|A scene from the National Dance Company of Korea’s “Chum, Chunhyang” (left) and the Korean National Ballet’s “Giselle” (The National Theater of Korea)|
Fall is rolling in fast in Seoul and Korea’s national dance troupes are presenting some of the most poignant love stories this month.
The Korean National Ballet and the National Dance Company of Korea are presenting the romantic ballet “Giselle” and traditional Korean dance “Chum, Chunhyang” at the National Theater of Korea from Oct. 17 to 23.
It is the first time that the two dances will be performed at the same venue on alternate days. This means the National Theater of Korea staff will be switching the stage settings every night, from a rural French town to the North Jeolla Province city of Namwon in the Joseon period.
“We are doing this to cater to a wide range of audiences including foreign visitors who are only staying for a limited amount of time,” said The National Theater of Korea in a statement. “This way, more people will be tempted to watch both of the dances, which are very different from one another.” While Giselle is a timeless romantic heroine, Chunhyang is one of the most beloved characters in Korean folklore.
Choreographed by French dancers Jean Coralli Peracini (1779-1854) and Jules-Joseph Perrot (1810-1892), “Giselle” is considered one of the most iconic romantic ballets of all time.
It tells the tragic story of a young peasant girl named Giselle, who is betrayed by her noble lover Albrecht. Upon finding out he 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 Albrecht from other vengeful female spirits.
Korean National Ballet’s three principal ballerinas ― Kim Ji-young, Lee Eun-won, and Park Seuk-ki ― are sharing the role of Giselle for the upcoming run. The state ballet troupe had a very successful run of the romantic ballet back in 2011 which completely sold out. The organizers had to open extra seats on the fourth floor of Seoul Arts Center’s Opera Theater due to high demand.
The National Dance Company of Korea’s “Chum, Chunhyang” (“Dance, Chunhyang”) is a dance version of the popular local folktale “Chunhyangjeon.”
The story tells a story of Chun-hyang, a beautiful and talented young woman whose mother is a gisaeng, a low-class courtesan living in Namwon, North Jeolla Province.
She falls in love with Mong-ryong, a son of an aristocrat living in the same town. After promising to have a life together, the young man leaves for the capital to sit for the civil service exam.
Before leaving Namwon, Mong-ryong tells Chunhyang he’ll come back for her as soon as he passes the exam, and asks her to wait for him. She promises she will ― not knowing what kind of hardship awaits in order for her to keep her word.
The Chun-hyang character is known for her loyalty and bravery, as she chooses to endure ordeals and resist authority to keep her promise with Mong-ryong ― in spite of her low social status. Many cultural events celebrating the character are still held in present-day Namwon, including the annual Chunhyang Festival and Miss Chunhyang pageant.
The folktale is also famous for its pansori version, Chunhyangga, one of the most famous pansori ― a traditional narrative song accompanied by percussion ― in Korea. It has been made into films as well, including Im Kwon-taek’s 2000 film “Chunhyang” and Kim Soo-yong’s 1968 film of the same title.
The National Dance Company of Korea, formed in 1962 with the aim of creating new dances based solely on Korean traditional dance, is offering a narrative-driven dance that features traditional Korean dance techniques. The piece features a total of 55 dancers with a visually striking stage design. The troupe performed the piece in China, Hong Kong and the Philippines in 2009, and at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York in 2010.
“Chum, Chunhyang” will be performed on Oct. 17, 19, 23, while “Giselle” will be staged on Oct. 18, 20, 22. For more information, call (02) 2280-5830.
By Claire Lee (email@example.com)