Book traces life of ballerina Kang Sue-jin’s Stuttgart partner
By Do Je-hae
Prima ballerina Kang Sue-jin of the Stuttgart Ballet is an inspiration to young Korean ballerinas and some have even followed in her footsteps by taking top prizes at international competitions.
The 44-year-old has been a principal with one of the world’s foremost dance troupes since 1997 but there has not been much written about her.
The latest book on her favorite partner Robert Tewsley, one of the most renowned ballerinos from the United Kingdom, carries special photos and stories of the pair which elevated Stuttgart Ballet’s reputation in the early 2000s.
Iris Julia Buhrle, a Stuttgart-based professional dance journalist, penned the book entitled “Robert Tewsley — Dancing beyond borders.” It was published in December 2011, and the bilingual book in English and German is available at online bookstores.
“Kang and Tewsley used to be Stuttgart’s star couple from 1998 to 2002 and they performed together in Korea several times,” Buhrle said via email.
The author studied history of art, comparative literature and international relations in Stuttgart, Paris and Oxford. She has written numerous articles and scientific papers on ballet and is currently working on a doctorate on the relationship between literature and dance.
“As the book contains 22 pictures of Kang, many of them full-page images, as well as several pages of text about Robert Tewsley’s very special partnership with her, I thought that Korean ballet lovers might be interested in the book.”
Kang is one of the most respected prima ballerina assolutas of her generation along with names such as Alessandra Ferri and Julie Kent. Kang is now one of eight female principals at the major European company, particularly renowned for the legacy of legendary choreographer John Cranko (1927-1973).
Kang went on to mark many firsts. She became the first Asian laureate of the Prix de Lausanne and the youngest ever dancer to enter the Stuttgart Ballet at the age of 17. Among her many honors and achievements she was named “Kammertanzerin” or chamber dancer, the highest recognition the German government bestows on an artist. She was the first in 13 years to receive the title as well as the first Asian to do so.
Tewsley was Kang’s favorite partner at the height of her career. Together, they formed a legendary pair, starring in classic dramatic ballets including “The Lady of Camellias,” which became a signature work of the couple.
“What was so special about Sue-jin is that every time we danced together it was different. There was this unspoken trust: we knew that whatever happened, the other would react and adapt. We could be spontaneous,” Tewsley recounts in the book. “From the very beginning, we understood each other without words.”
The book contains some gorgeous and rare pictures of the couple, particularly notable being a scene from Tchaikovky’s Swan Lake.
Kang will serve as a juror for the 40th Prix de Lausanne to take place from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4 in Rosanne, Switzerland.
Created in 1973, the international ballet competition is for dancers aged 13 to 18 of all nationalities who are not yet professionals. It is one of the world’s five biggest contests.
Kang will return to Seoul in June to star in her company’s production of “The Lady of Camellias.” It is expected to be her final appearance in the role in Korea.