Korea's Ballet Talent Pool Growing by Leaps

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Korea's Ballet Talent Pool Growing by Leaps

During the past few years, ballet here has seen something of a flowering as many Korean ballerinas have gained international recognition. On June 18, Kim Joo-won of the Korea National Ballet won the bronze medal and her dance partner Lee Won-Kook the best partner award at the Moscow International Ballet Competition. Last April, Kim Se-yeon and Um Jae-yong of the Universal Ballet Company won a silver medal in the duet category at the International Ballet Competition in Luxembourg. Hong Jung-min and Shin Hyun-ji of Korea National Ballet took bronze in the same category.

Bolstering all these successes has been the steady support of Korean ballet fans. Their interest has spurred Korean ballet companies to invest much effort in improving the quality of their productions. Well-known ballets staged by the Universal Ballet Company or Korea National Ballet, such as "The Nutcracker," "Swan Lake" and "Romeo and Juliet," have drawn enough ticket sales to make them economically feasible.

Of course, another important factor in the rising status of Korean ballet is hard work on the part of performers, many of whom have been studying and working abroad. Ballerinas such as Kang Sue-jin, the principal dancer at the Stuttgart Ballet of Germany and many other bright lights at world-famous ballet companies including the American Ballet Theater, Bolshoi Theater, Kirov Ballet and Paris Opera Ballet have become an inspiration to dancers in Korea.

Seven Korean ballerinas working abroad will come to Korea to perform at LG Arts Center in Seoul on July 14 and 15. They are: Hue Young-soon (Deutsche Oper am Rhein Dusseldorf), Ryu Ji-yeon (Kirov Ballet at the Maryinsky Theater), Bae Joo-yoon (Bolshoi Ballet Theatre), Kang Yena (American Ballet Theater), Kwak Kyu-dong (Nevada Ballet Theater), Kim Hye-young (Atlanta Ballet) and Choi Kwang-suk (Ballet San Jose). The performance will also feature two contemporary dancers, Kim Na-young (Wuppertal Tanz Theater) and Kim Hee-jin (Jean-Claude Gallotta). Lee Won-kook (Korea National Ballet) will make a special appearance as the partner of Kang Yena. The performance will feature a variety of dances including modern ballet pieces and contemporary dance pieces, as well as classical ballet in gala style.

Dancers such as Kang Yena, Ryu Ji-yeon and Bae Joo-yoon are drawing the most attention. All three have won prizes at prestigious ballet competitions and have worked in at least one of the world's top four ballet companies. At the upcoming performance, Ms. Kang will present "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux," Ms. Ryu "Giselle," and Ms. Bae "Esmeralda." Kim Na-young and Kim Hee-jin, on the other hand, will perform dances choreographed themselves such as the highly theatrical "One, and Two" and "Anonymous Society."

This performance is expected to be a lot of fun for viewers since it is a collection of the most spectacular scenes from some of the best-loved dance works. It may not be, however, an easy one performance for the dancers, as they may feel the pressure of comparison. "The performance will be a chance for me to watch my colleagues dance and for us to offer each other our encouragement and support. Still, I feel a little bit pressured about proving how well I and other dancers have been doing abroad in front of a Korean audience," said Kang Yena, one of the performers, in a telephone interview. Of the dancers to perform, Ms. Kang is the only one who has worked with ballet companies both in and outside Korea.

The performance will begin at 7 p.m. on July 14 and at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on July 15. For more information, call LG Arts Center at 02-2005-0114 (English service available).

by Park So-young

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