When the Curtains Never Open
Written by Eugenia Kang | Published. 2020.06.05 10:33 | Count : 927

Performances hold a lot of value in our lives. Whether it be the upcoming Talent Show at school or classics like the “Lion King” on Broadway, the Covid-19 epidemic has impacted the world of art and performance. The FACO (Federation of Artistic & Culture Organization) reported that the number of art and performance events canceled or postponed in South Korea reached 2,500 from January to April this year, resulting in the loss of approximately KRW 52 billion in total revenue. 

[Source: “The impact of COVID-19 on Art and Performance,” FACO Graph by Genie Kang] 

As the outbreaks continued to spread throughout the country, the highly anticipated “Anna Karenina” by the Korean National Ballet was cancelled, followed by other performance cancellations such as the “Swan Lake” and “Hoi Rang.” Busan Ballet Theater also canceled its annual spring season performances, which would have included "Cinderella" and "The Sleeping Beauty." These unexpected cancellations have shocked the community.

Dance academies are also hard hit. The cluster outbreak of 116 Corona patients in the Cheonan and Asan areas was especially damaging because they have been traced to dance academies. According to reports from the KCDC (Korea Center for Disease Control), as of March 11, at least 90 percent of the Covid-19 cases in the Cheonan area were connected to a Zumba class. Dance, once a beautiful means of human expression, has now become a life-threatening activity -- both to partake in, and to watch.

[The Swan Lake performed by Busan Ballet Theater in 2019. Photo Courtesy of Youngjin Park]

So how have dancers in South Korea responded to this turmoil? “We are unsure when the performances will officially begin again. The cancelled events were long-awaited performances. It was difficult for us to cancel the performances because we had begun planning for them well in advance and practiced ever since. Now, we will not get paid unless the shows go on stage. With no show to perform, we all have to find other means of income in these troubled times," lamented Youngjin Park, the Prima Ballerina of the Busan Ballet Theater. 

Some online performances are planned to be held but are not the ideal alternative. Youngjin Park adds, “There is a reason why people purchase expensive tickets to come and watch the shows. Watching the performances online does not give people the same feelings as when they come to watch them in person. I’m not sure if people would be willing to buy expensive tickets to watch our performances on their screens.” 

[Busan Ballet Theater Prima Ballerina Youngjin Park with the reporter, Photo by Genie Kang] 

The COVID-19 epidemic has impacted local dance academies even more than dancers. Since the cluster outbreak of 116 Corona patients in Cheonan and Asan, the once energetic and lively dance studios are now ghost towns in the face of the pandemic. 
“Now, it is even frowned upon for instructors like me to ask students to come and practice because of the contagiousness of the virus,” stated Jieun Jang, the director of J Dance Academy. “My students continue to pursue their passion in dance, but with strict precautions in place. They are forced to have their temperature checked when entering into my studio and wear masks at all times. We also keep a detailed daily record of who came when with their contact information. But I am not sure how long I can keep this up. I am afraid that the students will lose momentum in preparing for their respective goals.”

[J Dance Academy director Jieun Jang measuring temperature upon entering the class. 
Photo by Genie Kang] 

Across all industries and sectors, the very survival of many businesses is at stake. While it is common to support local restaurants and other small businesses, people should also look towards the performers who enrich the public with art like dancers. Art performances are not crucial for survival like food and water, but they are needed even more during these trying times to lift up our spirits. For, as Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”


Eugenia Kang 
Sophomore (Grade 10) 
Yongsan International School of Seoul (YISS)

Eugenia Kang  student_reporter@dherald.com

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