Kim Kimin is finally home and ready to shine onstage

Kim Kimin, a Korean ballet dancer who is a principal dancer in Russia’s renowned Mariinsky Theater, poses during an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily at the Seocho campus of the Korea National University of Arts in southern Seoul. [KIM SANG-SE

As a Korean ballet dancer who shines in Russia’s renowned Mariinsky Theater, Kim Kimin’s name has become a synonym for not just talent but devotion. Ballet is demanding, requiring an extreme level of training, but Kim has turned the difficult aspects of the art form into something enjoyable.

During an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily last Tuesday, Kim said, “I find joy in things that I am not good at, because it means that there is room for me to grow into a better dancer and person.

“I think I love turning the impossible into the possible. I want to expose myself to diverse experiences. Good or bad, come what may. It might not be a blessing for me as a person. But these experiences train me to dance better.”

Kim is proof of impossible-turned-possible. He is the first Asian male principal dancer of the top-tier Russian ballet company. In his early years of training, he once heard a teacher say “It is simply a waste of money if you pursue ballet.” After years of resilience and devotion to ballet, however, he proved the teacher wrong. Kim now earns standing ovations from ballet connoisseurs in Russia. He shrugs off his former teacher's remark, saying, “I have no hard feelings.”

Kim’s calendar is filled with performance after performance around the globe. This busy schedule, and the pandemic, kept him from visiting home. Only this week, after almost four years, was he able to to Seoul for a long-awaited gala performance. Starting from yesterday, he dances with fellow star dancers like Alina Cojocaru, Marianela Nunez, Friedman Vogel, Daniil Simkin and Isabella Boylston, just to name a few, for "Ballet Supreme 2022," which is being held at the National Theater of Korea.

A poster for ‘Ballet Supreme 2022’ featuring Kim at the National Theater of Korea in central Seoul. [NATIONAL THEATER OF KOREA]

Kim had already completed his workout routine by 10.30 a.m. on the day of the interview and was doing his daily barre training, which is like the ABCs of a ballet class. “I am almost addicted to barre training,” he said with a shy smile, “It’s the basics. It is so easy to break but so hard to keep it.”

My teachers used to scold me for practicing too much,” he said. “What matters is not the quantity of training. It‘s the quality. Keeping your balance is the key. If you get loose, it becomes too easy to lose what you have. If you push yourself too hard, you break.”

Kim Kimin, a Korean ballet dancer who is a principal dancer in Russia’s renowned Mariinsky Theater, smiles during an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily. [KIM SANG-SEON]

Balance is something that he is focused on recently, especially since he hit his 30s. “I wish my prime days as a dancer would come when I turn, say, 40,” he said, “I want to stay on stage for a long time, and I need to keep my balance. I want to spend every single day with a meaning, but I also want to do it for a long time.”

He makes jumps and turns look all too easy. His cabriole jumps are light as a feather, and he stays in the air as if it is the easiest thing to do. His pique turns are textbook. His partners call him “thoughtful, careful and simply the best.” Does he have a weakness? He claims he does, saying, “I have trained real hard. I am not someone who masters techniques right away. It took me time but I feel it was for the best. I learned to grow into a good dancer. My weaknesses gave me strength.”

Kim also learend to love himself as he is. “I used to detest the shape of my legs, but my teachers taught me to love me as I am,” he said.

“It is crucial to love yourself. I am not talking about narcissism. Understanding you as you are, trying to be a better you while loving yourself is what counts. A dancer who does not know how to love himself or herself can never shine on stage.”

And now, he is ready to shine on his home stage.