Thursday, 9 October 2014

"My Dear Love, Chunyhang": A Unique Korean Ballet At Seongam Art Center

The last time I saw a ballet performance in Seoul was at Sejong Arts Center, where the very popular Swan Lake was performed by the visiting Kirov Ballet based in St. Petersburg, Russia.

But today, although the ballet was based on a very popular Korean love story and performed by local Korean talents, the performance still has some Russian connection. How? The resident ballet company of the Seongam Arts Hall is the GITIS-Korea Ballet Academy, much like the Kirov Ballet being the resident ballet company of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, and GITIS is the Russian University of Theater Arts based in Moscow, Russia.

Filling up the 201-seat theater on the 3rd floor of the Seongam Art Center in Nonhyeon 2-dong in the Gangnam District, the crowd, made up of proud fans, friends, family members of the performers, and K-Performance Supporters of the Korea Tourism Organization, was treated to a ballet performance of the love story, "My Dear Love, Chunhyang". 

Chunhyangjeon was originally a pansori, the Korean art of musical storytelling performed by a vocalist accompanied by a drummer, and this love story has been told through dramas, movies, and on this occasion, through ballet. The love story is about the two lovers, Chunhyang, who's beautiful and is exceptional in the arts and poetry, and Mongryong, who is handsome and intelligent. Although in the end, they lived happily ever after, you have to watch the ballet to find out what happened in between.  Even if you are familiar with this popular love story, it would be a unique experience understanding the story in a different art form.

And perhaps to lend more Korean tradition to the ballet, a very good pansori performer, accompanied by a drummer, sang the story to introduce the episodes of the performance. Although the art form is western, the pansori and the Korean love story made the whole performance a unique experience for everyone. On top of that, the colorful costumes worn by the dancers were designed and tailored to adapt to ballet. If you want to see colorful hanboks and Korean traditional costumes dazzle during fouettes, pirouettes, entrechats, or arabesques, you should watch this ballet. 

"My Dear Love, Chunhyang" was choreographed by the ballet academy's artistic director, Miss Young Moon, who's a professor at the College of Arts at Kookmin University. Miss Moon's family actually owned the Seongam Art Center, which was founded by their father. She told me ballet runs in their family; her older sister, Miss Geum-Ja Park, used to dance in Russia. 

And even though some of the ballet dancers were just students, you can already tell that these young dancers are very good at their craft. And as it was just a small theater, there was almost no separation between audience and the downstage, and those interactions between the floor and the dancers' pointe shoes were clearly audible, enabling the crowd feel extra intimate with the performers and their performance. As she was just a few feet away, the crowd would have just rushed onstage to help free the suffering Chunghyang when she was imprisoned by the new village lord. :-)

I highly recommend you watch this unique Korean ballet, especially if you like to enjoy unique experiences here in Seoul. The performance is just about an hour long and annotations in English are flashed on stage to enable you to understand the whole story if you're not familiar with this tale.

Also, watch out for the surprise dance-off after the ballet. You can actually join the fun on stage if you want to.
                           (The ballet goes...Gangnam Style!)

"My Dear Love, Chunhyang" is performed every Friday at 5PM. To get to the Seongam Art Center, get off at Exit 1 of the Seonjeongneung Station of the Bundang Line. 
(The lady with the hat is the ballet academy's 
Chief Director, Miss Geum-Ja Park, posing in front 
of her photo during her dancing days in Russia; 
the lady in black is the choreographer, Miss Young Moon)

Do click this Seongam Art Center's >> website << for details about this ballet and other performances.   

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