This year, the Universal Ballet will be holding four productions under the motto “Good Friends… Great Ballet!” The company has been providing audiences with dazzling displays since its debut in 1984 and this year will surely not disappoint. Swan Lake will start it all off at the end of April followed by Shim Chung, Romeo and Juliet and The Nutcracker in December. In 1999, Anna Kisselgoff wrote in The New York Times, “[Not] every company [can] drill into its corps de ballet the astounding precision and attention to stylistic detail that the Universal Ballet from South Korea demonstrated in Swan Lake.” The season of great ballet is thus destined to start off with a tutu-clad bang.
Swan Lake kicks off the ballet season in Seoul this season. Originally composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1875, the show was a flop when it was first staged in Moscow in 1877, but most people around the world today know of the infamous ballet. That first performance received much criticism over the dancers, the orchestra and the stage sets, with the music barely appreciated. Though originally ill-received, the ballet was revived in 1895 and masterfully re-choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov; it saw further changes in 1950 by Konstantin Sergeyev and Oleg Vinogradov, both of whom served as the head of the ballet company at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. The Universal Ballet now uses the 1950 work with revisions for their 150-minute showing, which will likely be anything but a flop. In 2012, Adrienne Sichel wrote in the Tonight Review, “Exquisite Korean artistry straight from tutu heaven… Indeed, the Universal Ballet of Korea, which made its African debut on the Mandela Stage of the Joburg Theatre for four performances, was flying Korea’s flag with pride… Without question the female corps de ballet is straight from tutu heaven.” Tutu heaven certainly brings gorgeous onstage visions to mind.
The ballet tells the story of Odette and Odile, two girls that resemble each other so much that they could be mistaken for one another. Act I begins with Prince Siegfried, who must choose a wife; when night falls, he decides to head out to shoot a noble swan with his bow and arrow. While on the chase, the Swan Queen, Odette, comes to him in human form and tells a tale involving her falling under the spell of an evil sorcerer who has made her a swan by day. She is also persecuted by her step-mother, who wants her to marry, and her only protection is her crown. A bevy of swans arrive to protect their queen but the prince has decided to lay down his crossbow, dance the night away with Odette and profess his love to her. The following night when questioned on whom he wants to marry, Prince Siegfried replied that none in attendance would do. Just then, Baron Von Rothbart enters with Odile, who immediately catches the eye of the prince due to her resemblance to Odette. They are betrothed but come nightfall, the prince realizes his mistake. Though Odette is understanding and forgives the prince, Von Rothbart tells him that he must honor his proposal or face death along with Odette. A fight ensues and at long last, the love of the prince and Odette breaks the spell and the swans are released.
While it is one of those renowned performances, it is not every day that the opportunity to see the show by a company such as The Universal Ballet comes up. Edward Tsumele described the performance as “magic” saying, “Ballerinas bewitch the audience. It was a rare performance by a top international ballet company whose significance was both artistic and diplomatic.” Enjoy something different this spring by heading to the Universal Arts Center near Children’s Grand Park. Take in the beauty, the strength and the confidence of the enthralling dancers that will take the stage to showcase one of the most beloved ballets of all time.
Where: Universal Arts Center
Directions: Achasan Station (Line 5, Exit 4). The Universal Arts Center is on the left.
When: March 23, 2016 – April 3, 2016
What Time: Weekdays 8pm, Saturday 3pm & 7pm, Sunday 3pm
Admission: R- KRW 100,000/ S- KRW 60,000/ A – KRW 30,000/ B – KRW 10,000
Discounts: 20% discount available for expats and tourists and any accompanying Korean friends. Must show valid passport or alien registration card at the box office when picking up the tickets.
Performance Time: 2 hours 30 minutes (A 20-minute intermission included)
Hallie Bradley is a writer, educator, editor and more who has lived in Korea since 2006. Check out her website TheSoulofSeoul.net for more articles on culture, Korean traditions and the life of her growing multicultural family in Korea.