ballerina-press appearance

SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- Since leaving the Korea National Ballet after 15 years last summer, prominent ballerina Kim Joo-won has carefully prepared for her debut as a freelance artist.

And now she's back with the legendary ballet piece "Marguerite and Armand" by late famed British choreographer Frederick Ashton.

She will perform the role of Marguerite in her first stage appearance after giving up her position as the troupe's prima ballerina in June to challenge herself.

"I'm all the more thrilled and happy to play the role because it's a hard-won opportunity," the 35-year-old said during a press conference to promote the performance ahead of its opening scheduled for early next month. "I'm honored to do a legendary piece."

A graduate of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, Kim was recognized in 2006 as the top female dancer at the Benois de la Danse ― held by the International Dance Association in Moscow ― widely regarded as the Academy Awards of dance.

"I sent everything -- my profile, videos of dancing and media reviews -- to a nephew of Ashton who holds the copyright for the ballet piece. The copyright owner contemplated my offer and I managed to win permission last summer. This must be a piece which one cannot do easily," she said.

"Marguerite and Armand" was created in 1963 by Ashton, who was an art director of Britain's Royal Ballet, specifically for world-famous dancers Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn.

The ballet was not staged for nearly 10 years after the death of Fonteyn. It was only in 2000 that the work came to life again by dancers Sylvie Guillem and Nicolas Le Riche. Kim is the first Asian ballerina to play the title role in "Marguerite and Armand," according to the show's publicity officials.

She said she first saw the piece staged by the Royal Ballet about 10 years ago.

"I was struck by the piece in the first 35 minutes and have since had the dream of doing the work for 10 years," she said.

"Marguerite and Armand" is a ballet set to Franz Liszt's B minor piano sonata. Inspired by the 19th-century novel "The Lady of the Camellias" by Alexandre Dumas, fils, and other adaptations of the same story such as Giuseppe Verdi's opera "La Traviata," the ballet is about the tragic love affair between Marguerite Gautier, a Parisian courtesan, and young nobleman named Armand.

Kim Hyun-woong, a South Korean ballerino of the Washington Ballet, will play the role of Armand.

The cast includes other famed dancers -- Irek Mukhamedov, a Russian-born dancer who works as an artistic director of the Slovenian National Theatre Opera and Ballet Company, Hwang Hye-min, Ohm Jae-young, Lee Won-chul and Yoon Jeon-il.

"Marguerite and Armand" will run from April 5 to 7 at LG Arts Center in southern Seoul.

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