Chinese dancers pursue 'Korean dreams'
Fang Mengying, Huang Zhen to star in ‘Swan Lake’
It is the dream of many ballet dancers to pursue a career in France or Russia, home to some of the oldest companies in the world.
But some Asian dancers have come to Korea to develop their careers, as in the case of Huang Zhen, a ballerino from Hong Kong, and Chinese dancer Fang Mengying.
The two dancers will make their debut as main characters in "Swan Lake" by the Universal Ballet Company (UBC), a leading ballet troupe in Korea, next week. The company will stage "Swan Lake" at Seoul Arts Center as a season opener starting Friday through next Tuesday.
Fang is one of the six dancers, along with longtime principal dancer Kang Ye-na and Hwang Hye-min that will dance the lead role of Odette.
The Chinese dancer graces the official poster for the production as well. It is unusual for a soloist, not a principal, to appear in the poster of a season opener or dance a lead role in such a large-scale production as the "Swan Lake."
Fang’s consistent growth as a dancer from a member of a corps de ballet to soloist has won the approval of the leader and fellow artists of her company.
"Fang's graceful lines and clean technique make her an ideal Odettee," said to UBC Director Julia Moon.
Her colleagues have been raving about her in “Swan Lake” as well since rehearsals began a few weeks ago. "Her Odette is the most exquisite interpretation I have seen in the last few years," said Kang Ye-na, UBC principal and one of the most renowned Korean dancers of her generation.
After early training at the Beijing Dance Academy, Fang moved to Korea when she was only 16 and joined the UBC in 2007.
This production is the first time for the local audience to see her in a lead role.
"I have danced a wide range of roles in 'Swan Lake' since I was in the corps de ballet. I read a lot and watch dance DVDs to improve my understanding of the role," Fang said. "Since I came to Korea, my parents have never seen me on stage. So I want to invite my parents this time as I am dancing main role."
Her partner in this production is Huang Zhen, a former principal with the Hong Kong Ballet who transferred to the UBC last year.
This is the first time he takes on a lead role at the UBC.
"The Hong Kong Ballet is smaller than the UBC, so there weren’t many opportunities for me, even as a principal, to dance major lead roles. I am honored to headline such an iconic full-length ballet," Hwang said.
The steady growth of foreign dancers has upgraded the quality of UBC in recent years.
There are 17 foreign nationals in the company, from China, Taiwan and Russia, among other countries. Three of the nine principals are from outside Korea ― Zheng Yu, Kostantin Novoselov and Huang Zhen.
The Fang-Huang performance will take place next Tuesday.
Another highlight of the production is the guest appearance of Evan Mckie, a principal with Germany's Stuttgart Ballet. He will partner Kang Ye-na on Monday.
“Swan Lake," set to the music of Tchaikovsky, is the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse and her love interest Prince Siegfried who tries to break the curse and fails.
Tickets for UBC’s production of "Swan Lake" ranges from 10,000 won to 100,000 won. For more information, call 070-7124-1737 or visit www.unversalballet.com.