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Bolshoi Ballet (PC: Denis Sinyakov/REUTERS)

South Korea’s Sejong Center Withdraws Bolshoi Ballet Performance

A gala concert featuring principal dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet has been canceled due to program changes being declined


The cancellation of performances at Seoul’s Sejong Center for the Performing Arts involving dancers from the Bolshoi Ballet comes after the concert hall turned down the organizer Ballet & Model’s proposal to alter the cast and program.

As reported by The Korea Herald, Ballet & Model signed a deal with the Sejong Center in October 2023 to stage the show at the venue. In late March 2024, they made several changes to the show’s cast and program. 

The number of ballet dancers was proposed to decrease from 20 to eight, with the number of Bolshoi Ballet’s principal dancers down from 12 to six. Six programmed pieces were withdrawn, while four new numbers were added.

Previously, the concert title was also changed from “Bolshoi Ballet Gala Concert 2024 in Seoul,” to “Super Ballet Concert of Ballet & Model 2024 in Seoul.”

The Sejong Center claims Ballet & Model should have retained the original plan, and that the performance could have gone ahead if that was the case. 

Ballet & Model maintains that the changes were made to elevate the show’s quality and that the prior cancellation in March 2024 of Russian ballerina Svetlana Zakharova’s “Modanse” show prompted them to seek a high-caliber performance from the Bolshoi Ballet, explained CEO of Ballet & Model, Choi Jun-seok, who had studied at Bolshoi Ballet Academy

Choi commented that the change in the show’s title reflected the company’s wish to “deliver a pure heart for ballet” and that his goal was to help young Korean ballet dancers see world-class performances.

Additionally, he told Agence-France Presse (AFP) that while the Ukraine Embassy had requested he cancel the show, the final decision was made by the Sejong Center. 

“While it may appear that the number of performers has decreased, the final casting was completed with veteran dancers and promising young talents (from the Bolshoi Ballet), including the chief conductor of the Bolshoi Theater (Anton Grishanin),” Choi said. “It’s disappointing that despite the essence of 'Bolshoi' remaining unchanged, the performance had to be canceled.”

“There was a unanimous opinion from the committee that the changes were too substantial,” an official from the Sejong Center told The Korea Herald. “Had the application been submitted with the current program lineup, the initial approval would not have been obtained … Political issues were not taken into consideration,” they continued. “The evaluation was based solely on the quality of the performance.”

The Russian Embassy in Seoul has expressed “deep regret” over the cancellation of the show: “In this series of events, we cannot help but notice that Korea is showing a certain trend in its cooperation with Russia in the cultural sphere.” they wrote. “We will have to take this into consideration,” referring to the cancellation of Zakharova's show.

Ukraine’s representatives said the show had been canceled after a lobbying campaign by its local embassy.

Sejong Center’s official added that the previous cancellation of “Modanse” was not a result of the global cancellation of Russian artists or of the recent protests against the performance in front of the Sejong Center by a group of Ukrainians and Russians living in Korea.

Zakharova, a Ukrainian-born Russian ballerina who has been closely associated with the Putin administration, was scheduled to perform at the Seoul Arts Center from April 17–21 in the ballet “Modanse” when it was withdrawn on March 15, 2024.

“We have decided to cancel the event due to concerns about the safety of both artists and audiences, as well as at the request of the Seoul Arts Center,” the show’s organizer InArts Production noted at the time.

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