Fri, Apr 13, 2012 - Page 14 News List

Dance: A Korean take on modern ballet

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Universal Ballet dancers perform in In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, above, and Sechs Tanze, left, both part of the modern mixed bill program the company will be presenting at the National Theater in Taipei this weekend.

Photo courtesy of Art Wave Inc

The Universal Ballet of Korea won over Taipei dance fans a year ago with its full-length ballet Shim Chung, which combines classical Western ballet with a famous Korean folktale. This year the company is returning with much more modern fare to show just what its traditionally trained dancers are capable of.

The program would be a heady stretch for any company, featuring pieces by some of the most famous names in contemporary ballet and dance — Czech Jiri Kylian, American William Forsythe and Israeli Ohad Naharin — but is even more so for a company known for dancers schooled along traditional Russian academic lines — those of the Kirov Ballet’s (now St Petersburg) Vaganova style.

Unlike last year, the entire 70-plus company won’t be coming, just 34 dancers, who will perform in both tomorrow night’s show and Sunday’s matinee, said Wang Tzer-shing (王澤馨), whose firm, Art Wave Inc, is once again sponsoring the troupe.

The two Kylian pieces on the program both use music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but Petite Mort and Sechs Tanze (Six Dances) are very different in scope and style. The 17-minute Petite Mort was created for the Salzburg Festival in 1991 to mark the second centenary of Mozart’s death. It features six women, six men and six foil sculptures that the dancers dance with, which sometimes appear to have minds of their own.

“Pette Morte is very classical, very lyrical; it’s just that the girls are not on point. It has beautiful lines and it is very difficult for the dancers to balance with the forms and not drop them. It’s very challenging for the dancers,” Wang said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

“For Six Dances, there is a lot a acting and comedy in the ballet. Sometimes for Asian dancers comedy is the most difficult thing — how to make the audience laugh. But I saw them dance the piece in Seoul and they did a wonderful job of making the people laugh,” she said.

While the company suggested bringing the two Kylian pieces, Wang was the one pressing them to include Germany-based Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, which was created for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1987. In the repertory of several major ballet companies, it is probably Forsythe’s most frequently performed work. Taipei dance fans who saw the 2010 International Ballet Star Gala were able to catch a brief snippet of the piece when Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz of the San Francisco Ballet performed its pas de deux.

“We really, really wanted Somewhere once we knew they did it, because the whole piece has never been seen here,” Wang said. “In Seoul at the end of last year they showed us the DVD [of the company’s version] — it was great ... the ballet master from the Forsythe company was there and said that they [Universal] are doing it better than some European companies.”

Dance fans who saw the Batsheva Dance Company when it was at the National Theater in October 2010 may find something familiar about the final work on Universal’s program, Naharin’s Minus 7. Batsheva’s director and choreographer is famous for reworking and reorganizing his dances, combining bits and pieces from different works. Minus 7 incorporates segments from Zachacha, Mabul and Anaphaza, some of which — the chair dance, some of the quieter duets and set pieces, and the invitation to some audience members to join the dancers on stage — were included in Deca Dance 2010, performed in Taipei by Batsheva.

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