East Meets West in Harmony of Dance
By Han Sang-hee
``East Meets West,'' the international exchange project of Seoul Ballet Theater (SBT) and the Nevada Ballet Theater (NBT), was indeed a harmonious exchange of dance and communication.
Held at the Main Hall HAE of The National Theater of Korea last Friday and Saturday, the two ballet troupes showed the audience that art in the form of ballet is a universal language.
Act one started with NBT's ``NKH.'' Set to the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff, this piece is a special tribute to the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the NBT, Nancy Houssels and her husband J.K. Houssels for their dedication to the company. Three pairs of dancers showed their interpretation of life through fluid movements. The choreography was strong and simple, and was a perfect start to the show.
The next performance was SBT's ``Remembering of You'' was choreographed to commemorate Roy Tobias. The late Tobias contributed his passion to the Korean ballet, working at various ballet companies worldwide and also as the artistic director of the Universal Ballet Company in Seoul. He became a Korean through naturalization in 1999.
``Remembering of You'' was bold and straightforward, set in the music of the late Tobias' favorite composer, Johannes Brahms. Near the end of the show, the face of the late Tobias was projected onto a transparent wall on the misty stage, as if he was looking down from heaven. The SBT expressed the emotions of hope, love, happiness and freedom with the romantic music of Brahms.
The second act was ``Inner Moves,'' choreographed by James Jeon, the resident choreographer of the SBT, upon request from the NBT. Jeon arranged eastern movements to the traditional ballet, creating an impressive ensemble and a performance that was hard to forget. The two troupes practiced separately, and finally came together a few days before the performance.
It was apparent that Jeon put effort into melting the two cultures into one harmonious piece, and his work certainly paid off. The costumes were simple, yet the choreography included pulling, pushing, leaping and even stomping.
In traditional ballet, the tip of the toe usually touches the ground first, however, dancers used their heels, just like Korean traditional dance. The work also featured the contemporary music of composer Moon Seok-chang, creating a more energetic setting.
The finale showed the true meaning of ``East meeting the West,'' for all the dancers stood on stage, dancing differently to the same beat, but creating perfect harmony.
After the performance, the two people who held the work together seemed happy to see the audience and also the dancers enjoy the work so much.
``It was wonderful. Art is beyond nationality and ideology, and I felt art became one here with the performance. This is like an experiment, and I hope many people will be able to come and enjoy the new form of art that we are creating,'' Kim In-hee, the general director of the SBT, said at a brief interview with The Korea Times.
Clarice Rathers, the ballet mistress of NBT, also shared her excitement as she was congratulating everyone backstage.
``It was overwhelming and such a privilege to have a collaboration with the SBT. Although we had to work with dancers we never met before, it worked out wonderfully. As they say, music is universal and (the performance) came together wonderfully,'' she told The Korea Times.
The Seoul Ballet Theater is known for its innovative and experimental works, and also for being the first company in Korea to complete a 40-day performance, and the first to export their productions to overseas dance companies.
Collaborating with SBT, the Nevada Ballet Theater is one of the largest professional ballet companies in United States. Not only does the company recruit American dancers, but they also include members from all over the world, including two Korean members Kwak Kyu-dong and Lee Yoo-mi.