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Kirov Debut for Rev. Moon's Prima Ballerina : Ballet: Religious leader says his daughter-in-law's performance in 'Giselle' in Leningrad will be an 'important moment' in his relations with the Soviets.

December 21, 1989|DONNA PERLMUTTER

The daughter-in-law of vehement anti-communist South Korean religious leader Sun Myung Moon is scheduled to make her debut Friday night in Leningrad with the famed Kirov Ballet company. The performance may represent the most visible effort to date by the Rev. Moon and his Unification Church to use the international dance community to extend his religious and political influence.

Moon's interest in the arts goes back at least two decades, but Friday's scheduled performance by Korean-American Julia Hoon Sook Moon promises to be a major turning point in the artistic and political fortunes of the controversial religious leader, his church and the dancer herself.

Moon, who plans to attend his daughter-in-law's performances on Friday and Sunday, has called the event an "important moment" in his personal quest to improve relations with the Soviet Union.

Moon and the church are taking other steps in this direction:

* Officials of the Unification Church have directed the unheralded career of Julia Moon. They have paid some of the world's top dancers to coach and perform with her since 1984, when she was chosen to marry Moon's dead son, who, according to church doctrine, could not enter heaven unmarried.

* Within months of the marriage, Moon founded the Universal Ballet Company in Seoul, where his daughter-in-law is now principal ballerina.

* Two years ago, Moon and Julia Moon's father, Bo Hi Pak, a longtime friend and top aide to the religious leader, established the Universal Ballet Foundation in Washington. From its complex in Washington, the foundation functions as a kind of central casting office for the Seoul dance company, and there are plans to establish a ballet school.

* Moon and Pak are renovating the Manhattan Center Opera House in New York as a theater for future performances of the Universal Ballet Company.

* And, along with the Universal Ballet in Seoul, Pak and Moon run the Little Angels Children's Folk Ballet, which was also founded by Moon more than 30 years ago. The group began touring the United States in the early 1960s, and Pak used its performances to make contacts with influential Americans such as former President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman.

Relatively little is known about the internal operations of Moon's dance interests in Korea, the United States and, now, the Soviet Union. It is also unclear exactly how the various dance pursuits fit within Moon's broader political and religious goals of establishing a worldwide, unified church and state with himself as its spiritual and governmental head.

But a congressional subcommittee that investigated the Korean influence-buying scandal of the mid-1970s concluded that "Moon made it clear that the Little Angels (Children's Folk Ballet) . . . and other seemingly philanthropic projects were, in reality, geared to his ambitious and carefully thought-out plans for winning control and influence over other political and secular institutions."

And now, with Julia Moon and the Kirov, Moon is looking beyond his traditional North American and Asian bases of influence to the newly opening Soviet Bloc.

To announce Julia Moon's debut a group called the World Media Assn. took out a full-page ad in the Dec. 3 New York Times featuring a picture of Moon and a recent question-answer interview that he gave to a Soviet journalist. Moon called the performance a landmark in his daughter-in-law's career and "an important moment in the development of my personal contact with the Soviet Union."

"I want to assure the people of the Soviet Union that Rev. Moon is your friend," he said. "My movement in 130 countries is your friend as well."

Julia Moon, 24, virtually unknown outside a narrow circle within the dance world, is scheduled to make her Kirov debut Friday in "Giselle," which is to ballet what "Hamlet" is to theater. She's unknown to Andris Liepa, the Bolshoi Ballet star who will dance opposite her as a Kirov guest. She's unknown to Kirov artistic director Oleg Vinogradov, who invited her to perform without ever meeting her.

And she's unknown to her husband, already dead when the Rev. Moon performed the marriage ceremony in 1984 with the ballerina and his son, who had been killed at age 17 in a car accident.

Until the announcement of her Kirov debut, few had ever heard the name Julia Hoon Sook Pak Moon--except those who have coached and partnered her. But the dancer--American in speech and manner and reserved to the point of shyness, according to those who have worked with her--has since childhood quietly dedicated herself to the study of ballet.

Julia Moon grew up largely in MacLean, Va., just outside Washington. It is there and in New York that her father oversees affairs of the Unification Church.

She began her ballet training in Korea at the Sun Hwa Art School, then in London at the Royal Ballet School. She went to Monaco to learn from the Russian teacher Marika Besobrasova, then became a company member at the Washington Ballet.

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