ABT to return to Seoul with ‘Giselle’

By Claire Lee
  • Published : Jul 10, 2012 - 19:31
  • Updated : Jul 10, 2012 - 19:33
Newly promoted principal dancer Seo Hee to perform the lead role

Four years after the American Ballet Theatre charmed Seoulites with “Don Quixote” and “Rabbit and Rogue” in 2008, the renowned American troupe is back in Seoul this month to showcase their romantic ballet “Giselle.”

The upcoming run is stirring even more excitement as the company’s Korean-born member Seo Hee, who is to perform the lead role, was promoted to principal member on Friday. She is the first Korean dancer to hold the position at ABT.

Seo made her debut as Giselle at the New York Metropolitan Opera House last year, when she was one of the troupe’s soloists. Choreographed by French dancers Jean Coralli Peracini (1779-1854) and Jules-Joseph Perrot (1810-1892) “Giselle” is considered one of the greatest romantic ballets of all time. 
Ballerina Seo Hee stars in the American Ballet Theatre’s “Giselle” (The H Entertainment)

It tells the tragic story of a young peasant girl named Giselle, who is betrayed by her noble lover. Upon finding out her lover had secretly been engaged to another woman in the first act, Giselle goes mad and dies. She appears as a ghost in the second act, and tries to protect her lover from other vengeful female spirits.

The 26-year-old joined ABT in 2004, became a member of its corps de ballet in 2006, and was promoted to soloist in August 2010. She made her sensational New York debut as Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet” in July of 2009, when she was only a corps de ballet member. The ballerina has been recognized for her ideal physique for ballet and a distinct aura, on top of her prolific dancing and acting skills.

The dancer started her ballet training in her hometown Seoul, when she was a sixth grader. While attending Korea’s Sun Hwa Arts Middle School in Seoul, she decided to move to the U.S. in 1999 to train at the Universal Ballet Academy in Washington D.C. Prior to joining ABT in 2004, Seo trained at the John Cranko Ballet Academy in Stuttgart, Germany.

“We have seen an increase in ticket sales after Seo’s promotion was announced last week,” said Song Hyun-ah, promoter of the company’s Seoul run.

Sharing Seo’s role of Giselle are ABT’s iconic principals Julie Kent and Paloma Herrera.

Herrera, 36, became a principal dancer with ABT in 1995, only four years after joining its corps de ballet. Kent, on the other hand, who joined ABT’s corps de ballet in 1986, was promoted to soloist in 1990 -- and to principal dancer in 1993. She won the prestigious Prix Benois de la Danse, becoming the only American ballerina ever to have won the prize.

The 42-year-old Kent famously danced onstage during ABT’s 2003 fall season, while she was pregnant with her son, William. She played leads in “Dorian,” “Pillar of Fire,” and “Within You Without You: A Tribute to George Harrison” during her pregnancy, saying she didn’t want to wait “until her career is over” to have a baby. Kent and Herrera are visiting Korea for the first time in 12 years.

“Giselle” runs from July 18-22 at the Seoul Arts Center. Tickets range from 16,500 won-400,000 won. For more information, visit www.abt2012.com or call (02) 598-3119. 

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)