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Is this the first time The Universal Ballet has appeared on this continent?
The Johannesburg performances of Swan Lake are the first performances for Universal Ballet in Africa. As far as we know, we are the first Korean ballet company to be invited to perform in Africa. The closest we have been was our performance of Shim Chung – A Legend from the Far East in Muscat, Oman, in November 2011.
You are only performing in Johannesburg? Why not Cape Town as well?
It is Universal Ballet’s vision “Heavenly Art Creating a World of Beauty” that is the motivation and driving spirit of this tour. Our firm belief is that through the art of ballet we can make this world a more beautiful and better place. In order to share the beauty of classical ballet with people around the world, we have embarked on a three-year world tour from 2011.
While we were planning this tour, we sent out many inquiries to theatres and arts promoters. Bernard Jay, the director of the Joburg Theatre, was very impressed with Universal Ballet’s artistic level and invited us to perform there as part of the tour. We strongly recommended that we perform Shim Chung, but Jay preferred Swan Lake this time because Universal Ballet is not well-known to South African audiences.
In addition to this, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between South Africa and South Korea, so we received a special grant from the Korea Foundation and the tour has also received the endorsement and support of the Korean Embassy.
Due to our performance schedule in Korea, we were unfortunately not able to per- form in Cape Town, but we hope we will have the opportunity to perform there some day.
Does the Universal Ballet School still exist in Washington DC?
The Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington DC (formerly known as Universal Ballet Academy), sponsored by Universal Ballet Foundation, affiliated with Universal Ballet, is now in its 22nd year. There are 14 graduates from the Kirov Academy dancing in Universal Ballet, including Hyemin Hwang, Yena Kang, Jae-Yong Ohm, who will perform principal roles in Swan Lake.
Other graduates from the Kirov Academy include Stuttgart Ballet principal dancers Elisabeth Mason, Evan McKie and Hyojung Kang, Dutch National Ballet principal dancers Casey Herd and Matthew Golding, Royal Danish Ballet principal dancer J’aime Crandall, Royal Swedish Ballet principal dancer Dragos Mihalcea, American Ballet Theatre soloists Sascha Redetsky and Hee Seo, and dozens of other dancers working at other companies all around the world.
We have a total of 70 dancers including six apprentices. Fourteen dancers were trained at the Kirov Academy in Washington. Another 12 of are from China, Russia, Japan the US and studied ballet in their own countries. Among the other Korean dancers, many of them studied at our affiliated schools in Korea – Sun Hwa Arts School and Universal Ballet Academy – and some studied overseas, while the rest graduated from university dance programmes in Korea.
All of our classical ballets are from the Maryinsky tradition, and now that we have many contemporary works from choreographers such as Duato, Kylian, Forsythe and Naharin, the dancers are well trained in both classical and contemporary styles, each one enhancing the other and enabling the dancers to grow and mature as artists.
Is the company exclusively funded by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church?
Our financing comes from a variety of sources. About 50 percent of our income is from ticket sales, performance fees, theatre rentals (for the Universal Arts Center) and the ballet academy. We are very fortunate to have the continued support of the Tongil Foundation affiliated with the Unification Church, as our main sponsor, and the rest of the budget comes from sponsorship and grants from government foundations, corporations and individual donors.
Who is dancing the principal roles of Odette/Odile and Prince Siegfried?
We will have three casts. The first cast is Hyemin Hwang and Jae-Yong Ohm, the second is Yena Kang and Hyonjun Rhee, and the third is Chaelee Kim (Odette) – Yongjung Rhee (Odile) and Seunghyun Lee. All of them were born in Korea.
Is Swan Lake, the version of artistic director emeritus Oleg Vinogradov, being performed elsewhere in 2012?
No, only in Johannesburg. This World Tour runs from 2011 to 2013 leading up to Universal Ballet’s 30th anniversary in 2014. The company is slated to visit 40 cities. In 2011, the tour began with performances at the National Theater in Taipei and the Esplanade Theater in Singapore then moved to San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House and the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts in July. Autumn performances were held in Tokyo and two other Japanese cities in September and at the Grand Opening of the Royal Opera House Muscat in Oman in November.
This year’s schedule includes a contemporary mixed programme, This is Modern 3 (Kylian, Forsythe and Naharin) in Japan and Taiwan, Swan Lake in Joburg, followed by Shim Chung at the Stanislavsky Theater in Moscow, then a return to Europe for a six-week tour of 13 cities. For 2013 discussions are ongoing for Tokyo, Taipei, Turkey, San Francisco, Madrid, Barcelona, Germany and Italy.
• Showtimes: Friday at 8pm. Saturday: 3pm and 8pm; Sunday at 3pm. Book at www.joburgtheatre.com or 0861 670 670. Tickets: R250 to R400.