Hoon Sook (Julia) (Pak) Moon (wife of Heung Jin Moon)

An Interview with Julia (Hoon Sook) Moon - Her Life and Her Art

January 2008

It would be very nice to know something of how you began studying ballet.

Hoon-sook: [Grinning] I didn't choose ballet... Well, you know many little girls dream of being a ballerina. They see the crown, they see the satin point shoes, they see the glittering costumes... Like little boys say, "I want to be a race car driver," or "I want to be an astronaut," little girls say, "I want to be a ballerina." I was one of them. When I was a little girl, I used to do a lot of splits and back-bends in the living room. I remember always showing off: "Mom, look at me! See what I can do." I guess it was something that I had a leaning towards as a child.

I started lessons, with my younger sister, at McLean School of Arts. It was in one of those old, little wooden churches where the pews were taken out to make a dance studio. The fact that my first ballet school was in a church is quite meaningful because through all the difficult moments in my dance career it was my faith that sustained me.

How old were you then?

I was seven. My sister and I had two lessons every week and it was fun. I remember doing the school performances. For some reason, my teacher kept picking me for main roles. I guess I was not so bad. My first role as a dancer was a little squirrel, picking up acorns in the school's junior company.

At the age of nine, I went to Korea and danced with the Little Angels for a few years; this gave me the opportunity to learn Korean folk dance.

After returning briefly to the U.S. to finish elementary school, I entered the Sunhwa Arts School, which at the time was called the Little Angels Arts School. Because I entered the junior high school, I had to pick a major. The Little Angels sing, dance and they play the kayageum, so I could choose one of the three. But that was the exact same year that Adrienne Dellas arrived and started teaching ballet at Sunhwa. I think she must have been one of the first Westerners to come and teach ballet in Korea.

Wasn't this long before Universal Ballet existed?

This was 1976. It is very interesting to see how this whole story unfolded. Ms. Dellas came to Korea's in 1976 to teach in the Ballet Department at Sunhwa. She gathered all the students in a huge hall because they were trying to recruit ballet students. I was there. She was talking about ballet and explaining some steps. I think she must have asked, "Does anybody know how to do ballet?" As I had had ballet lessons in the States, I raised my hand. I remember standing up and showing a step called Routs De Jambe.

So, I decided to go back to ballet. And that was the beginning of my professional training, at Sunhwa. Ms. Dellas wasn't just teaching ballet to her students as a hobby. She was teaching with the goal of creating a company. It takes eight years to train a professional dancer, studying from age eight to eighteen.

You have to start young.

Yes. Professional training should start by ten years old at the latest. By the time you're eighteen, with eight years of training, you're ready to join a professional company.

Universal Ballet was started in 1984. 1976 to 1984 is exactly eight years. Back then, nobody knew what would happen in 1984. Nobody knew that Heung-jin nim would have an accident. Nobody knew.

But Ms. Dellas had the goal, the hope and the dream of creating a ballet company, and she came here and taught ballet with that in mind. I studied for three years with Ms. Dellas. During the third year, the Royal Ballet of England was in Seoul performing for the opening of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts. Ms. Dellas invited Gerde Larsen and Donald Macleary, the ballet master and ballet mistress of the Royal Ballet, to come to Sunhwa to audition seven students including me. All seven of us passed the audition and were accepted to the Royal Ballet School in London. That tells you something about the quality of her teaching.

We were all thrilled and elated. I was one of the first three students to leave Korea and enter the Royal Ballet School in England. However, my dreams did not last very long. We lived in the church headquarters at Lancaster Gate and we took the underground to school every day. I was there for about a year. What was really hard on me was that although we were accepted, when we got there, we were all placed in a foreigners' class. There was only one school performance a year, and the foreign students were not allowed to be in it. This made us feel like second-class citizens. It was disheartening and depressing.

Because I got depressed, I got injured, and I wanted to stop dancing altogether. I started asking myself, Is this something I really want to?

How old were you then?

I was seventeen when I entered the Royal Ballet School. After entering the school, all the students take an exam at the end of the year to determine whether another year will be given to them.

Although the school offered me another year, I decided to leave the school. I had decided that ballet was not suitable for me; not only did I not have an ideal physique for ballet I also had a very shy personality, and I didn't think the stage was the right place for me. So, I called my parents and told them I didn't want to dance anymore. I was so unhappy. I was literally sobbing on the phone. My dad picked up the phone and he said, "Don't you move. Don't think of going anywhere." Basically, he was saying, "You've put so much work into this that to give it all up now would be such a waste." He said, "Try one more school, and if after one more school you still really feel like quitting, I'll let you quit."

So, from there I went to Monte Carlo, to the Academie de Danse Classique Princesse Grace. I was there for almost two years. It was such a different school! It was like a family. There were all nationalities there -- Japanese, Irish, French, Italian, Swiss -- they came from everywhere and were all treated equally. An added bonus was the weather, which was so wonderful compared to the rainy weather in London.

My injury healed immediately, which goes to show how physical problems can come from emotional and mental stress. I was happy there and I continued to dance.

When I graduated from the Academie, I thought about auditioning for the Stuttgart Ballet, but the artistic director. Marcia Haydee, was away because she was directing two companies at the time. In the end, I came home and auditioned for the Washington Ballet. Because I'd been away from home for so many years, I thought it was a good time and a good chance for me to be with my family. I was offered a position at the Washington Ballet and worked there for two years.

In the meantime, Adrienne continued to train more students in Korea. It was during my second year at the Washington Ballet that Heung-jin nim ascended, in 1984. Soon after that came my blessing to Heung-jin nim, and the ballet company was started a few months later, as a memorial project to Heung-jin nim.

At the time of Heung-jin nim's matching, Father brought all the blessed children to East Garden. Father said, "Heungjin nim's bride should be an artist so she can devote her life to her art." So, he was looking for a bride among the second-generation girls who were artists. There were painters, singers, musicians... If Father had chosen a concert pianist instead of a dancer, perhaps we would have an orchestra today!

At the time of the matching, I was touring with the Washington Ballet. We had left for an Asian tour in January and the blessing was February 20. I got a call from my mom in the middle of my tour, when we had just arrived in Hong Kong. My mom basically said, "You have to come back."

I said, "This is a company of twenty-one dancers; you just can't ask me to come back in the middle of an Asian tour."

She said, "Well, there's a going to be a blessing."

My parents didn't tell me the reality until I arrived at the airport in the U.S. We didn't say much until we had picked up my bags. Then Dad said, "I think we should go to the coffee shop. We need to talk." So we went to the coffee shop. We sat down, and the first thing he said was, "Have you ever thought of being a nun?" And that was it. I knew immediately what the whole situation was about. I understood.

You understood just from that one question?

That was all he said, and I knew exactly what was going on. It was as if somebody had turned on a faucet, because I started sobbing as I'd never sobbed before. I don't know if it was me, or what it was. We didn't say anything else. Then he explained to me about the matching with Heung-jin nim.

I didn't have any nice clothes with me, so we went to Belvedere and my mom lent me her blouse and jacket. Then we went to East Garden, and everyone was already there, where Father had gathered them. I was one of the last to arrive, and soon after I arrived, the engagement was announced. The engagement ceremony was the following morning.

You might have heard that Heung-jin nim had thirteen cats before he passed away. So many cats were living in his room he had to sleep in the closet, but he just loved cats. But after his Seunghwa, they gave most of the cats away, except one black cat called Malachi, who was taken to live at Belvedere, and two pure white ones, Mamio and Tamio, that stayed at East Garden. That day one of them came walking in. You know how cats walk... and the cat went from person to person, and then it just plopped right down in my lap.

Father wanted Heung-jin nim's bride to be an artist...

Yes, and that's how the company got started, but Adrienne didn't know any of that at the outset in 1976. She didn't know what would happen eight years later. It's really quite interesting how everything fell into place. Everything was already prepared for a ballet company to be started.

The other interesting thing is that though Adrienne had studied various styles of ballet training, she had chosen the Vaganova system and the Maryinsky ballet style for the company, because she thought it was the system that most suited the Korean body. She was always referring to the books and videos of the Maryinsky Ballet' that she had studied. Back then in Korea, even to get a video of the Maryinsky Ballet was very difficult. Then a few years later, in 1989, an unimaginable thing happened.

Oleg Vinogradov, who had served as the artistic director of the Maryinsky Ballet for twenty-three years, agreed to begin working with us as the artistic director of our new ballet school in Washington, DC, a position he still holds today. Meeting him and beginning to work with him was very providential. When we started in 1976, we couldn't have imagined that the artistic director of the Maryinsky Theater would one day work with us. Back then, the Kirov Ballet was something we could only see in videos or books. It was a world we could only dream about.

There have been so many times in my life where I feel that Heung-jin nim has been helping me. Sometimes with very small things. I remember one day I needed a basket of flowers to present to someone who was leaving that day, but I hadn't prepared one; nobody had prepared it. I arrived at the ballet thinking, Oh, my God, there isn't enough time. Then I went into my office and there was a basket of flowers sitting on the table. Of course, somebody had sent them to me, but there they were and I could give those flowers to the person who was leaving. Things like that happen, and when they do I know he is helping me.

When the company was created, so many people were envious of me. Even now some people say, "She has her own company, everything is paid for. Any dancer or choreographer would just die to have that position." But for me, back then, there were so many times I wished the company didn't exist, because it was just so hard. I felt I was trying to be something I was not. I always felt that I was inadequate as a ballerina, but I was being called upon and was expected to be a world class ballerina.

I had a certain amount of ability but not the physical condition or natural coordination it takes to be a prima ballerina. But then again, Heung-jin nim sent me the best teacher I could ever dream of, Geta Constantinescu from Romania. And because of her, I was able to go to the Maryinsky and dance on their stage. He sent me exactly the coach that I needed. She may not have been the most famous, internationally known coach, but she was the one who knew exactly what I needed to learn in order to grow and mature as an artist.

And then when I stopped dancing, I had a similar experience with another person, an acquaintance I had made, who helped me learn about matters of administration and dealing with people, and who helped me grow and mature.

So, I always feel that God and Heung-jin nim have sent me the people that I needed at every point in my life. He also sent Anne. She is a blessed member who had ballet and opera training before she joined the church! She has helped get us organized so we could keep moving forward. She's been here helping me for eighteen years.

So the company was my cross. Dancing was for me... my cross, my sacrifice. I spent many years crying and endlessly pushing myself.

Doesn't it require a lot of sacrifice to become good? Dancing in itself is a sacrifice. Non-dancers have no idea what kind of work dancers have to do to maintain their craft. A dancer has to be dedicated to ballet religiously. The word "religiously" is used often to express the undivided dedication and devotion that ballet dancers must have.

I am somewhat of a perfectionist and was always very critical of myself and my dancing. I was never satisfied with my performances and that drove me to work even harder. I remember that after a performance of Sleeping Beauty at the Seoul Arts Center, I was so upset thinking that my performance was so bad that I walked all the way home from the theater, crying. (It was quite a distance.)

There were times when the burden was so great that I wished that the company did not exist. I spent most of my twenties and thirties in tears. But this was Heung-jin nim's memorial project. I couldn't go to Father and ask him to close the company. When you know Father's life, you can't go to him and complain. You can't say, "It is too hard, Father."

You just can't do that. So one way or another I had to continue, and I did because of True Parents and Heung-jin nim. There were many times when the faith that others had in me gave me the strength and courage to go on when I lacked faith in myself and my ability. When I look back [sigh], so many times I wanted to let everything go, but now I'm really so grateful. For me, it's such a great privilege to be able to say, "I'm a ballerina."

When you were in Russia, you got good reviews!

I got good reviews but not because I was technically brilliant. I was not a virtuoso dancer. I was lyrical, romantic, dramatic and musical. Those were the qualities that helped me through my career. The technical aspect was always very difficult for me. When I look back now ballet gave me so much in my life and enriched my life so deeply. I'm so glad that I was pushed through those years.

What would I have done if I had not gone this route? I haven't the faintest idea, really. I think I would have been a very good secretary, because I like to organize. I don't like to be out in the front. I don't like to be the person carrying the flag. I like to be behind, helping people and organizing. When I was growing up in Washington, my dad used to have his office in the basement of our house. And he had a very wonderful member, Betsy Hunter, who was his secretary. I thought, When I grow up that 's what I want to do. I used to think I'd be a secretary and help my dad or something like that.

But I do have other interests -- I love horses, so I would have loved to do anything with horses. And I'm interested in photography. But right now, what I would like most to do is study, really study -- study theology, study world history. If I had the time, I would do that.

Where do you see Universal Ballet going from here?

In the past twenty years, ballet here in Korea has gone from very primitive to world class. In a very short time, Korean ballet has covered the same ground that European ballet covered in three hundred or four hundred years.

We've been able to accomplish that with the help and direction of Oleg Vinogradov. We have really been blessed, because when you say classics, in ballet, Russian tradition is considered the best. It is there that many of the great classic works were created, including Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, La Bayaclêre, and Don Quixote. The fact that we were able to inherit that tradition straight from the root is a huge blessing and now it's the foundation of the company's work.

During the past ten years, Korea has slowly developed a classical ballet audience, but the majority of the population is still not familiar with ballet. Therefore, in order to build a larger market, we need to continue to develop the audience, through special programs such as lecture-demonstrations, performances at local cultural centers, performances with narration, brunch ballets and open rehearsals as well as through high quality PR and marketing, and most importantly, by consistently presenting excellent performances.

We also need to take the development of ballet here in Korea to the next level by introducing other styles of works besides the classics, including more recent works by European and American choreographers. But what is most important for the development of Korean ballet is to be capable of creating new works, unique to Korea, unique to Universal Ballet, works that give us our own identity.

You have Shim Chung, which is unique.

Shim Chung was created in 1986. Last year we created two new Korean works, The Love of Chunhyang and the ballet-musical Shim Chung.

Aren't musicals the new trend in Korea?

Musicals are popular because they are easier for the general public to understand and enjoy. As a result, recently here in Korea there has been a huge boom in presenting musical performances. Because musicals are so popular in Korea, we are taking that element and combining it with ballet in order to introduce classical ballet to people in a format that is easier for them to understand.

But we have to be careful not to lose the classics. Just because something is popular doesn't mean you can do it all the time. Artists also have to guide and lead the artistic standard, the artistic culture of the public. They need to constantly strive to keep the artistic and cultural level high. For that, pure classics, such as opera and ballet, are important.

What do you want to communicate through the choices you make for the repertoire?

In the early days of the company, Ms. Dellas, the founding artistic director, chose the Shim Chung story as our first original Korean ballet. I thought it would be wonderful to create a trilogy of Korean ballets that express values that True Parents uphold and teach. Shim Chung expresses filial piety, the story of Chunhyang is about chastity, loyalty and true love; and Heungbu-Nolbu is about brotherly love.

Mr. Vinogradov once said that when you go into a theater, and watch a performance, it should feel as if you took a shower -- uplifted, renewed and inspired. That is the power of art, because art is an expression of the human spirit. I read somewhere that George Balanchine said that stepping into a theater is like stepping into a cathedral. Dostoyevsky put it this way: "Beauty saves the world." Art has the power to reach beyond nationality, race, religion and politics because it touches the heart directly. That is what we are trying to do here at Universal Ballet, uplift and inspire people through beauty.

Looking to the future, what is your vision? When you have a goal, it gives you clear motivation to work hard and even make sacrifices in order to accomplish it. But once that goal is achieved, how do you maintain it?

Staying at the top of your field requires just as much motivation and sacrifice as it takes to get there. For the past twenty years, we have been climbing up a very steep mountain, because when we started, ballet was very primitive here in Korea. The reason Universal Ballet was able to grow into a world-class company in such a short time was the combination of True Parents' vision and support, Dr. Pak's administrative leadership and Oleg Vinogradov's artistic direction.

I know that eventually, one day, I will have to carry the responsibility of leading and sustaining the company on my own. In the past six years since I stopped dancing, I have had to learn how to shoulder that responsibility. My lifestyle has changed completely, 180 degrees, because when you are dancing, basically, you only think about your performances and preparing for those performances, which is exactly what a dancer should do.

You cannot dance and think about how many tickets have been sold, how much the budget deficit is, how many injured dancers you have, or what repertory the company should dance next year. A dancer has to be 1,000 percent focused on dancing. Which meant while I was dancing my lifestyle basically included home, studio, theater, rehearsing, performing, recuperating. That was it. That lifestyle reinforced my naturally introverted nature; necessitating a big change when I was faced with the prospect of taking over the leadership of the company.

It's been a difficult transition for me to make, but it was an inevitable transition that I had to make for the sake of the company. At the same time, there is a generation shift in progress in the church as a whole, with several members of the True Family playing key roles.

Sometimes I feel like I really don't have it in me; I feel inadequate to the task. But then there are days when I think I can do it. I see what needs to be done and where we need to go. It's a challenging time right now, because we're trying to build the future, but I guess that's what makes it exciting.

Is having your own school necessary to supply dancers to the company?

There's a book written by George Balanchine, who created the New York City Ballet, entitled, "But First a School." Because the career of a ballet dancer is very short (dancers usually retire around the age of forty), without your own school, it's sometimes difficult to maintain the style and tradition of your company.

Because of the social climate here, Korean dancers often retire earlier than dancers in the West. Ballet hasn't been around for very long here. Many people still do not look upon it as a serious profession. They see it more as something to do for a while when you're young. But this is slowly changing.

Is there is anything you could say for younger people growing up in our movement?

Growing up in the church in the second-generation is very difficult because it was your parents, rather than you, who made the decision to join the church. So growing up in the second generation you have to make that choice for yourself. Being in the church and pursuing a life of faith has to be your decision.

Sometimes second-gens can take Divine Principle and what we learn in our life of faith for granted, because they have never experienced the turmoil of not knowing the truth, not knowing why there is so much pain and suffering in the world, not knowing whether or not there is a God, not knowing whether spirit world exists. Of course, within the church, there are situations that may not be ideal, because we are still in the process of restoration, so you may think there is something better elsewhere and you may go looking for it.

But if you stray too far, you can lose what you had to begin with. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't look. You should look because the more you look, the better you will understand the value of what you already have. You will know it for yourself, not because your parents told you so. You have to own your choice, your decision. I think that's very important for second-gens. The first thing is to own what you believe in. The second thing is to be an example in your life. That in itself is a testimony to True Parents.

Could you say something about your children?

Now that I am raising Shin-whul, I understand why Father once said one should raise both a boy and a girl. It's just amazing how much difference there is between boys and girls.

My son is very tall now, almost 183 cm, and is attending a military academy in the U.S. My daughter Shin-whul is so cute when she introduces her brother: "I have a brother who's bigger than an adult!" That's the way she introduces her oppa.

He's about fifteen now?

He's fifteen. I'd never want to be a teenager again. It's so hard being a teenager because it’s the time in your life when you're trying to figure out who you are. Like all boys his age, he needs time to mature and come into his own.

Shin-whul's four and she's just adorable. She is very musical and loves to dance. She loves to go to the ballet with me and has already memorized music from Swan Lake and Nutcracker.

When I was raising Shin-chul, just to have him call me Mom, and that he was my son, was the greatest gift. A few years ago, Shin-chul decided to go to the United States to study. Even though I was sure I would miss him it was something he needed for his growth. I thought, Okay I am going to have time in the evening. I'll be able to study. I'll be able to do all those things I've wanted to do but haven't had time for.

I was making plans to fill my, empty time. Then, all of a sudden, Father asked Hyo-jin nim about... Would you? And he said yes. And suddenly I had a little girl. At first there was a little bit of a shock. Oh, my gosh! How am I going to raise her? I'm already forty-five. But she's amazing. She gives me so much happiness. I'm so grateful to True Parents. I think Father knows me better than I know myself because I don't know how I would have managed these past few years without her.

When Shin-chul was young, I was often struck by how much he resembled Heung-jin nim, and I felt Heung-jin's presence around him. Now, a lot of people tell me that Shin-whul looks a lot like me, which is really amazing. It feels like it was meant to be. Sometimes, I find myself looking at them in amazement. I am so blessed. 

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