Universal Ballet - Roving Ambassadors

Translation of review appearing in the August, 1999 issue of the bi-monthly Hungarian dance magazine, ART OF DANCE. Author: Zsuzsa Kaan

On the Korean Universal Ballet's
Guest Performance in Budapest

Nowadays, when modern and contemporary techniques gradually capture even the traditional ballet theaters; and when in terms of democracy, anyone can master any technique; every ensemble, author and performer who is seeking to maintain and cherish ballet traditions has a special significance. Fortunately, such companies are not scarce, and the level of many cannot be objected to either. Still, it is a unique treat to come across a rare exception which is without frippery, better than average, and by no means mediocre.

Universal Ballet, on tour in Hungary between July 2 and 7, for me is one of those rare exceptions. The company of 60 members, founded one and a half decades ago, was born under a lucky star. The artistic dedication of their present leaders is self-evident and harmonizes well with the mentality of Korean dancers. The wonderful prima ballerina and General Director, Julia Moon, and the learned choregrapher-ballet master, professor Oleg Vinogradov's skill, stage direction, professional direction and quest for perfection radiated from all members of the company-from the stage work of soloists recruited from South Korea and from international theaters, as well as from the work of every member of the corps de ballet.

Is this all there is to their secret? Or perhaps, beyond the brilliant implementation of classical technique and form of expression, is it also the vitality, ease, diligence and artistic humility allied with talent that radiated from Universal Ballet's performances?

I think it is even more important that in the past few years Julia H Moon and Oleg Vinogradov have created an artistic conception which enforces the principle of the most modern preservation of classical tradition. The company, making its debut with the grandiose, brilliant performance of Swan Lake, at once showed it virtues in full. The magnificent scenery and costumes, the great number of performers, and the musicality of the gestures served the poetic content like so many elements of a form. The transfigured poetry of white images between colorful acts created an atmosphere which-at least so far as we believed-was the sole and exclusive distinction of the ballet school and style of St. Petersburg. There is no denying it-we kept on saying-this is the thing in which they are unbeatable and unsurpassable. And here you are! The miracle in the history of dance has occurred: the ideal beauty conceived in the Russian ballet theater at the end of the 19th century is adopted and shown to the world by Koreans at the end of the 20th century.

Odile's grace, Odette's melancholy and her development of character until the final and unexpected encounter with the wizard, as interpreted by the enchanting Julia Moon, of queenlike appearance, is the perfect personification of the symbolistic connection to nature.

Her excellent partner, Jae-Hong Park, also formed the character of the lonely and doomed Siegfried with ideal theatricality.

I liked the stately flexible Chung-Lin Tseng's Rothbart; Ji-Hoon Yum's virtuosic and very congenial Jester; the elegant security of the dancers of the Pas de Trois; the clarity of style of the balls, character dancers, and the enviable sense of style of all the dancers.

The enchanting Maria Bystrova in role of Giselle, flanked by Aidar Akhmetov, in command of all Albrecht's every movement, formed an ideal couple. There was a heart and soul in Universal Ballet's Giselle performance, from the very first moment, leading on to the irrational world of the 2nd act with a gripping dramatic momentum. Here the translucent aeriality of Giselle, the refinement and subtleness of the corps of the ballet, the dramatic expression of Enrica Guana as the Wilis' fairy queen, really prevailed, as well as guest danseur Ahkmetov's brilliant technique and conscienceous interpretation.

While this review of Universal Ballet's memorable guest performance is lengthy, its moral is all the more simple. I.e. Giselle and Swan Lake as performed in the interpretation and staging by Oleg Vinogradov convincingly proved that in the dance-dumping of our age the romantic classical ballet is still viable and finds response in the soul of today's spectators if its mode of presentation is faithful to the epoch and contemporary at the same time.

The complexity inherent in this duality is the only means and weapon that can prevent the fading of this wonderful art while also guaranteeing its triumphant passing into the 21st century.

For more information on Universal Ballet's activities, contact the company's General Manager, Anne Inoue at UBCKorea@aol.com.