From battlefield to ballet, South Korean soldiers dance off stress

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, to our “NewsHour” shares, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you, too.

Maintaining a good work-life balance is important to many people. But in South Korea, one group of soldiers has found an unexpected way to unwind from the daily grind.

The “NewsHour”‘s Julia Griffin reports.

JULIA GRIFFIN: Once a week, these soldiers in the South Korean army’s 25th Division trade their military boots for a pair of ballet slippers. The plies, tendus and other exercises are aimed at relieving stress, as these troops are among those guarding the demilitarized zone along the border with North Korea.

KIM JOO-HYEOK, South Korean Soldier (through translator): There’s a lot of tension here, since we live in the unit on the front line. it makes me feel insecure at times. However, through ballet, I am able to stay calm and find balance.

JULIA GRIFFIN: Each session is taught by Lee Hyang-Jo, a ballerina with the Korean National Ballet.

LEE HYANG-JO, Ballerina, Korean National Ballet (through translator): Living as a soldier is quite tough, so I wasn’t sure I could actually help them here. But now I feel worthwhile whenever I see them smiling more and enjoying ballet as they learn it little by little.

JULIA GRIFFIN: And unit leaders have found the classes provide health benefits beyond stress relief.

HEO TAE-SUN, South Korean Battalion Commander (through translator): Ballet requires a great amount of physical strength, is very good for strengthening muscle, increasing flexibility, and correcting posture. So I think that ballet has helped us.

JULIA GRIFFIN: All the training appears to be paying off. The 15 soldiers plan to stage their own ballet performance at the end of the year.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Julia Griffin.

GWEN IFILL: Ballet, that’s the stress relief I was looking for.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Sure.

In our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.

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