Ballerina Fang Meng-ying arrived in Seoul from China at the age of 17, all by herself, not knowing many people in the foreign city. Leaving the Beijing Capital International Airport, she avoided looking into her parents’ eyes, knowing she’d burst into tears if she did.“I think that’s one of the reasons why I can really relate to Shim Chung, especially when she agonizes as she decides to leave her blind father,‘ said Fang in an interview with The Korea Herald on Tuesday. The 23-year-old is ahead of her debut as the filial Korean daughter in Universal Ballet Company’s original repertoire “Shimchung.‘“I was told later that my parents cried a lot at the airport after I left. I really feel for Shim Chung when she leaves her father in the ballet. I am completely immersed in the character,‘ Fang told The Korea Herald, speaking through an interpreter.Fang is the first non-Korean dancer to play the famous role since the ballet premiered in Seoul in 1986. Based on the classic Korean folktale, the piece tells the story of a young woman named Shim Chung who volunteers to sacrifice herself to the sea god in a desperate attempt to restore the sight of her blind, impoverished father. “There are a lot of folktales in China that are also about filial duty,‘ Fang said.“One of them is the famous, story of Hua Mulan, who takes her aged father’s place in the army and fights for many years against his enemies. So it wasn’t too difficult for me to understand the story of Shim Chung. I think she is a very strong young woman with a great sense of responsibility.‘Fang, a graduate of the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy, joined the Universal Ballet in Korea in 2007 ‘• at the age of 17. She met Brian Yoo, UBC’s artistic director, in 2006, while competing in Prix de Lausanne, an international dance competition held annually in Lausanne, Switzerland. He offered her a position as a corps de ballet member at UBC, which she accepted. Her parents weren’t fond of the idea of sending their only child overseas, but eventually supported her decision.“I think the concept of filial duty is rather universal,‘ Fang said, adding that she missed her parents the most when she comes home from a long day of work, and realizes there is no one in the apartment. “In China, I learned that children are any parent’s first priority, and a child’s first duty is to serve his or her parents. I don’t think the concept is too different here in Korea.‘It’s been six years since she joined the UBC, and Fang has been noted for her lithe and lean physique, and posture and alignment ideal for ballet. She was, promoted to demi-soloist in 2011 and to soloist earlier this year. Her debut as Odette ‘• the tragic swan queen ‘• in the Tchaikovsky classic “Swan Lake‘ in March was without a doubt her breakthrough. “She is a natural as the white swan ‘• lyrical, innocent and elegant,‘ UBC director Julia Moon once said.“I love, love, loved the ‘˜Swan Lake’ as a child,‘ Fang said. “The swan queen really was my dream role. I grew up watching the video of ballet over and over again. I was overwhelmingly happy to be Odette. “‘˜Shimchung,’ on the other hand, focuses more on the drama and I think it’s interesting,‘ she continued. “It requires you to be an actress. Right now I am working on my facial expressions for the scene where her blind father regains his sight. Director Moon told me that I have to look ‘˜extremely surprised’ and ‘˜overwhelmed with joy’ at the same time. Now that’s challenging.‘When she’s off duty, Fang enjoys hitting Myeng-dong and Apgujeong-dong, shopping with friends and going out for good food. “My favorite food is ‘˜samgyeopsal,’ roast pork belly done in Korean style, and ‘˜budaejjigae,’ the Korean spicy sausage stew,‘ she said.