Kang Sue-jin proves star power, once again

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jun 12, 2012 - 18:30
  • Updated : Jun 12, 2012 - 18:31
Korean dancer with Germany’s Stuttgart Ballet to perform ‘The Lady of the Camellias’ in its entirety for the last time in Korea this weekend

Ever since the news came out that Kang Sue-jin, the country’s star ballerina with Germany’s Stuttgart Ballet, will be performing the entire piece of “The Lady of the Camellias” for the last time in Seoul, many have raised the big question: Is she retiring?

The 44-year-old prima ballerina, still active on stage and who has already passed the average retirement age for dancers, responded clearly to that question: “No, not anytime soon.”

“When I was in my early 30s, I thought that I would retire before I reached 40. But even after I passed 40, I found ballet more interesting than ever,” Kang told the reporters in Seoul on Monday. Kang and the Stuttgart Ballet are currently in Seoul to stage the ballet drama this weekend at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts. 
Kang Sue-jin (center) poses with her dance partner Marjin Rademaker (left) and artistic director Reid Anderson at a press conference in Seoul on Monday. (Credia)

The ballerina doesn’t know when she will leave the stage but said it will be when she reaches the climax of her career. The reason why she says this will be the last “The Lady of the Camellias” in Seoul is that she can’t think about doing the same piece again in next 10 years.

“I’m sure this will be the last one in Korea. And since this is the last, it means a lot to me,” Kang said.

Asked how she keeps her top position as a ballerina despite her age, she said, “It is because I stay healthy. The reason I could dance this long was because I’ve stayed healthy both mentally and physically.”

“There are some moments that I feel even better than when I was in my 20s. All I can say is thank you for your support and love,” she said.

Even after she retires, she will do something for the next generation of Korean ballet dancers, Kang said.

The press conference held at a hotel in Seoul was packed with journalists and cameras, proving her lasting star power. Reid Anderson, the artistic director of the ballet company, remarked that he had never received such intense attention from the media in his many years of traveling around the world. Tickets for the two-day performance are almost sold out, Credia, the promotion company, said.

Kang is probably the best-known Korean ballerina working on the international dance scene, and has significantly contributed to raising the profile of Korea’s ballet internationally. She joined the Stuttgart Ballet in 1986 and was awarded the Prix Benois de la Danse for her portrayal of the title role in “The Lady of the Camellias.” Kang was the first Asian to be honored as “Kammertanzerin” (chamber dancer) by the German state government of Baden-Wurttemberg.

“A lot of people, they can do the steps but very few people can really dance. I worked with some of the greatest ballerinas around the world ― she is one of them,” Reid Anderson, artistic director of the ballet company said.

Anderson, who called Kang a star dancer, said she has “the thing that really captures one’s imagination and the thing that really understand what it is.”

Marjin Rademaker, who has been Kang’s partner since 2006, also said he was also amazed by “the way she translates her emotion through her body with the music.”

In “The Lady of the Camellias,” Kang plays Marguerite Gautier, a tragic courtesan in 19th century Paris, with Rademaker who plays her counterpart Armand Duval.

“The Lady of Camellias” is based on Alexandre Dumas’ novel about a tragic love between a French courtesan and an aristocrat. Choreographed by John Neumeier, the signature work by the Stuttgart Ballet is well known for its original dramatic structure.

The ballet features beautiful preludes, waltzes and ballads by Frederic Chopin. Rademaker who partnered with Kang for her “Romeo and Juliet” performance in Seoul in 2008, will once again accompany the ballerina.

Tickets for “The Lady of Camellias” range from 50,000 won to 250,000 won. For more information, call 1577-5266 or visit www.clubbalcony.com.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)