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by Perry Bialor
South Korea's "Russian" Ballet Company
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
New York State Theater
August 1 to 5, 2001 (five performances)
Reviewed August 1, 2001 by Perry Bialor
The youthful Universal Ballet of South Korea puts on a Kirov-style production of "La Bayadere" that would be the envy of more mature companies. This is the third year that the Universal Ballet, a large company only in its 17th year of existence, has toured the United States. Each time it seems to get better.
Where were the flowers? They sent no flowers for the curtain calls-and the Universal Ballet (of South Korea) deserved them for its opening night performance of "La Bayadere" at the New York State Theater, the last stop on its 2001 North American Tour. Universal's presentation of the three-act ballet choreographed by Marius Petipa (with some alterations by Chebukiani) to music by Ludwig Minkus and first presented at the Maryinsky Theater in 1877 reproduced the Kirov production virtually to the last gesture and necklace-or so it seemed. In fact, the production omitted an Act IV (a common practice) and made some minor simplifications. What mattered, however, was that the Act II variations for soloists and the whole company were, on the whole, superbly done with all the spectacle that act required (even to a mock elephant on which the hero rode across the stage) and that the Act III entry and dance of the 32 "shades" was effective (only a tiny bit wobbly at times).
Although the first three Artistic Directors of the company (initiated and supported by the Rev. Moon) were Americans, it has long been heavily influenced by Russian instructors and performers from the Kirov (the non-Koreans in the company are virtually all Russian). Since 1998 Oleg Vinogradov, formerly Artistic Director of the Kirov Ballet, took the same position at Universal Ballet, while continuing as Director of the Universal Ballet School in Washington D.C. "La Bayadere," though not the first Kirov-style ballet presented by the company, is evidence plus of the Kirov stamp, at least on the full-length classical ballets. The company will also be performing "Sim Chung," a full-length ballet based on an old Korean tale. [Perry Bialor]
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