The Korea Herald


KNB presents back-to-back productions of modern, classical ballet

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Aug. 6, 2023 - 15:53

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“Le Corsaire” by Korean National Ballet (KNB) “Le Corsaire” by Korean National Ballet (KNB)

The Korean National Ballet is set to present separate productions of modern and classic ballet in August, with a back-to-back schedule.

Kicking off on Aug. 25, “Triple Bill” features three distinct works within a single program, while “Ballet With Commentary, Le Corsaire” is scheduled for Aug. 30-Sept. 3. Both productions will be staged at the CJ Towol Theater of the Seoul Arts Center in Seocho-gu, southern Seoul.

In “Triple Bill,” the audience will experience two modern ballet pieces and one neoclassical ballet work that incorporates the music of Chopin, Bach and Beethoven.

The first piece in the three-show program is “Ssss …” choreographed by Slovenian National Ballet director Edward Clug. It features a unique stage setting with 170 piano chairs placed at the back. Six dancers perform to Frederic Chopin’s Nocturnes. While one couple dances on the stage, the others occasionally sit on the piano chairs. The 25-minute piece, premiered by Germany’s Stuttgart Ballet in 2012, explores the concept of tranquility by amplifying sounds and emotions during the silent hours of night.

“Artifact Ⅱ” by Korean National Ballet (KNB) “Artifact Ⅱ” by Korean National Ballet (KNB)
“Seventh Symphony” by Korean National Ballet (KNB) “Seventh Symphony” by Korean National Ballet (KNB)

Next, American dancer and choreographer William Forsythe’s modern ballet piece “Artifact II” expands the boundaries of classic ballet. The piece showcases two couples dancing to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Chaconne Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004, surrounded by a group of 26 dancers. The “Mud Woman,” wearing a light blue tricot, leads the ensemble of dancers clad in golden yellow, repeating several sequences.

Lastly, neoclassical ballet “Seventh Symphony,” by German dancer-choreographer Uwe Scholz, incorporates Beethoven’s vibrant Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92. The 40-minute piece is without a narrative, but expresses the dancers as instruments, embodying the melody and its notes to convey a unique perspective on the symphony’s musical journey.

Following the three-day “Triple Bill” is “Ballet With Commentary, Le Corsaire” scheduled from Aug. 30 to Sept. 3.

“Le Corsaire,” by Russian ballet master Marius Petipa, is a three-act ballet loosely based on Lord Byron’s poem of the same title. The story revolves around a dashing pirate named Conrad and his crew on a mission to rescue Conrad’s love Medora, who is held captive as a slave.

“Le Corsaire” by Korean National Ballet (KNB) “Le Corsaire” by Korean National Ballet (KNB)

The classical ballet was rechoreographed by KNB soloist and choreographer Song Jung-bin and premiered in 2020. The production has since become an iconic part of the KNB’s repertoire, having been performed at the Theatre de Beaulieu in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Hessian State Theatre of Wiesbaden in Germany in May.

Song adapted the three acts into a two-act production, changing the characters and setting to reflect a contemporary perspective. Medora is portrayed as a beautiful island girl rather than a slave, and Gulnara -- originally depicted as a harem slave -- is transformed into a high priestess.

In contrast to Petipa’s tragic ending with a shipwreck, Song’s version has a happy ending, as Medora and Conrad overcome hardships and set off on a new adventure.

The “Ballet With Commentary” series is part of the KNB’s project aimed at reaching out to audiences who are less familiar with ballet. The performance is shortened to 70 minutes, featuring highlighted scenes along with explanations. King Magentos, performed by soloist Kim Myung-kyu, leads the commentary.