Stuttgart Ballet’s new Korean muse
Kang Hyo-jung to headline local production of ‘Onegin’
By Do Je-hae
Prima ballerina Kang Hyo-jung, 26, has had the most remarkable year of her career at Germany’s Stuttgart Ballet.
After an unexpected promotion to principal dancer in April, she is set to make her local debut in a full-length ballet with “Onegin,” one of the finest dramatic ballets of the 20th century premiered by her own company.
Kang and Even Mckie, a fellow principal at the Stuttgart Ballet, will take on the lead roles at the Universal Ballet’s production of “Onegin” at the LG Arts Center from Nov. 12 to 17.
While Kang was in Seoul in June to take part in the Korea World Dance Stars Festival, local fans have yet to see her dance a lead role in a full-length production.
“Being a principal doesn’t make my life any different, except that I now have more responsibility,” she said at a press conference in June.
A rare mix of technical brilliance and emotional expression is attributed to her brisk rise to the rank of principal dancer at the major European ballet company.
“It’s just a new beginning. My goal is to enjoy every moment and keep dancing for a long time,” she said.
Housed at the Opera House in Stuttgart, the Stuttgart Ballet has been at the forefront of international dance for more than 50 years.
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).
Along with Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan, Cranko in considered one of the most successful choreographers of narrative dramatic ballets in the 20th century.
“Onegin” is a celebrated masterpiece of the South African choreographer, along with “Romeo and Juliet,” set to the music of Prokofiev, and “The Taming of the Shrew.”
The work is based on Alexander Pushkin’s novel “Eugene Onegin,” a classic of Russian literary work set in the 19th century.
Pushkin and Tchaikovsky
The ballet premiered in April 1965 at the Stuttgart Ballet, set to a score arranged by Kurt-Heinz Stolze from several works of Tchaikovsky. Stolze did not use any music from Tchaikovsky’s opera of the same name. Instead, he orchestrated some little-known piano works by Tchaikovsky such as “The Seasons,” along with themes from the opera “Cherevichki” and the latter part of the symphonic fantasia “Francesca da Rimini.”
The heroine Tatiana has been reserved for more seasoned dancers because of the level of emotional depth and skilled acting required to perform the role.
This is Kang’s first time to dance the role of Tatiana. Her previous lead roles with the company have been Juliet in Cranko’s “Romeo and Juliet”; Princess Aurora in Marcia Haydee’s “Sleeping Beauty,” and the female lead in Uwe Scholz’s “Siebte Sinfonie.”
A native of Seoul, Kang started ballet training in 1998 at the Sunwha Art Middle School in Seoul. From 1998 until 2002, she attended the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C. After winning the prestigious Prix de Lausanne, she moved to the John Cranko School in Stuttgart where she graduated in 2004.
Upon graduation, she joined the Stuttgart Ballet as an apprentice and was promoted to demi soloist in 2008. A promotion to soloist followed in the 2010/2011 season. After a spectacular debut as Juliet in Cranko’s “Romeo and Juliet” in April, artistic director Reid Anderson promoted Kang to principal dancer.
While a number of the world’s top ballet companies such as the American Ballet Theater and London’s Royal Ballet have Korean soloists, the Stuttgart Ballet now has two Korean female principals.
The other is 44-year-old Kang Sue-jin, a principal since 1997 and one of the most respected prima ballerina assolutas of her generation along with dancers such as Alessandra Ferri and Julie Kent.