The Universal Ballet Company (UBC) will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2014 with a series of performances that symbolize its tradition and strength as a ballet company.
One of the first ballet companies in Korea, its key achievements have included the development of distinctive repertoire like "The Love of Chunhyang" or "Simchung" that have been inspired by Korean folktales.
The UBC, among other things, has been a leader in elite ballet education. The UBC's affiliate dance school has produced many star dancers, some of whom have joined the world's foremost companies like American Ballet Theatre (ABT)'s principal Seo Hee and Kang Hyo-jung, a principal at the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany. The two dancers will join principals of the UBC in a gala performance for the UBC's 30th anniversary on Feb.22-23 at Seoul Arts Center.
Here is a preview of the UBC's highlights for the 30th anniversary season.
"The Love of Chunhyang"
"Multiplicity: Forms of Silence and Emptiness" April 25-27/ LG Art Center
This is a great work for those who love ballet and J.S. Bach. Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato designed the entire production to the music of the 18th-century German composer, including iconic works like the "Brandenburg Concerto."
The two-part ballet loosely parallels Bach's storied life as a devout composer, adoring husband and father of 20 children. Act I is lighter and infused with clever humor. Act I includes excerpts from Bach's double violin concerto, a Brandenburg concerto and the cello preludes. Act II, by contrast, is more somber, with a score derived mostly from Bach's final masterpiece, the "Art of Fugue." Mournful organ music accompanies the composer's dance toward death.
"Multiplicity" premiered in Germany 11 years ago, in cooperation with the National Dance Company of Spain. It is the first time for a Korean company to perform this work.
Universal Ballet's principal dancer Hwang Hye-min in "The Love of Chunhyang"
"The Love of Chunhyang" Sept. 27-28/ Seoul Arts Center This is a familiar Korean folktale set in the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) turned into ballet. The choreography portrays the love story of Chun-hyang and her lover Mong-ryong.
Chun-hyang falls in love with Mong-ryong and the two promise a life together with an elegant pas de deux. Their plans take a turn when Mong-ryong temporarily leaves to enter public service. Meanwhile, the evil magistrate Byun pays a visit to Chun-hyang's village and decides to make Chun-hyang his mistress. When Chun-hyang refuses, Byun decides to kill her, but just as the executioner is ready to strike her neck, Mong-ryong comes to the rescue.
Since its 2007 premiere, "The Love of Chunhyang" has become one of the trademarks of the company.
The UBC's first Korean-themed production was "Simchung," a folktale of a young girl's devotion for her blind father. Since its creation in 1986, Shimchung has been staged more than 200 times, including on a successful tour to Paris in September 2012.
Corps de ballet in "Giselle"/ Courtesy of Universal Ballet Company
"Giselle" June 13-17 Seoul Arts Center
"Giselle" combines riveting choreography and lovely music of the French composer Adolph Adam. The role of Giselle is one of the most coveted roles for ballerinas. Giselle premiered in Paris in 1841 and was originally choreographed by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot. It is considered one of the great Romantic ballets with its tale of a beautiful young peasant girl named Giselle who fights to save her noble lover Albracht. This production will introduce some of the company's next generation of leading artists.