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Variety spice of life for ‘The Nutcracker’

“The Nutcracker” by the Korea National Ballet (left) and by the Univeral Ballet Company
“The Nutcracker” by the Korea National Ballet (left) and by the Univeral Ballet Company
Top ballet companies and Hyundai Capital stage different versions of season’s favorite performance

Regardless of what genre it is adapted to, “The Nutcracker” has been a Christmas season favorite for a long time. This year is no exception. Seoul’s three top ballet companies and Hyundai Capital are staging the show, each with their own unique interpretation.

Universal Ballet Company is getting ready to attract fans with its best-selling adaption of “The Nutcracker” from Dec. 21 to 31 at Universal Art Center in Neung-dong, eastern Seoul.

Premiered in 1986 by UBC, the show is based on 19th century German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann’s version of the story and French ballet choreographer Marius Petipa’s dance.

Refined by Russian choreographer Vasily Vainonen, the show is particularly known for its Act 2 when ten children tumble out of Mother Ginger’s skirt. The scene is staged only in the daytime show.

UBC has cast 10 of its finest dancers to play the main roles of the show including principal ballerinas Hwang Hye-min and Kang Ye-na and ballerinos Eom Jae-yong and Lee Hyun-jun.

Korea National Ballet showcases Russian choreographer Yury Grigorovich’s version of “The Nutcracker” from Dec. 16 to 25 at Seoul Arts Center’s Opera Theater in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul.

In KNB’s version, the heroine Clara is rechristened Mary and the magician Drosselmeyer’s occupation is changed to a lawyer. Child dancers have the role of the nutcracker, which is usually substituted with a wooden doll elsewhere. 

KNB lined up stars for the role of Mary and the Nutcracker as well, including ballerinas Kim Ji-young and Park Seul-ki and Kim Li-hoe and ballerinos Lee Dong-hoon, Lee Young-cheol and Jung Yeoung-jae.

Seoul Ballet Theater differentiated its Nutcracker from other ballet companies’ by pepping it up with Korean traditional culture.

Choreographed by James Jeon, the ballet is faster in tempo compared to other versions and uniquely introduces dancers decked in “hanbok,” or Korean traditional costume, when various dances of the world are staged. Dancers play “jangu” and “sogo,” different types of Korean traditional drums, and spin “sangmo,” a hat with a long white ribbon, which creates white circles in the air.

SBT’s “The Nutcracker” will be showcased at Goyang Oulim Nuri Arts Center in Seongsa-dong, Gyeonggi Province, from Dec. 29 to 31.

An unexpected addition to the list of “The Nutcracker” this year is Hyundai Capital’s show “Stop & Listen.” The consumer finance company selected the classic performance for its fifth version of “Stop & Listen,” a street pop-up show aimed at injecting culture into everyday life. Its previous shows were composed of piano recitals and operas.

The shows have so far been held Cheongryangri Station in central Seoul and at Times Square in Yeongdeungpo-dong, western Seoul. Dancing to “The Nutcracker” reinterpreted into the modern and poppin’ dance versions as well as ballet, ballerinas Kim Ha Ye-rin and Lee Seon-tae, modern dance company Laboratory Dance Project, and Poppin’ Hyunjun, a popular dance figure, heated up the stage.

Shows are coming up at Central City in Banpo-dong, southern Seoul on Dec. 14, 5 p.m; at Asan Medical Center in Pungnab-dong, southern Seoul, on Dec. 16, 12 p.m; and at Centum City in Busan Metropolitan City on Dec. 18, 6 p.m.

For UBC’s show, tickets range from 10,000-100,000 won. For tickets, call 1544-1555 or visit

For KNB’s show, tickets range from 5,000 won to 90,000 won. For more information, call (02) 587-6181 or visit

For SBT’s show, tickets range from 30,000 won to 70,000 won. For more information, call (02) 3442-2637 or visit

By Park Min-young  (