For Julia Moon, Life is a Date with Destiny
Universal Ballet chief wants to complete a trilogy of Korean ballets
From Oct. 24 through Nov. 1, the Universal Ballet went on its first-ever South American tour, performing “Shim Chung” and “This is Modern” at the 1,300-seat Teatro Mayor of the Julio Mario Santo Domingo in Bogota, Colombia. Although several of the 55 dancers suffered from altitude sickness while performing the more vigorous “This is Modern,” the tour was a great success, according to Moon.
“When Universal Ballet was founded in 1984, there was very little understanding of classical ballet. There were no audience members and students from Sun Hwa Arts School next door were the main audience in the beginning,” recalled Moon. Moon joined the Universal Ballet as a founding member, having previously been with the Washington Ballet. In 1996, she retired from dancing, assuming the post of general director of the Universal Ballet.
“We had to break with him because I wanted to go with 20th century contemporary ballet. I wanted Korean audiences to see modern ballet,” she said, adding, “Our dancers need to grow through it, the audience needs to see it.”
Is there no rivalry between the two companies? “It is like a person with two legs. You need to hop if you have one leg. The presence of two major ballet companies really drove Korean ballet to grow so fast.”
People often refer to Moon as the eternal Giselle, but it appears that Moon has moved on from being a simple, naive girl and become a stronger, more expressive woman. “In my 20s, Giselle suited me really well. But in my 30s, I identified with Kitri from ‘Don Quixote,’ which is the complete opposite of Giselle. Also Nikiya from ‘La Bayadere,’ who dares to go against authority and shows her emotion to keep the man she loves.”
If she were asked to wed spiritually today, would she do it, now that she is no longer a young woman? “I grew up accepting that Rev. Moon would choose who I would marry. He always talked about living for others. I interpreted it as meaning loving unconditionally. I wondered, ‘What if he is black, French, fat or handicapped?’ I thought of all the possibilities, but reality is difficult,” she said.
Contrary to what many people think about her marriage, Moon said she did have a choice. “I had a choice. Once you go through adolescence, children will choose what they choose. It made sense to me. You cannot force anyone to do what I chose to do. You can’t fake it or force it,” she said.
Opening up a page from “Book of Birthdays,” Moon showed me her birth date. The page is titled “Day of Destiny.” Several Post-it flags have been stuck to different pages, marking her family members’ birthdays. She has a daughter, 12, and a son, 22, both adopted as infants. “It is really accurate,” she said with a laugh.
“When I married, there was no plan for a ballet company,” Moon said. “In 1976, Adrienne Dellas first came to teach in Korea. It happened to be the year I joined Sun Hwa Arts School. It takes eight years to train a professional dancer and the ballet company was founded in 1984. I didn’t know I would marry this way, and the director didn’t know there would be an accident (in which my betrothed would be killed). The nuts and bolts fell into place,” she said. It does sound like destiny.
Looking ahead to the next 10 years, Moon is preparing the next generation of teachers, dancers and administrators. She would also like to complete a trilogy of original productions based on Korean folklore. The three-act classical ballet-style “Shim Chung” premiered in 1986 while the neoclassical ballet “The Love of Chunhyang” in two acts is still being fine-tuned even as it is being performed on stage. “Heungbu and Nolbu,” a one-act humorous contemporary ballet, would complete the trilogy.
“After we complete ‘Chunhyang,’ I would like to start working on ‘Heungbu and Nolbu’ although the planning department does not think it will sell well,” Moon said. “I always talked about a trilogy of the most well-known traditional stories children grew up with. ‘Shim Chung’ deals with filial piety, ‘Chunhyang’ concerns chastity and romantic love. ‘Heungbu and Nolbu’ talks about brotherly love. These stories encompass our value system from the old times,” Moon explained. “With ‘Heungbu and Nolbu,’ I want to make it modern, bring it to this era. It would be completely modern, no pointe shoes,” she added.
While her work occupies all her time now, she looks forward to the day when she will be released from it all.
“There are so many things I would love to do. Horseback riding ― I imagine myself galloping and cantering on a horse one day,” she said. “I’m really a homebody. I like housekeeping. I think I’d have been a very good housewife. I like reading, studying theology and world history,” she said.