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Posted : 2013-05-08 19:04
Updated : 2013-05-08 19:04

Shim Chung on pointed toes

UBC principal dancer Kang Ye-na in the first act of "Shim Chung"
/ Courtesy of UBC

Folktale of blind man and devoted daughter told through ballet


Universal Ballet Company (UBC)'s adaption of Korean folktale "Shim Chung" will be staged at the National Theater of Korea starting today through Sunday. / Courtesy of UBC

By Do Je-hae

The world of classical ballet is full of love stories between a man and a woman, but "Shim Chung" is about a different kind of love, shared between father and daughter.

The moving story of Shim Chung and her blind father is a folk tale most Koreans become familiar with at an early age. The Universal Ballet Company (UBC) fused it with classical ballet and turned it into a staple at the top Korean ballet troupe.

Since its creation in 1986, Shim Chung has been staged more than 200 times, including on a successful tour to Paris in September 2012. The company will stage Shim Chung at the National Theater of Korea, with five performances starting today until Sunday. There will be two performances on Saturday.

''Shim Chung has been the main repertoire of our overseas tours. In the last two years, we staged the work in 11 cities in nine countries," UBC Director Julia Moon said. ''It has been at the forefront of spreading Korean-style ballet around the world.''

Beginning in 2001, the ballet was staged overseas at prestigious venues such as the New York's Lincoln Center and Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center, and has been praised for its unique focus on familial love. The New York Times said it was ''filled with vivid and lyrical dancing and heartwarming storytelling.''

Shim Chung was premiered at the National Theater of Korea in 1986 and Moon, a former prima ballerina of the company, was the first to dance the main role.

The piece combines exquisite choreography, music and staging. The choreographer of Shim Chung is UBC's former artistic director Adrienne Dellas and the music is by U.S. composer Kevin Barber Pickard. Costumes are by Sylvia Taalsohn.

Shim Chung tells the story of a girl who is devoted to restoring the sight of her blind father. Upon hearing of an expensive operation that may cure her father's blindness, she sells herself to sailors who are in need of a maiden to sacrifice to the Sea King.

Chung's self-sacrifice and dedication to her father is ultimately rewarded with a marriage to the king.

The production has much to offer: the masterful original score; the traditional Korean fishing village in scene one; the energetic dancing of the sailors aboard the ship and the terrifying storm; the undersea fantasy and many authentic elements of traditional Korean court clothing and architecture.

This will be the first time a non-Korean dancer will portray Chung.

Beijing-native Fang Mengying is one of the five dancers, including longtime principal dancer Kang Ye-na and Hwang Hye-min, who will dance the lead role.

Although a soloist, Fang is emerging as a one of the big stars of the company. She headlined the company's production of ''Swan Lake'' in April and has been receiving some press attention for becoming the ''first foreign Shim Chung.''

After early training at the Beijing Dance Academy, Fang moved to Korea when she was 16 and joined the UBC in 2007 as a member of the corps de ballet upon invitation of former UBC artistic director Brian Yoo.

Although this is the first time for her to dance the main role in Shim Chung, she is familiar with the work as she has previously performed several minor roles of the production.

Tickets for Shim Chung range from 10,000 won to 100,000 won. The company offers a 20 percent discount for expats and tourists. For more information, visit www.universalballet.com or call 070-7124-1737.


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