The Kirov Academy, a Leading Ballet School, to Close in May

Students of the Kirov School have gone on to dance for some of the world’s most prestigious companies. Melanie Hamrick, Sascha Radetsky, and Hee Seo, all Kirov-trained dancers, have all performed with American Ballet Theater.

According to 1999 alumnus Evan McKie, who spent 13 years with Stuttgart Ballet before joining the National Ballet of Canada in 2014 as a principal dancer, “It’s unprecedented how many extraordinary careers that school produced in such a relatively short period of time.”

New York City Ballet principal dancer Brooklyn Mack, a 2004 graduate who has performed with the English National Ballet and American Ballet Theater, called the school’s closure “sad.” Guest artists from St. Petersburg, Russia—now known as the Mariinsky Ballet—would perform with the students in recitals during the academy’s early years. It’s no longer a partnership between the school and the company, but Mack remembers the school as a gem: “There wasn’t anywhere else like it in the country.”

In 1990, 36 years after he founded the Unification Church, Rev. Moon opened the Kirov Art Museum in Seoul, South Korea for the public. Mass weddings, business ventures, conservative politics, and devotion to Rev. Moon, a self-proclaimed messiah who died in 2012, were the most notable features of this religious movement.

His fascination with the ballet was sparked by his friendship with ballerina Hoon Sook Pak, the daughter of Bo Hi Pak, president of The Washington Times. While on tour with the Washington Ballet in 1984, Hoon Sook Pak’s 17-year-old son, Rev. Moon, ran his car off of the road. Hoon Sook Pak agreed to marry the dead teen’s spirit in a lavish ceremony in which she carried his portrait because he was not eligible to enter heaven under the church’s teachings.

Hoon Sook later became a principal dancer in Rev. Moon’s Universal Ballet, which he founded later that year. An ornate-looking former monastery near Catholic University that had been abandoned for six years reopened as the Kirov Academy six years later.