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Grigorovich, National Ballet reunite for ‘Spartacus’

Russia’s legendary choreographer calls KNB professional, its members enthusiastic

He is back in Seoul to showcase one of his most famous productions, the heroic tale of a Roman slave who sparked a rebellion during the Third Servile War (73-71 B.C.)

Russia’s legendary ballet choreographer Yury Grigorovich is to present his 1968 work “Spartacus” with Korea National Ballet this week.

“The piece requires high level of techniques and energy from the dancers,” said the choreographer during a press meeting in Seoul on Monday. He arrived in Korea on Sunday to supervise the upcoming show.

“Not many ballet troupes can manage to perform this piece well. I think KNB is very professional, and the dancers are very much focused and enthusiastic.”

Russian ballet choreographer Yury Grigorovich speaks during a press meeting at Seoul Arts Center in Seoul, Monday. (KNB)

Russian ballet choreographer Yury Grigorovich speaks during a press meeting at Seoul Arts Center in Seoul, Monday. (KNB)

This isn’t Grigorovich’s first time working with KNB for the heroic tale, which requires a large number of male dancers as well as strictly synchronized corps de ballet. KNB in fact was the first Asian troupe to perform the piece in 2001, under the guidance of Grigorovich. Following the success of the first run, the national ballet troupe co-staged the piece with Russia’s Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre in Seoul in 2007.

“I think KNB director Choi Tae-ji has done a marvelous job creating the right environment for the dancers,” Grigorovich said. “The dancers keep pushing themselves to the limit, enjoy what they do, and really try to pull out their best efforts.”

Grigorovich, who celebrated his 85th birthday in January, was appointed as the artistic director of the Bolshoi Theatre in 1964. The former soloist of the Mariinsky Theatre dominated the Russian ballet scene for nearly 30 years, showcasing some of the most famous classical ballet productions including “The Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake,” and “Ivan the Terrible.” He has received numerous awards and honors from both the Russian government and former Soviet Union for his artistic contribution.

“I received another order of merit from the government on my 85th birthday,” said Grigorovich.

“I see politics and art as two separate things. I simply see the honors I receive from the government as their expression of appreciation. While it may be true that artists are often controlled by the politics in Russia and other countries, I think it’s ultimately up to the artist’s decision and will to be who they want to become artistically.”
A scene from the Korea National Ballet’s upcoming show “Spartacus.” (KNB)
A scene from the Korea National Ballet’s upcoming show “Spartacus.” (KNB)

Praised for its powerful, masculine choreography, “Spartacus” is considered one of the most prominent among the Bolshoi repertoires. Its musical score was initially created by Soviet composer Aram Khachaturian in 1954, and was first staged as a ballet piece in 1956 with choreography by Leonid Yakobson. The piece was later altered by Bolshoi choreographer Igor Moiseev and staged in 1958. Yet it was Grigorovich’s 1968 production, which strayed from both Yakobson and Moiseev’s works, that received the highest acclaim.

“I will remember the first show of ‘Spartacus’ forever,” said Grigorovich. “It took place back in 1968 but I still remember it vividly. We had the most prolific dancers for the show. The piece has been made into many different versions and shown to a lot of people worldwide. But no show can replace what the first show means to me.”

The upcoming show features KNB’s principal male dancers Lee Dong-hoon, Lee Young-cheol and principal ballerina Kim Ji-young.

“Spartacus” runs at Seoul Arts Center from April 13 to 15. Tickets range from 5,000 won to 100,000 won. For more information, call (02) 587-6181.

By Claire Lee (
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Korea Herald daum