Korean Ballerina Emerges from ABT Chorus Line

      February 20, 2009 07:38

      Young Korean ballerina Seo Hee will be in the spotlight with the American Ballet Theater, dancing the role of Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet." The performance is on March 13 in Detroit and on July 9 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

      The ABT is one of the world's top ballet theaters along with the United Kingdom's Royal Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet. Seo joined the ABT in 2004 and has been in the corps de ballet since then. This illustrates the 23-year old's dramatic rise within the ABT, the first time she is taking a lead role for an entire show. "Because Romeo and Juliet is one of my favorites, it still feels so surreal. I think it will sink in when I perform on the stage," she says.

      Seo Hee

      The list of prima ballerinas in the ABT includes Nina Ananiashvili, Paloma Herrera, Gillian Murphy, and Xiomara Reyes. It is rare for a dancer in the corps de ballet to join such a starry array. But Seo's resume shows this is not a fluke. She was featured in the January 2008 edition of dance magazine Pointe as one of the most impressive dancers of 2007, and monthly magazine Time Out named her as one of five extraordinary performers worth seeking out this season.

      After studying at the Sunhwa Arts Middle School, Seo won a three-year full scholarship to train at the Universal Ballet Academy in Washington, D. C. After winning the 2003 Prix de Lausanne, she danced with the prestigious Stuttgart Ballet and then joined ABT in 2004.

      While Russian ballet emphasizes upper body movement such as port de bras, eye contact, and finger tip postures, German ballet focuses on lower body movement. But according to Seo, the ABT is different from either of these two schools. "The ABT style is to leave the dancers alone. Individual character matters here, and dance that lacks originality cannot survive," she says.

      Of over 80 dancers in the ABT, some 50 are in the corps de ballet. Asked whether she could be permanently promoted to a soloist level, Seo said, "You reap what you sow, and everything comes down to how much effort you've put into it, and how much you've struggled with yourself. The result is all up in the air. But I'm happy because I feel that I am one step closer."

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