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Ballet pays tribute to revered Korean independence fighter

Aug. 12, 2021 - 14:46 By Im Eun-byel
A scene from the original ballet “Ahn Jung-geun, a Dance in the Heaven” slated to be staged at the Seoul Arts Center from Friday to Sunday (Seoul Arts Center)

“Ahn Jung-geun, a Dance in the Heaven” will take the stage at the Seoul Arts Center from Friday to Sunday, in celebration of South Korea’s Liberation Day on Aug. 15.

The ballet, which premiered in 2015, tells the story of Korean independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun (1879-1910). This year marks the 111st anniversary of his death.

Ahn is one of Korea’s most honored independence fighters. He assassinated Ito Hirobumi, Korean’s first Japanese Resident-General during the Japanese colonial period, in Harbin, China in 1909. He was sentenced to death by the Japanese colonial court.

“This work is based on a theatrical imagination of how Ahn was when he was imprisoned after assassinating Ito Hirobumi,” choreographer Moon Byung-nam said at a press event held Wednesday at the Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul. Moon is the artisic director of M Ballet Company.

Moon created the work in 2015 and it was funded by the Art Council Korea. He reproduced the work with the Seoul Arts Center for the upcoming performance.

“I wanted to express the inner world of Ahn, how he felt after the death sentence and the hopes he had,” Moon said.

Though an original Korean ballet piece, the work features elements of classical ballet such as divertissements and rigorous techniques. Moon said such elements are essential as original Korean ballet work is a variation of classical ballet.

“I would like to achieve the dream of introducing original Korean ballet works to the international stage. I hope original Korean ballet works will make their way into the global dance scene with their own strong Korean narratives,” Moon said.

Yun Jeon-il, a former member of the Korea National Ballet and Romanian National Opera Ballet, and Lee Dong-tak, a principal dancer at Universal Ballet, perform the role of Ahn.

Kim Ji-young, who was the principal dancer of the prestigious Korean National Ballet Company and Park Ye-eun, a principal dancer at the ballet company, take up the role of Kim A-ryeo, Ahn’s wife.

Professor Kim Soon-jung of Sungshin Women’s Univeristy’s Department of Dance takes the role of Jo Maria, Ahn’s mother.

“Male hero narratives have been the mainstream of ballet. But this ballet work is distinctive as it highlights the female characters, such as Kim, Ahn’s wife, and his mother Jo,” Kim said.

By Im Eun-byel (