|Stills of "We, Again: The Ballet" Courtesy of KBS|
By Park Ji-won
The Korean National Ballet (KNB) and public broadcasting network KBS, have come under fire for filming dancers in dangerous locations for a ballet program.
According to documents acquired by Rep. Jeon Yong-gi of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, the labor union of dancers at KNB said they were treated badly and some of them were injured due to the dangerous locations for the filming of KBS's special one-off program "We, Again: The Ballet," which aired on Dec. 24. The labor union criticized the dance company and the network for failing to protect the health and safety of the cast.
The show was a joint project organized by the dance company and the network aimed at giving hope to those who are suffering from the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic by showing the dancers performing in various places in Korea. Filming took place in seven different locations, including a salt pan, airstrip, and forest.
"Dancers had to jump on an asphalt airstrip at Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, and one of them was injured while filming … Also, the filming worsened the pain in a dancer's leg, which had already been smarting … One day after the filming, more dancers felt pain in their legs," the union's document said.
"On a saltern, dancers were so worried about the injuries because the ground was very slippery. In the forest, dancers were afraid of hurting their ankles because the ground was basically made up of soil, stones, and leaves … When one dancer complained about the ground conditions, a KBS staffer said 'You are a professional dancer. Why don't you avoid it professionally?' and the ballet company didn't take any proper measures to deal with the situation…
"Dancers had to wait and film in very cold weather without any proper heaters to warm them. So many of them had to suffer from frozen muscles and had to rest the next day." The union also claimed that KBS filmed dancers changing their clothes without permission.
The dance company said in the document, "We took into consideration the health and safety of the dancers, while filming proceeded after gaining the approval of the dancers. There is one scene showing the dancers shivering after their perspiration evaporated, but it was not as bad as it looks."
As soon as a teaser video was released, however, the dance company faced criticism, while the broadcaster was also blamed for failing to protect the health and safety of the dancers. Others, however, said the scenes were beautiful.
A comment reads, "It is abuse committed in the name of art. No one would have come up with that program if the health and safety of the dancers were taken into account."
"The program does not aim to show hope, but to show the despair of the dancers. Pointe shoes on the pavement is not something to brag about," wrote another.
Yun Dan-woo, a dance critic, said on Twitter, "Even though the person in charge got the approval from the dancers and offered some favors, if the filming location was dangerous, the person who is responsible should have given up filming and come up with a plan B. The moment a dancer gets injured, there should be no excuses."