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Kang Sue-jin: ‘The time was now or never’

Kang Sue-jin: ‘The time was now or never’

Famed ballerina speaks about her role as the Korean National Ballet’s new artistic director

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Published : 2013-12-19 19:32
Updated : 2013-12-19 19:32

Ballerina Kang Sue-jin, who has been appointed the next artistic director of the Korean National Ballet, speaks during a press conference in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)

It was like meeting “the one” you want to marry ― when you know, you just know.

Famed ballerina Kang Sue-jin said that’s exactly how she felt when she was asked to be the next artistic director of the Korean National Ballet.

“I’ve received the same offer a number of times in the past,” the Korean-born, Germany-based dancer said during a press conference in Seoul, Wednesday. She accepted the offer this time, and her three-year tenure starts in February.

“But I never really felt I was ready until now. The idea didn’t really appeal to me. But when I was asked again this time, my instincts said I should take it. It just felt right. I felt the time was ‘now or never.’”

Kang, considered one of the most acclaimed Korean dancers, has been with Germany’s Stuttgart Ballet since 1986. She was promoted to principal in 1997. The 46-year-old has won numerous prestigious awards, including the Prix de Lausanne in 1985 and the Prix Benois de la Danse in 1999.

She was named “Kammertanzerin,” or royal court dancer, by the German government in 2007, which is the highest national honor given to a dancer in the country.

Having danced for almost 30 years overseas, Kang has never taken on an administrative role before.

“I am well aware that there are concerns about my lack of experience in administrative positions,” said Kang, who received her first administrative briefing from the Korean National Ballet staff on Wednesday morning.

“I don’t hesitate to try new things, even if I’m afraid. I received the first ‘administrative briefing’ of my life this morning and it was a lot of fun. I was surprised to find myself understanding (the content of the briefing) a lot more than I expected. I think with time and practice I’ll get better at this eventually.”

Kang is to continue dancing on stage for the next three years, while serving as the head of the Korean National Ballet at the same time. Kang said she will cancel her pre-booked performances with the Stuttgart Ballet, except for the three that will take place in Korea: “Madame Butterfly,” with the Innsbruck Dance Company in July 2014; “Onegin,” with the Stuttgart Ballet in 2015; and a special performance commemorating her retirement, scheduled to take place in 2016.

“I’ve taught other dancers before and it’s always easier to show (things by dancing) than to explain,” Kang said. “So I think the fact that I am a dancer as well as their director can only benefit the dancers of the Korean National Ballet. I can’t see this being a negative factor.”

Kang stressed that what she considers most important in any ballet company is teamwork. “One of my goals is to develop a distinctive style for the Korean National Ballet,” Kang said. “I want every single dancer of the troupe, regardless of their rank, to shine on stage.”

The Korean National Ballet opens its 2014 season with Marius Petipa’s “La Bayadere” early next year.

By Claire Lee (

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