Bolshoi Ballet Academy Envisions Korean Campus in Incheon

Bolshoi Ballet Academy Envisions Korean Campus in Incheon
Students of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow
(Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP-Getty Images)

SEOUL — Young South Korean dancers may no longer need to fly to Russia to learn ballet, for the world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet plans to open an institution in Incheon.

The Moscow State Academy of Choreography (better known as the Bolshoi Ballet Academy) signed Tuesday a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Incheon Free Economic Zone Authority to open a college on Incheon’s Songdo Global University Campus, Yonhap News reported Thursday. Incheon, located about an hour west from Seoul, is best known for the Incheon International Airport.

It has been reported that the Bolshoi Academy will collaborate with Universal Ballet Company, one of Korea’s largest dance troupes, to design the academic program for undergraduates and graduates. The campus center will begin with a four-year undergraduate program that will admit 60 students per class (20 per major).

An official contract will be drawn within the year, and if followed through, the learning center will be built within two years.

“But first, a school,” Russian legend George Balanchine is said to have insisted when he was asked to help establish a ballet company in the United States in the early-1930s. Decades later, the School of American Ballet in New York stands among the most prestigious in the world. Since endorsing the Western dance form some 60 years ago, Korea has seen some of the world’s shining ballet dancers like Sue Jin Kang and local companies provide some of the most popular performances here. While most Korean universities offer dance majors, however, the country still lacks a full-scale ballet academy.

The Bolshoi Ballet Academy opened in 1773 under the auspices of Catherine II (initially as an orphanage in 1763) — even before the Bolshoi Theater (1776) and the ballet company itself (1780). The Korea National Ballet has long collaborated with the Russian company, with its choreographer Yuri Grigorovich regularly staging his original works here and Korean dancers being invited to perform in Moscow.

Meanwhile, Songdo authorities are also pushing forth plans to establish a local branch of the Rimsky-Korsakov St. Petersburg State Conservatory, Russia’s oldest academy of music.