Epic TV drama becomes ballet piece

By Claire Lee
  • Published : Oct 11, 2012 - 20:41
  • Updated : Oct 11, 2012 - 20:41
Lee Won-kuk Ballet showcases Korean-War tale ‘Eyes of Dawn’

While Korea’s traditional folktales such as “Chunhyang” and “Simcheong” have been made into ballet pieces by major local troupes here, no company has tried to create an original repertoire featuring the nation’s turbulent modern history.

Former Korean National Ballet dancer Lee Won-kuk’s upcoming project “Eyes of Dawn” aims to do exactly that, telling the story of three young souls who live through the Japanese colonial period as well as the Korean War.

Lee, who served as KNB’s principal dancer for more than 10 years, founded his own troupe, Lee Won Kuk Ballet, in 2004. His upcoming show is based on MBC’s mega-hit TV drama of the same title, which was aired from October 1991 to February 1992. 
A scene from Lee Won-kuk Ballet’s original repertoire “Eyes of Dawn.” (Lee Won-kuk Ballet)

The TV drama starred actress Chae Shi-ra and actors Park Sang-won and Choi Jae-sung, all top stars of the time. The show was a TV adaptation of author Kim Seong-jong’s 10-volume series novel of the same title, which was published in 1977. The novel and the TV show brought attention to Japan’s war crimes, including the sex slavery, and the tragedies triggered by Korea’s ideological divisions.

“I’ve always wanted to create a drama ballet that features the tragic modern history of Korea,” said Lee, who read Kim’s novel when he was a teenager and was touched by it.

“I chose to make the piece based on the TV drama, because it is already well known to the public and has literary value. The characters in the piece are unyielding, and courageously fight against their fate in spite of the tragic circumstances.”

The piece is about two hours long, and features well-known classical pieces. The scores include Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B minor, arias from Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen,” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

Lee Won-kuk will dance the role of Dae-chi, one of the three main characters. The character gets drafted to the Japanese military during World War II, and eventually becomes a communist partisan. The role of Yeo-ok, the love interest of Dae-chi and the other male character Ha-rim, will be shared by dancers Choi So-bin, Choi Ye-won and Lee Young-jin.

“Eyes of Dawn” runs from Oct. 26 to 27 at Nowon Arts Center in northern Seoul. Tickets range from 20,000 won to 30,000 won. For more information, call (02) 951-3355.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)