Tonight I went to the World Ballet Festival at the Seoul Arts Center with some friends. It was a very nice, relaxing end to a surprisingly stressful week. The only things in Korea that start on time, movies and events at the SAC.
The first half were all pas de deux from well known ballets (at least to me) such as Swan Lake, the Nutcracker, Giselle, Cinderella, with two that I wasn’t familiar with Prey and Esmeralda. And the second half were almost all the pas de deux from ballets that I had never heard of (Raymonda, Talisman, Spartacus, Harlequinade), except for Don Quixote. Apparently there was supposed to be another group performing but they had to withdraw for personal reasons.
One thing that I noticed was that the Eastern European pairs, EKaterina Osmolkina and Michail Lobukin (Russia) and Ludmila Kudrausava and Anton Kravchenko (Belarussia), were in my opinion technically the perfect ballerinas, everything that they did from the slight movements of their heads to the gestures that they made with their hands to their toe points were picture perfect and precise. If you wanted to watch a technically superior performance, go watch one of them. On the other hand the two pairs from North America, Whitney Jensen and Albert Davydov (USA) and Viengsay Valdes and Elier Bourzac (Cuba), were as technically wonderful as the other pairs but they were more dynamic and more powerful. Particularly Whitney Jensen’s performance from Prey, there was no way that one of the female Eastern European ballerinas could bring the same type of passion and raw energy to that particular piece.
I actually prefer the Houston Ballet’s performance of Swan Lake better than what I saw tonight, but Valdes and Bourzac were such a spectacular pair that the crowd became so involved in their performance that they had to stop the tape so that everyone could applaud halfway through the performance. During the first part, I was sitting by an older woman who at some points was crying from the beauty and the artistry of the performances. Although I’m a ridiculous mushball, ballet’s never made me tear up, except with I was watching the pas de deux from Spartacus, that is now on my to-watch list. And during the second half, there was this guy behind us that would yell out, “Brava!” and “Bravo!” whenever he liked what the ballerinas were doing. By the way, what is the proper phrase to say to a pas de deux, since it’s a pair of a man and a woman?
I felt bad for the pairs that were representing Korea, HyeMin Hwang and JaeYong Um and JooWon Kim and UnKyu Jang, they were the only ballerinas that had any mishaps in their performance. JaeYong Um actually fell/tripped twice during his performance and there were glaring spacing problems in the Raymonda piece that several ballerinas almost collided. At curtain call, they received very loud cheers, but I’m sure it was more for national pride than anything else. All the pairs took five bows during the curtain call and they probably would have made more if the curtains hadn’t been closed.
The only thing that I wish was different was that they hadn’t used tapes for the music but a real orchestra. Other than that, it was a wonderful night.