They're Dancing in the Aisles - for Real

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They're Dancing in the Aisles - for Real

For years, the Seoul Ballet Theater has been experimenting with making ballet accessible to a wider range of audiences. The troupe has been creating works incorporating modern music and dance styles, such as those from jazz and musicals.

In its latest production, "Warehouse," the group once again dares to combine musical genres like folk, rock and disco with traditional ballet. This unconventional work, which draws on characters from Goethe's classic "Faust," sketches a retrospective portrait of a middle-aged man. The ballet was choreographed by James Jeon and is being staged at Hanjeon Artspoolcenter in Seoul. It opened Saturday and runs until Nov. 4.

Mr. Jeon said he considers "Warehouse" an adventurous work that can accomplish two aims that may seem mutually exclusive: artistic depth and popularity. "I am afraid that ballet can no longer survive without winning the heart of the general public," Mr. Jeon said.

Keeping that goal in mind, the producers of "Warehouse" are intent on making this work as fun as possible. For the dancers in "Warehouse," there will be little boundary between the stage and the audience. The creators of the ballet will extend the dancing territory to include the aisles of the theater and even the lobby to better connect with the audience. In effect, Mr. Jeon said, the whole theater will be turned into a warehouse of people, music and dance. All sorts of familiar tunes dating from the '70s and '80s will be included in the score, as well as a modernized performance of samulnori, or the Korean traditional percussion band. Special effects will include images, beamed on a multisegmented screen, that will complement the musical selections to better convey the retro feel of the work. The costumes and the sets, also designed to stir up nostalgia, will nevertheless look refined enough to satisfy contemporary tastes.

The story line follows Faust, an ordinary man in his 40s, as he journeys back in time at a memory warehouse run by Mephisto. Flipping through an old photo album, Faust recalls significant periods of his life, especially those spent with his first love. Through the journey, the audience experiences the culture and life of Koreans since the 1970s.

Despite the ballet's focus on contemporary Korean history, it could still be a "universal piece" if it is visually appealing enough, Mr. Jeon said.

The ballet theater will stage "Warehouse" 36 times, which is quite a run for a Korean ballet production. Maintaining the troupe's optimism and strength will be key for the success of the ambitious production. Performances start at 8 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekends. There are no performances on Mondays.

For more information, visit www.ballet.or.kr or call Ticketlink 1588-7890 (English available).

by Ki Sun-min

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