Traditional Tale of Prince Ho-dong Takes Stage

2009-11-04 : 17:26

A scene from Korea National Ballet Company's ``Prince Ho-dong.'' The traditional tale of two lovers will take the stage at Seoul Arts Center, Nov. 18-22. / Courtesy of Korea National Ballet Company

By Han Sang-hee
Staff Reporter

Ballet favorites during the winter season include ``The Nutcracker'' and ``Swan Lake,'' but this year local viewers will have the chance to watch ``Prince Ho-dong,'' a creative piece by the Korea National Ballet Company (KNBC).

Led by renowned choreographer and art director Kook Su-ho and KNBC's choreographer Moon Byung-nam, the troupe is staging the traditional story of Prince Ho-dong and Princess Nak-rang as part of a project by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to bring various Korean works to the international scene.

The blending of traditional tales with ballet started in the 1980s, and it was Lim Sung-nam, the first artistic director of the KNBC, who brought the tale of Prince Ho-dong to the stage in 1988 and surprised both viewers and critics. Ever since, there have been various attempts to bring Korean tales to the ballet stage, including ``Prince Ho-dong'' and the Universal Ballet Company's ``Shim Chung'' and ``Chun-hyang.''

Now ballet fans will get to see an upgraded version of "Prince Ho-dong" for the first time in 21 years.

``While Shakespeare's `Romeo and Juliet' tells the tragedy between two young lovers from different families, `Prince Ho-dong' tells the story of two lovers from warring countries. We hoped we could bring a soulful energy to viewers living in a world where love is defined by power, money and pleasure,'' Kook said during a press conference at Seoul Arts Center, southern Seoul, last week.

``We remade `Prince Ho-dong' into a more exquisite work that represents Korea. We strived to bring the Korean soul, humanity, Asian philosophy and Korean love through the work,'' he added.

For choreographer Moon and KNBC's artistic director Choi Tae-ji, restaging the piece was more than an exciting opportunity ― it brought back memories.

``I joined the ballet troupe in 1987 and I stood on stage with Moon for `Ho-dong.' I have so many memories and they always came to mind whenever we were planning to make a creative piece for the KNBC. I am so happy that we are finally staging the work with a new staff and younger dancers,'' Choi said.

``We always believed that the story went well with ballet, and we have been working on how to match ballet with Korean elements ever since,'' Moon added.

With two acts and 12 scenes, the tragic tale of Goguryeo Kingdom's prince and Nakrang Kingdom's princess unfolds with the two coincidently meeting and falling in love. Secretly married, the two promise their love to each other and Prince Ho-dong asks Nak-rang the inevitable question. Would she betray her country for the prince's victory in war? Things take an unexpected turn when the princess' father discovers her secret plans, and tragedy unfolds.

``All of the scenes are watchable. If I had to pick one, however, it would be the war scene during the first act. Twenty-eight male dancers will appear on stage and this is very difficult, even for the top ballet companies in the world,'' Moon said.

Star dancers including Kim Ju-won, Kim Ji-young, Lee Dong-hoon and Kim Hyun-woong will grace the stage as the main characters, while newcomer Park Se-eun will have her debut as the distressed princess.

``Prince Ho-dong" will be on stage at Seoul Arts Center, Nov. 18-22. Tickets cost from 5,000 to 100,000 won. For more information, visit www.kballet.org or www.ticketlink.co.kr.

sanghee@koreatimes.co.kr