Life’s harsh realities take the stage : Ballet Festival Korea will celebrate the diversity of styles within the booming dance genre

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Life’s harsh realities take the stage : Ballet Festival Korea will celebrate the diversity of styles within the booming dance genre


Choreographer Shin Hyun-ji B Project’s “Moment” will be performed on June 13 and 14 at the Jayu Theater of the Seoul Arts Center. [BAKI]

As a growing number of people rush to buy tickets at local ballet performances before they sell out and adult ballet classes fill up faster than they ever have before, it is hard to deny that ballet is becoming more popular than it has ever been in Korea.

Keeping pace with the heightened public interest, this year’s Ballet Festival Korea, which is in its seventh year, is providing the general public - from laymen to aficionados - the ability not only to see diverse works but also to experience the art firsthand from principal dancers of renowned ballet companies.

From June 8 to 25, 11 Korean ballet companies will each be showing off their works ranging from classical pieces to modern works at the Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul. Although it wasn’t intentional, many of the troupes are showing off works under similar themes: the harsh life of modern people.

Kim Yong-geol Dance Theater’s new work “Step by Step” is a modern piece telling the story of a recently-retired ballerina and a male ballet dancer who will soon retire. As the age of retirement for ballet dancers is quite young, the two dancers in their late 30s worry about their future and look back on the futility of life after spending years focused only on making it to the top of the ballet world.


Left: Korean National Ballet will showcase a number of scenes from their repertoire for the “Ballet Gala” at this year’s Ballet Festival Korea. Right: Dark Circles Contemporary Dance will stage “Ordinary Men” on June 17 and 18 at the Jayu Theater of the Seoul Arts Center. [SERENADE, OK SANG-HOON]

“I got to talk to a dancer who retired from the Korean National Ballet,” said Kim Yong-geol, a choreographer who is leading his own troupe Kim Yong-geol Dance Theater. “Although he wanted to become a principal dancer of the company, he couldn’t break away from being one of the group dancers and eventually reached the age of retirement. I wanted to tell a story through this dance performance, the futile life of ballet dancers yet express their passion towards what they do.”

Wise Ballet Theater’s “The Last Exit,” according to Hong Sung-wook, the theater’s choreographer, is a “sad self-portrait of modern society painted with beautiful movements.” It’s a full-length ballet that was created in 2015 to celebrate the company’s 10th anniversary. Hong says he created the work after being inspired by the hit TV drama “Misaeng,” which depicts the life of a non-regular employee.

The Universal Ballet Company (UBC) and Korean National Ballet will respectively open and close the festival. UBC will be showing off three different modern pieces in its opening performance; “Petit Mort” choreographed by Jiri Kylian, “Minus 7” by Ohad Naharin and the world premiere of “White Sleep,” choreographed by Remondo Rebeck. KNB will close the festival with classical pieces, including the popular “Spartacus.”

“The ballet festival was created in 2011 with one goal in mind, which was to popularize ballet,” said Do Jeong-im, president of the organizing committee. “We’ve prepared an array of works that can be enjoyed by those who never have seen a ballet performance before as well as ballet fans looking for something extra.”


There will also be events for the public to learn ballet including two one-day ballet classes in which the participants will have an opportunity to learn from principal dancers at the country’s two major ballet companies - Kim Ji-young of the Korean National Ballet on June 3 and Ohm Jae-yong of the Universal Ballet on June 10. The classes begin at 11 a.m. at the rehearsal hall of Seoul Arts Center’s Opera House.

There will be presentations on various subjects including ballet and photography, ballet and rehabilitation as well as an introduction by choreographer Kim She-yun before a performance of her new work, “Death Song.” Visitors to the festival can also enjoy taking photos with dancers who will be dressed in their tights and tutus at the outdoor square near the Opera House of the arts center on June 17 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on the festival, visit


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