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Ballet season to kick off this month with ‘Swan Lake,’ ‘La Bayadere’

With spring officially upon us, theater lovers will soon be able to regale themselves in a new season of dance as the nation’s two top ballet companies are gearing up to kick off their 2016 openers.

With drastically different season repertories this year, the Korean National Ballet and Universal Ballet are not slated to have any clashing productions for the season, other than their annual holiday production of “The Nutcracker.”

Universal and KNB will launch their season openers this month with two of the ballet world’s timeless classics: “Swan Lake” and “La Bayadere,” respectively. 

A scene from the Korean National Ballet’s upcoming season opener, “La Bayadere.” (Korean National Ballet)
A scene from the Korean National Ballet’s upcoming season opener, “La Bayadere.” (Korean National Ballet)

While Universal closed out its season last year with its rendition of Marius Petipa’s exotic tale of “La Bayadere,” KNB will be opening its 2016 season with what artistic director Kang Su-jin has referred to as a more “refined” version compared to what the audience experienced at the company’s last performance of the piece two years ago.

Set against the imaginative backdrop of exotic India, “La Bayadere” pays homage to the 19th-century tale of two people’s eternal vows that ends in tragedy. The nearly three-hour-long “La Bayadere,” or the “The Temple Dancer,” follows the story of the alluring lower caste temple dancer Nikiya and her unflinching love for a young, royal warrior named Solor.

Although the aesthetically stunning ballet was not included in KNB’s previous season’s program, when the company first performed the production in 2013, ticket sales hovered at the 92 to 93 percent mark for two consecutive years. 

The season opener will be held from March 30 to April 3 at the Seoul Arts Center, with ticket prices ranging from 5,000 won ($4.30) to 80,000 won.

Following this, the KNB will perform a two-part production -- “Rite of Spring” and its new rendition of George Balanchine’s ballet “Serenade,” featuring Tchaikovsky’s 1880 “Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48.” The performances will be held from April 29 to May 1 at the LG Arts Center in Gangnam-gu, Seoul. 

Kicking off the year with an annual crowd favorite, opening up the Universal Ballet’s season is arguably one of dance’s most beloved dramatic tales: Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” 

A scene from the Universal Ballet Korea’s upcoming season opener, “Swan Lake.” (Universal Ballet Korea)
A scene from the Universal Ballet Korea’s upcoming season opener, “Swan Lake.” (Universal Ballet Korea)

Despite its initial failure when it premiered in 1877 by the Bolshoi Ballet, the epic tale of the Swan Queen and her prince in their battle against the evil sorcerer has since grown into one of the most popular ballets of all time.

Universal‘s “Swan Lake” has toured the world in more than 10 countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan and South Africa. However this year’s production promises audiences a little something different.

For the first time in more than two decades, Universal’s general director Julia Moon has altered this year’s version of “Swan Lake” to feature the rarer, “happy ending,” as opposed to the more widely staged tragic conclusion. 

The season opener will be staged from March 24 to April 3 at the Universal Arts Center in Gwangjin-gu, with ticket prices ranging from 10,000 won to 100,000 won. 

Following its staging of a ballet classic, the company will then present the local ballet “Shim Chung,” in honor of the production’s 30th anniversary. A fusion of contemporary ballet dance movements and the traditional Korean folk tale of a young girl’s epic tale of filial piety, the upcoming “Shim Chung” ballet will be staged from June 11 to 18 at the SAC.

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)
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