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[News] Shim Chung’ draws cheers in San Francisco

Date 2011-07-25 Hits 5689 Attach
Shim Chung’ draws cheers in San Francisco
July 25, 2011
Simcheong and the Dragon King’s son dance in the Universal Ballet’s “Shim Chung: The Blindman’s Daughter” in San Francisco on Friday. [JoongAng Ilbo]
SAN FRANCISCO - Shim Chung may not be as famous as Odette from “Swan Lake” or the Sugar Plum Fairy from “The Nutcracker,” but she did get a standing ovation from ballet fans attending Universal Ballet of Korea’s production of “Shim Chung: The Blindman’s Daughter” at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House on Friday.

The ballet, now 25-years-old, was the company’s first work to highlight Korean culture. Created and choreographed in 1986 by American Adrienne Dellas, the original production was a landmark at a time when collaborations between Korean and foreign artists were rare. “Shim Chung” also drew on the talents of Korean critic Park Yong-gu, who wrote the script, composer Kevin Barber Pickard, who wrote the score, and Myung-ho Kim, who designed the set. Artistically, it is a fluid mixture of traditional Korean dance forms and Western ballet.

For some, Universal Ballet’s warm reception at the 3,000-seat theater in San Francisco is an indication that the Korean Wave, or Hallyu, is moving beyond music, soap operas and film into other areas of culture.

“This Korean traditional folk tale has been dressed in a pair of ballet pointe shoes,” said Julia H. Moon, the head of Universal Ballet of Korea and its former prima ballerina until 2001. “We will spread the Ballet Hallyu [Korean Wave] to the world.”

The folktale, “Simcheongga,” is about a girl named Simcheong and her blind father. When Simcheong learns her father’s sight can be restored if she offers herself as human sacrifice to the Dragon King, the ruler of the sea, she does not hesitate to do it. When he learns what she has done, the Dragon King is so impressed by Simcheong’s filial devotion that he returns her to the surface in a big lotus flower. The flower is found by a human king, who falls in love with Simcheong and marries her. After the two are married, Simcheong holds a banquet for blind men in hopes of finding her father. When father and daughter are reunited, his eyesight is instantly restored.

The ballet contains a sailors’ dance in the first act that drew prolonged cheers from the audience in San Francisco. The second act, which is set in the Dragon King’s palace under the sea, also seemed to impress the audience with its fairy-tale-like setting.

Writing about a production of the ballet staged in Los Angeles in 2001, Lewis Segal, the Los Angeles Times’ dance critic, said, “Adding immeasurably to the splendor of the ballet: an array of costumes depicting the workaday, royal, dream and undersea worlds” of the designers.

But it is in the third act that the dancers made their biggest impression, presenting a beautiful combination of tal chum (mask dance) and Western ballet choreography.

The current production is part of the a larger tour that took the company to Taiwan and Singapore in April. Next, they will travel to Japan, Oman, Russia and South Africa for the rest of 2011 and the first half of 2012.

By Choi Min-woo [estyle@joongang.co.kr]