Embrace elegance with Mariinsky Theatre Ballet
By Han Sang-hee
While the origins of ballet come from Western Europe, its development and flourishing ended up mostly in Russia. Hence the high-profile ballet companies in the region and also numerous dancers with long histories and esteemed reputations.
One of them is the Mariinsky Theatre Ballet, which will perform at the Goyang Aram Nuri Arts Complex this month. The performance also marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and Russia.
“The Mariinsky Theatre Ballet is one of the oldest opera and ballet houses in the world and this year actually marks its 228th anniversary,” said Yuri Fateev, director of the troupe, during a press conference Monday at a hotel in central Seoul.
“We hope to get closer to the Korean audience through the language of music and movement. Beauty is universal and we hope the viewers will get to feel that throughout the performance here,” he added.
The Mariinsky Theatre Ballet, also known by its former name Kirov Ballet, is one of the leading ballet companies in the world and it makes its fifth visit to Korea. Famous for focusing on technique and emotional performances, the company houses some 200 dancers, including 50 principals.
Among the 200 members, there is one foreign dancer, Korean ballerina Ryu Ji-yeon. The troupe’s visit is not only meaningful because it celebrates the friendly relationship between Russia and Korea, but also because it will be the last official performance for Ryu under Mariinsky’s wing.
“This is indeed a meaningful performance for me. This is not the end of my ballet career, only the end of my work at the Mariinsky. I missed my family and wanted to spend time with them. I have learned so much during my time at the company, my travels and also from my fellow dancers,” Ryu said.
The ballet troupe will offer three works: “Giselle,” “Swan Lake” and a ballet gala.
Giselle is not a regular piece for the company, although the Russian troupe recreated the European work with a more elegant and distinctive flair, but in order to step a bit closer to the local public, the Mariinsky decided to stage the popular act for the occasion.
Swan Lake, one of the most famous ballets in the world, will be presented through the strong yet elegant movements and emotions of the company, while the ballet gala will wow the audience with four programs: Grand Pas from “Paquita” by legendary choreographer Marius Petipa, the “Scotch Symphony” by renowned modern ballet choreographer George Balanchine, “In the Night” by New York City Ballet balletmaster Jerome Robbins and “The Dying Swan.”
Ryu will act the dramatic role of the “dying swan,” known to be one of the most difficult and famous roles for a solo ballerina. The short performance features the dancer as an elegant swan, following the last moments of her death and was originally choreographed by Mikhail Fokine for the legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova of Russia.
“The four-minute performance is quite difficult to portray, both emotionally and technically,” Ryu explained.
A dance company having a long history can easily translate to tradition, impeccable talent and a prestigious reputation, but this may hinder the dancers and choreographers to move forward as artists. It seems the director was also aware of such worries, for he explained that the company was indeed following suit to maintain tradition yet still bring a new wave to the Russian ballet scene.
“The Mariinsky is not a theater museum that shows the old. The world is changing and so has the troupe,” Fateev said firmly.
For the past 15 years, the company staged 20 works by Balanchine and also started to bring works by noted modern dance choreographer William Forsythe in recent years.
“We are constantly searching for new choreographers. We promise to move forward, yet keep up the history and tradition in the future as well,” the director said.
The Mariinsky Theatre Ballet will perform “Giselle” on Nov. 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m., “Swan Lake” on Nov. 12 and 13 at 7 p.m. and the Ballet Gala on Nov. 14 at 4 p.m. at the Goyang Aram Nuri Arts Complex. Tickets cost from 30,000 won to 250,000 won. For more information, visit www.artgy.or.kr or call 1577-7766.