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Bolshoi Ballet gala show in Seoul canceled

Latest cancellation of Russian artists not motivated by political considerations, Sejong Center says

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : April 16, 2024 - 18:36

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The poster for the Super Ballet Concert of Ballet & Model 2024 in Seoul (Ballet & Model) The poster for the Super Ballet Concert of Ballet & Model 2024 in Seoul (Ballet & Model)

A gala ballet concert featuring the principal dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet has been canceled.

The performance, newly titled “Super Ballet Concert of Ballet & Model 2024 in Seoul” from the initial title “Bolshoi Ballet Gala Concert 2024 in Seoul,” was scheduled to be held at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts from Tuesday to Friday.

The cancellation came after the organizer’s proposal for alterations to the show’s cast and program was rejected by the concert hall on Friday.

The organizer, Ballet & Model, who had signed a deal with the Sejong Center last October to stage the show at the venue, made several changes to the cast and program on March 28.

The number of ballet dancers decreased from 20 to 8, with the number of Bolshoi Ballet's principal dancers down from 12 to six. Six programmed pieces were scrapped, while four new numbers were added.

“There was a unanimous opinion from the committee that the changes were too substantial. Had the application been submitted with the current program lineup, the initial approval would not have been obtained,” an official from the Sejong Center, a cultural institution affiliated with Seoul City, told The Korea Herald on Monday.

The Sejong Center said that the organizer should have kept to the original plan, adding that the performance could have been staged had the initial plan been adhered to.

“Political issues were not taken into consideration. The evaluation was based solely on the quality of the performance,” added the official.

The official denied the recent cancellation of "Modanse" amid the global cancellation of Russian artists' shows or the recent protests against the performance in front of the Sejong Center by a group of Ukrainians and Russians living in Korea had influenced center's decision.

Ballet & Model argued that the changes were made to elevate the show's quality. The cancellation of Russian ballerina Svetlana Zakharova's performance last month prompted them to seek a high-caliber performance from the Bolshoi Ballet, said Choi Jun-seok, CEO of Ballet & Model. Choi attributed the change in the title to the company's desire to "deliver a pure heart for ballet."

Zakharova, a renowned ballerina closely associated with the Putin administration, was scheduled to perform at the Seoul Arts Center on April 17-21 in the ballet "Modanse" when the organizer canceled the show on March 15, accepting Seoul Arts Center's request to do so.

"We have decided to cancel the event due to concerns about the safety of both artists and audiences, as well as at the request of the Seoul Arts Center," InArts Production, the show's organizer, had said at the time.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Seoul had expressed its opposition to the performance.

“While it may appear that the number of performers has decreased, the final casting was completed with veteran dancers and promising young talents (from the Bolshoi Ballet), including the chief conductor of the Bolshoi Theater, (Anton Grishanin),” said Choi.

"It's disappointing that despite the essence of 'Bolshoi' remaining unchanged, the performance had to be canceled.”

Meanwhile, the Russian Embassy in Seoul issued a statement Tuesday expressing "deep regret" over the performance's cancellation.

"In this series of events, we cannot help but notice that Korea is showing a certain trend in its cooperation with Russia in the cultural sphere. We will have to take this into consideration," the embassy said, also referring to the cancellation of Zakharova's show.