The entire dance history of Kang Sue-jin, the principal dancer of Germany's Stuttgart Ballet, is condensed into a single photograph that captures a powerful jump in the first act of "Romeo and Juliet."
The photo, which graces the cover of the dancer's first ever photo book, was taken in Jan. 1993, at Kang's first performance in the leading role of Juliet for the Stuttgart Ballet.
The Chosun Ilbo spoke to Kang in Germany by phone on Tuesday morning local time.
"I was extremely nervous but happy that day. The jump still looks so powerful, even now," she said. Kang's husband Tunchi Shockman, her former dancing colleague, and photographer Gundel Kilian selected the cover photo together.
The Stuttgart Ballet has decided to dedicate a performance of "Romeo and Juliet" to Kang on July 7 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her joining the company.
◆ It sounds amazing that a ballet company would dedicate a performance to a current member.
It sounds even better considering the date is July 7. They're also planning to hold a party for me after the performance. I'm so happy about it. Of course, I'm Juliet of the night. Juliet in her 40s.
◆ Are you the oldest member of the company?
I'm the oldest at 40. Almost all the ballerinas of my age have left the stage, including Alexandra Ferri of the American Ballet Theatre who announced her retirement this year. The second oldest ballerina in our company is 30 years old. I'm always thankful that I've been dancing for so long.
◆ The 28-photo spread of you seems like an autobiography.
My husband and I laughed a lot while we were selecting the photos because they reminded us of memories. I'm so glad that they were published in the same year of my 20th anniversary of joining the Stuttgart Ballet.
◆ How many hours do you spend practicing ballet a day?
Six hours. It's the same amount I did last year and the year before last.
◆ How about your physical strength?
It's strange but I feel better than ever. I think I feel so fit because of the support from my parents, husband and fans.
◆ You're an art director of the 2007 Korea World Dance Star Festival that will be held at the end of July.
The show's subtitle is "Kang Sue-jin with Friends." I'm not worried about the performance since I'll be directing professional ballerinas including Kim Ji-young, soloist dancer of the Netherlands National Ballet Theater, Yu Ji-yeon of Kirov Ballet in Russia, Kim Seh-yun, soloist dancer with the Zurich Ballet in Switzerland, and Kim Joo-won, the prima ballerina of the Korea National Ballet Company. This performance will also be a stage for us to comfort and cheer each other. I'll also dance the duet from the second act of "Onegin", my favorite.
◆ Park Sae-eun, who won the first prize at the Prix de Lausanne, will perform on the same stage. Park received a grant of W500,000 (US$1=W938) that was raised by auctioning your dance shoes, and she bought her own dance shoes with that money.
I heard that. I'm so glad that there are so many young promising dancers in Korea. However, life as a ballerina is much more about hardship than joy. Patience is important to ballerinas. If you don't go through the hardships, you'll never know happiness.
The Korea World Dance Star Festival 2007 will be held July 25 to 27 at the LG Art Center, July 28 at the Nowon Culture and Art Center, and July 30 at the Gimhae Arts and Sports Center. Only one thousand copies of Kang's photo book are available. Call (02) 3674-2210 for more information.