Prima ballerina returns for final portrayal of Juliet

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Prima ballerina returns for final portrayal of Juliet

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Kang Sue-jin and the Stuttgart Ballet will perform “Romeo and Juliet” in Seoul this month. Provided by the organizer

She is one of Korea’s most beloved Juliets, and possibly one of the world’s favorites, as well. Ballerina Kang Sue-jin is coming to her native country to give what she says will be her last performance in Korea as Juliet in John Cranko’s production of “Romeo and Juliet.”

After studying at the Monaco Royal Ballet School, Kang joined the Stuttgart Ballet, Germany’s first major ballet company, in 1986. Then 19, Kang was the company’s youngest ballerina and its first Asian.

Seven years after joining Stuttgart, Kang made her debut as Juliet, her first big role, receiving critical acclaim for her articulate technique and dramatic interpretation.

“Kang demonstrated perfection in a dance that was traditionally thought to be European,” said Baek Yeon-ok, artistic director of local company Universal Ballet II.

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Kang Sue-jin

The following year, Kang and the corps performed in Korea, leading to a rush of aspiring ballet students hoping to become the next Kang.

“Kang has rich emotions and expressiveness. She is Korea’s top ballerina,” said Choi Tae-ji, artistic director of the Korea National Ballet.

In 1998, the Stuttgart Ballet successfully premiered Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet in New York. A year later, Kang won the dance world’s prestigious Benois prize.

Last year, when she turned 40, Kang was given the title “Kammertanzerin” (female court dancer), a top honor for artistic achievement granted in Germany. She was the first Asian to receive the title.

Kang is also a laureate of the John Cranko Prize, which is awarded by the John Cranko Society in Stuttgart to those making significant contributions in preserving the choreographer’s works.

The upcoming performance will be the last chance for local audiences to catch this beloved prima ballerina in the role that has defined her career. Kang says that it will be years until the ballet returns to Korea, by which time she will probably not be suitable for the role.

The Stuttgart Ballet will perform “Romeo and Juliet” at 8 p.m. on Nov. 17 and 18 at the Grand Theater of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Seoul. Tickets cost from 30,000 won ($23.61) to 250,000 won. For other inquires, contact the organizer at (02) 1577-5266.

By Kim Hyung-eun Staff Reporter [hkim@joongang.co.kr]
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