The Korea Herald


Universal Ballet's Kang Mi-sun wins best female dancer at Benois de la Danse

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : June 21, 2023 - 19:47

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Kang Mi-sun performs in Kang Mi-sun performs in "Don Quixote." (Universal Ballet)

Kang Mi-sun, a principal dancer at Universal Ballet in Seoul, has won the top prize at the prestigious Benois de la Danse, an annual ballet competition held in Moscow.

Kang, along with China's Qiu Yunting, jointly received the best female dancer award at the awards ceremony held at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on Tuesday, according to the organizing committee.

Kang was honored with the award for her role as a widow who bids farewell to her husband in "Mirinaegil,” an original production choreographed by Universal Ballet artistic director Liu Bingxian, which premiered at the National Theater of Korea in March. The piece is part of Universal Ballet's original creative production, “Korea Emotion.”

"I didn't expect to win because the candidates were such great dancers. I was just grateful to be nominated. It's such an honor to receive this huge award," said Kang through a press release issued by Universal Ballet on Wednesday.

"Above all, I am happy to introduce Korea's creative ballet to the world. The uniquely Korean feeling of 'jeong' (in the performance) must have been conveyed to the judges," she said.

Other nominees for this year included May Nagahisa from the Mariinsky Theatre in Russia; Malika Elchibayeva from Kazakh National Opera and Ballet Theater; Elizaveta Kokoreva from Bolshoi Theatre of Russia; Dorothee Gilbert from Paris Opera Ballet.

Kang Mi-sun and Rhee Hyon-jun perform Kang Mi-sun and Rhee Hyon-jun perform "Mirinaegil.” (Universal Ballet)

Following the ceremony, Kang performed the piece with Lee Dong-tak, who is also a principal dancer at Universal Ballet, in a gala concert held at the Bolshoi Theater.

Universal Ballet General Director Julia Moon noted that Kang's win was particularly meaningful because the winning piece was a Korean creative ballet.

The Benois de la Danse, established by the International Dance Association in 1991 and first awarded the following year, is one of the world's most authoritative ballet awards recognizing the works of ballet companies worldwide and selecting the best male and female dancers, choreographers and composers.

Kang is the fifth Korean national to win at the Benois de la Danse. The previous Korean recipients include ballerina Park Se-eun in 2018, ballerino Kim Ki-min in 2016, ballerina Kim Joo-won in 2006 and ballerina Kang Sue-jin, the current artistic director of the Korean National Ballet, in 1999.

Kang Mi-sun performs Kang Mi-sun performs "Giselle." (Universal Ballet)

Kang, 40, principal dancer at Universal Ballet, one of the two major ballet companies in Korea, graduated from Sunhwa Arts High School and trained at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington.

Kang joined Universal Ballet as an apprentice in 2002 and gradually rose through the ranks, from a corps de ballet member to a demi-soloist (2005-2006), a soloist (2006-2010) and a senior soloist (2010-2012). In 2012, she was promoted to principal dancer.

In 2014, Kang married her colleague and fellow principal dancer Konstantin Novoselov at Universal Ballet. In October 2021, she gave birth to her son and returned to the stage after just five months, becoming one of the few working moms among ballet dancers in Korea.