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[Opinion] Ballerina

Posted October. 25, 2004 23:14,   


Life is short, but art is long. Literature, music, and paintings survive long after their creators have passed away. It is often the case that an artist becomes belatedly recognized after his or her death. Ballet, however, is not a case in point. The art is long but the life is short. Ballet uses the human body as both its subject and its tool, and ends when the body wanes. Ballerina Margot Fonteyn was at the height of her popularity in the 1960s and pursued her career even into her forties through her perfect self-control and conditioning efforts, but most people leave the stage in their thirties.

Romantic classical ballet is highly advanced in the U.K., France, Russia, and Denmark thanks to an enormous amount of support from royalty and nobles. It is an irony that Russia, even after the socialist revolution, has maintained this most aristocratic art, ballet, so well. In fact, Stalin himself was a big fan of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet and Leningrad’s Kirov Ballet. The recent growth of ballet in China and Cuba is interesting. Korea in the 1990s also witnessed many talented ballet dancers with a growing number of enthusiastic fans.

The beauty of classical ballet is, after all, the prima donna ballerina. It is no exaggeration that the popularity, fame, and success of a ballet is up to its ballerinas alone. In the case of one the legendary ballerinas of the 19th century, Fanny Cerrito, one man earned a lot of money by selling her bath water that he had stolen. Her popularity at that time was equal to that of Hollywood celebrities today. And now, many young girls around the world, who dream of becoming the best ballerina, are willingly undertaking hard training.

The dramatic proof of the hard training, I believe, is in the feet of ballerina Kang Soo-jin. When her “seriously deformed, ugly feet” were first aired on television two years ago, fans were shocked. They were the result of an enormous amount of intensive practice that had cost her 250 toe-shoes in her first season as a prima donna. Knowing her painstaking efforts, many fans began to call her distorted and now hardened feet that look like a hundred-years-old tree “the most beautiful feet in the world.” When asked about her feet by reporters in her recent visit to Korea, she smiled, answering, “They are more deformed now, and my husband calls them Picasso style.”

I want to send a kiss to her feet.

Oh Myong-chul, Editorial Writer, oscar@donga.com