (claire@heraldcorp.com)
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