Marcia Haydee to direct Korean National Ballet in ‘The Sleeping Beauty’

By Korea Herald

Ballerina-turned-choreographer reflects on initial reluctance to direct, greater lesson behind fairy-tale classic

  • Published : Oct 25, 2016 - 16:45
  • Updated : Oct 25, 2016 - 16:45

When John Cranko, the founder and first director of the leading German ballet company Stuttgart Ballet, mentioned Marcia Haydee’s potential as a choreographer, she was adamantly against this outlook.

“I told him I just wanted to dance,” Haydee told a group of reporters during an interview held at the Seoul Arts Center’s N Studio in Seoul on Tuesday.

A former prima ballerina of the Stuttgart Ballet, she is now recognized as a leading artistic director.

Currently leading the Santiago Ballet in Chile, Haydee is best known for her rendition of some of the best-known classics, including “The Sleeping Beauty,” which will be performed by the Korean National Ballet in Seoul next month.

“(The Korean National Ballet) is an amazing group, and it’s fascinating how quickly (the dancers) learn and understand,” said Haydee, who was invited to the company by CEO and artistic director Kang Sue-jin. 

Marcia Haydee, the artistic director of the Santiago Ballet, speaks to reporters at Seoul Arts Center’s N Studio in Seoul on Tuesday. (Korean National Ballet)

Born in Brazil and educated in London at the Royal Ballet School, she joined the Stuttgart Ballet, then under Cranko, in 1961. Undoubtedly a favorite among the era’s most prominent choreographers, including Kenneth MacMillan, John Neumeier, Maurice Bejart and Glen Tetley, Haydee enjoyed her time in the spotlight as the leading ballerina in the classic repertoire, including “Romeo and Juliet,” “Medea,” “Onegin” and countless others.

Following Cranko’s death in 1973, she assumed his position in 1976 and stayed until 1996. In 1993, she joined the Santiago Ballet, where she continues to direct to this day.

“When I took over at Stuttgart, there came a time when I felt that the company needed a new classic, and we didn’t have ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ at the time,” Haydee explained. “I myself had danced everything except ‘The Sleeping Beauty.’”

Over the years, the choreography for the classic fairy-tale has not changed much, according to the 79-year-old director. However, she always makes sure that the roles given the dancers allow them to highlight their unique strengths.

At the Korean National Ballet, the company’s 26-year-old principal dancer Lee Jae-woo, who plays the wicked fairy Carabosse, stands out in Haydee’s eyes.

The Santiago Ballet performs Marcia Haydee’s rendition of the classic “The Sleeping Beauty” (Patricio Melo)

“He is one of the tallest men in ballet I have ever seen,” she said. “When I first met him, I couldn’t believe it.”

Apart from Lee, the role of Carabosse itself holds a special meaning to the artistic director.

“In my version (of ‘The Sleeping Beauty’), the last person to appear on stage is Carabosse because nobody can kill evil, and that’s the truth of life,” Haydee explained. “In all of us, there is always both good and evil.”

The Korean National Ballet will be performing Haydee’s rendition of “The Sleeping Beauty” at the Seoul Arts Center Opera House from Nov. 3-6. The performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. on weekdays, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets range from 5,000 won ($4.40) to 100,000 won and can be reserved at ticket.interpark.com.

For more information, visit www.korean-national-ballet.kr.

By Kim Yu-young (ivykim@heraldcorp.com)