Timeless modern ballets coming to Seoul
By Lee Hyo-won
Pointe shoes, leotards and a nimble, gravity-defying leap into the air. But throw in a pair of denim overalls, exchange the leotards for black mesh stockings and top it off with an edgy attitude, and you’ll never say ballet is boring.
Both fans and non-fans of classical ballet can forget about the familiar sequences of ``The Nutcracker’’ until Christmas ― in time for the sultry season come two sets of hot contemporary classics by the Korean National Ballet and Universal Ballet Company.
Roland Petit’s world
The Korea National Ballet will stage three masterpieces by Roland Petit for the first time in Korea at the Seoul Arts Center from July 15 to 18.
``A Night with Roland Petit’’ presents three hallmark pieces by the French maestro dancer-choreographer: ``Le Jeune homme et la mort (The Young Man and Death),’’ ``Carmen’’ and ``L’Arlesienne (The Woman of Arles).’’
It’s difficult to believe that ``The Young Man and Death’’ was created 64 years ago in 1946. A young man, tortured by love, chooses to take his own life in his studio. He performs a pulsating pas de deux with Death, personified by a beautiful ballerina, to the ominous ostinato of Bach’s ``Passacaglia.’’
Those who might not be familiar with the 20-minute-piece however may have already seen it in the opening of the hit 1985 film ``White Nights.’’ Starring the one and only ballerino Mikhail Baryshnikov in the lead role, the movie garnered 360,000 people alone in Seoul when it opened in local theaters in 1986.
Another femme fatale story, based on Bizet’s opera ``Carmen,’’ will be staged. Running 45 minutes, it comprises one-half of the show. Its 1949 London premiere created a sensation with its groundbreaking form; though featuring all the devilish techniques of classical ballet it brought a radically cinematic and musical-like quality to the genre. It is also Petit’s most prized piece, as his wife, the ballerina Zizi Jeanmaire, rose to international stardom as Carmen.
``The Woman of Arles’’ (1974) meanwhile would be a special treat for Vincent Van Gogh fans, as it seems to conjure to life the cobalt blues and shining gold hues of the Provencal landscape captured on canvas. A pair of star-crossed lovers will dance to more dramatic music by Bizet.
Though Petit was unable to audition Korean dancers himself due to a prior engagement in Paris, the 86-year-old said that Luigi Bonino acts as his replacement. ``Luigi Bonino is me. We have collaborated for 30 years together,’’ he said about the Italian dancer-turned-trainer, who is currently overseeing rehearsals with the cast he helped choose.
Tickets cost from 5,000 won to 120,000 won. Call (02) 587-6181.
Colorful ballet palette
The Universal Ballet Company will offer fans something with a markedly different sensibility, ``This Is Modern,'' from July 16 to 18 at the Universal Art Theater, Neung-dong, Seoul.
The company offers three popular pieces that have become landmarks in the European modern dance scene that are first and foremost fun to watch ― ``All Shall Be’’ by Heinz Spoerli, ``In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated’’ by William Forsythe and ``MINUS7’’ by Ohad Naharin.
Like Petit’s ``The Young Man and Death,’’ ``All Shall Be’’ pairs Bach’s baroque music with ultra-modern dance sequences, featuring ballerinas in sexy crimson outfits and black mesh stockings.
``In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated,’’ like its title is sandwiched in the middle of the repertoire and the fun factor is expected to peak with green leotard-clad dancers. Since being first introduced in Seoul in 2008, the piece has been much loved here for its artistic juxtaposition of restrained dance movements and crashing ``heavy metal’’ music.
The final act of the performance invites the audience for something groovier. Though dancers appear in uniform black suits and hats, they offer an eclectic array of movements to a colorful score that ranges from Chopin to jazz.
Tickets cost from 10,000 to 15,000 won. Seats for couples cost 150,000 won. Call 070-7124-1736.