Seo Hee returns home as Giselle

By Claire Lee
  • Published : Jul 22, 2012 - 19:55
  • Updated : Jul 22, 2012 - 19:57
26-year-old recently promoted to principal ballerina shines in second act

One of the most anticipated ballet performances of the year was unveiled last week, featuring Korean-born American Ballet Theatre dancer Seo Hee as the timeless romantic heroine Giselle.

The renowned American troupe’s Seoul run created a lot of buzz even before the opening, for its notoriously expensive ticket prices (400,000 won for a VIP seat), as well as Seo’s sudden promotion to principal dancer just weeks before the company’s arrival in Seoul.

The troupe’s five-day run of “Giselle” opened on Wednesday at Seoul Arts Center, featuring its iconic principal dancers Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes in the leading roles. Seo’s first show of the run took place on Thursday night in which she was paired with fellow principal dancer Cory Stearns.

Seo made her debut as Giselle at the New York Metropolitan Opera House last year, when she was one of the troupe’s soloists. Thursday’s show was Seo’s first performance as Giselle after her promotion to principal status. Prior to the Seoul run, she performed the lead in “La Bayadere,” one of the staples of the ABT repertoire, in Taipei, Taiwan.
ABT’s principal ballerina Seo Hee (right) performs the leading role in “Giselle.” (The H Entertainment)

The 26-year-old, who has been recognized for her ideal physique for ballet and distinct aura, showed off her youthful poise as the fragile peasant girl Giselle in the first act. Her acting felt artificial at times, however, especially in the scene where her character goes mad and dies upon finding out her noble lover Albrecht’s secret engagement with another woman.

The show, including Seo’s performance, was much stronger in the second act. ABT principal dancer Veronika Part was engrossing as Myrta, the queen of vengeful female spirits. The dancer captivated the audience with her polished technique and charismatic acting. Part’s grasp of the character shined especially when Myrta mercilessly forces men ― who have wronged her fellow spirits in life ― to dance until death.

The plot of the ghostly act develops as the “wilis,” the female spirits, try to cast a curse on Albrecht during his visit to Giselle’s grave at dawn. Seo was much more convincing as the forgiving wili than the pure peasant girl in the first act, as she begged Myrta not to punish her lover despite his betrayal. Seo and Stearns’ second act pas de deux was also more moving than the one in the first act. Seo’s Giselle danced weightlessly as if she were floating. The troupe’s corps de ballet as wilis was also dominating.

Meanwhile, ABT principal dancers and married couple Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky, who did not perform for the Seoul run of “Giselle,” will perform at a gala event for the upcoming Great Mountains Music Festival in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, on July 28.

Seo Hee, on the other hand, is scheduled to give ballet lessons at a Seoul-based troupe’s summer classes from July 23 to Aug. 4.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)