- Universal Ballet : Company News
[Interview-Swan Magazine] Hyemin Hwang & Seunghyun Lee
Hyemin Hwang, Principal dancer
Swan Lake: A Touchstone for all Ballerinas
Q: What started you toward becoming a ballerina?
A friend of mine invited me to visit a ballet school together when I was in 4th grade (9 years old) and I was totally fascinated by the ballet teacher’s fashion, the style of wearing a leotard and skirt. Since then, ballet has been my dream profession and it was after watching Universal Ballet’s Nutcracker and the Mariinsky Theater’s Giselle in Russia that I became determined to become a ballerina.
Just as last year’s Giselle and our next performance Swan Lake is called a typical touchstone repertoire. I love dancing Giselle. The role comes to me very naturally, because I have already danced it a number of times, I am able to enjoy both the first and second acts. Conversely, with Swan Lake, because it is such a massive piece of work and I have to concentrate on differentiating Odette from Odile in terms of their characters, I am not sure whether I can dance Swan Lake as freely as Giselle. However, I believe it is a work that every ballerina must dance. One of the dramatic pieces that I like is Onegin. John Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias is also a ballet I would like to dance.
Q: What do you care about the most when you are on stage?
I’m not the sort of person who counts on someone to do my hair or check my costumes or make sure I don’t fail any of my duties. I want to take care of myself fully so I do my own hair and keep what I am going to wear on the stage under my direct control. Daily health care is also very important to me. On week days, I have to practice until late. So at least on Sundays I try to let my body relax. Also, no matter how busy I am, doing Pilates at least one a week is a must. Wearing high heels and going out to have fun late at night is strictly forbidden.
Q: What is your goal?
This year, as we are going to many parts of the world, I would like to make a large step forward. Following Swan Lake in South Africa this March, This is Modern in Taiwan this April, Shim Chung in Russia this May, we are performing Shim Chung in France next September. Last July’s Romeo and Juliet was quite an exciting experience for me.
Making Women look Beautiful and Treasuring the Harmony are what I cherish.
Q: Seems you started ballet at the age of 15. Did you have any disadvantages?
Before talking about disadvantages, when I started ballet I could barely do the stretching that was part of the training. Every day was a continuation of just following my teacher’s instructions. With only a little knowledge about ballet, I went to the Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington, D.C. to study. The school has a solid, substantial education system to raise professional dancers which enabled me to study under excellent teaching. After returning to Korea, I had the privilege of being exempted from the military service, and entered Sejong University near the company.
Q: What did you learn at Sejong University?
In addition to ballet and Korean traditional dance, I learned other subjects such as the history of dance, music and stage lighting. The common avenue that most Korean students would take is as follows: start ballet while attending elementary school, enter a six-year secondary school specialized in the arts, then advance to university, and eventually join the company. This sequence comes from the fact that Korea is still an academic-background oriented society and that everyone desires to go to institutions where they offer variety of major subjects.
Q: Things you have realized after joining the company: What do you think is the most important as a professional dancer?
While I was at school, I once danced Nutcracker with Universal Ballet. At that time I keenly felt the huge gap that exists between amateur and pro. Thanks to veteran dancer, Hyemin Hwang’s endurance, I now understand for the first time a sense of mission and responsibility.
About the mental attitude of male dancers, I am learning a lot from Jaeyong Ohm. In comparison with the hard work of female dancers with their pointe work, male dancers’ support is not particularly difficult.
What I think the two most important things in ballet are making female dancers look beautiful on the stage and bringing the performance into harmony. I am always concerned about synchronizing my breathing with my partner. As the moment, my goal is mastering massive works such as Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. Also, I would love to dance the role of Solor in La Bayadere.