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Korea is our neighbor in East Asia, but this was the first time for me to see ballet danced by the Korean.
During the Festival "Meet in Beijing 2000", Korea National Ballet came to Beijing and gave two performances at the Central Theater in May 22 and 23.. Program in both nights was the same: Grand-Pas de Deux from La Esmeraljda, Pdd from Flames of Paris, the Dance of Frandos from Laulencia, Grand-Pas Classique, Venice Carnival in the first half, and the wedding scene from Paquita in the second half. They danced with taped music.
According to the program notes, there were 7 principal dancers in the company, and three of them seemed to be BIB STARS in Korea. Lee Won-kook, who joined the company in 1997, was a male dancer who reminded me of Shimizu Tetsutaro in appearance (Ms. Yoko Morishita's husband and partner in Japan). The program note says: "Lee became a pathfinder opening the era of the male dancer in Korea". Kim Ji-young, a female dancer with educational background at Vaganova Academy, joined the company in 1997 and has won grand prize in the 1998 Paris International Competition. Kim Ju-won, studied dancing at the Bolshoi Academy in Moscow and joined the company in 1998.
Kim Ji-young danced Esmeralda pdd in both nights. She showed us strong technique and pretty high leg-extension. I think the only thing she lacked was musicality and the feeling. That's why I couldnĄŻt enjoy her dancing very much. Her partner was Kim Bo-young, the company's soloist with handsome look and quite reliable technique.
Kim Ju-won did Grand-Pas Classique with Lee Won-kook in both nights. She was a pretty (for Koreans) girl with small head and beautiful long neck. She of course lacked the brilliance and dignity that Sylvie Guillem had showed us a year before, especially in her pointe variation (any way, itĄŻs unfair to compare this young girl to Sylvie), and she almost failed in her fouettes in the second night, but she could feel and dance the music. So I enjoyed her lovely dancing more than Kim Ji-young's. Lee Won-kook was almost equally nice.
The other pieces were not so bad. Flames of Paris were danced by Kim Eun-joung (May 22) and Kim Ha-sun (May 23) with Shin Moo-sup as their partners in both nights. Kim Eun-joung was one of the principal dancers at the company. I think she was slightly better than Kim Ha-sun. Shin Moo-sup was a principal too. He has strong turning and jumping technique, but the movement of his arms and upper half of his body was not smart at all.
Laulencia was danced by a character dancer called Park II in both nights. I guess he must like this short piece very much, because he danced it in quite an emotional way. It was first time for me to see this solo piece, it seemed to me rather Spanish.
Venice Carnival was a piece danced by a pair of soloists and an "ensemble" (4 pairs). In the first night, Park Sin-young and Choi Se-young, and in the second night Kim Hea-won and Jung Nam-youl appeared as the soloists. I like the first pair more, because I think they were smarter and cut better figure than the second pair.
Its Paquita was a re-choreographed piece with many variations (by Choi Tae-ji, the company"s director). It lasted about 30 minutes (I think it was the longest Paquita I have ever seen), Kim Ju-won and Lee Won-kook danced the final Grand pdd in the first night, and did it very well. There were many Korean people among the audiences. They sent huge Bravi and applause to this couple and were reworded excellent dancing. Lee Won-kook showed us swift pirouettes (about 10 turns I think) and Kim Ju-won managed to complete her fouettes raced by some doubles. Kim Ji-young did this Grand pdd with Lee Won-kook in the second night. She showed us much better dancing than her Esmeralda, but not as nice as Kim Ju-won. The latter did a variation in second night, but it was less impressing. Lee Won-kook was also less good than the first night.
According to the program notes, the Korea National Ballet was established in 1962. It has 50 house dancers. In general view, I think they have pretty good dancers at principal level, but far less good corps when compared with the Chinese companies because Korea is a country with smaller population and shorter tradition with ballet. I think they are working very hard to improve themselves.
I forgot to say: I had expected a Korean piece but they did nothing. That was a real pity for me.