8th Dance Festival Explores Notions of Isolation and War

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8th Dance Festival Explores Notions of Isolation and War

The 8th National Folk Dance Festival opens next Tuesday, May 10, in the main hall of the Munye Arts Center in Seoul. Sponsored in part by the Korean Minjockchoom (Folk Dance) Committee, the scale of the event has been extended this year, and will feature nine dance troupes from five countries: Vietnam, the United States, Japan, China and Korea. It will present an analysis of ethnic struggles, and also commemorates half a century of Korea's division.

Originally formed as part of the Korean Folk Arts Association, the Korean Minjockchoom Committee began organizing annual events in 1993 with the aim of bringing progressive forms into the local performance scene. Last year, the group diversified its categories by including hip hop dance groups and more experimental works, which were excluded from the conservative local dance circle.

The festival is thematically divided into three sections in an omnibus style: separation, loss and the return home. On the first night, KOPAS, Korea Performing Arts Spirit, will present a new work titled "The Hands Slipped Away... I Would Rather." Relating the story of a little girl who watches her father drowning in a river, the choreography dramatizes the violence of the war and uses the girl as a metaphor for civilian helplessness during conflicts.

"The Spirit Broken Into Parts," by the Korean-Chinese Dance Troupe based in Yenben, is an elegy of a mother sending her son to war. The piece is in the form of a traditional folk dance. The lead member of the troupe, Choi Mi-seon, trained in North Korea.

On May 11, the event will feature works that deal with the agony and loss experienced by war survivors. Nine Dance Troupe, an avant-garde dance group consisting of former members of the Seoul Metropolitan Dance Troupe, presents "The Line Is Not in Service," which is about the disconnected communication between the North and South Korea. Parson's Dance Project, led by Jason Parsons, presents "Under the Falling Sky" which protests racial disintegration in American society in the form of an elaborate jazz dance. The Yun Mi-jeong Contemporary Dance Group will present "Unforgotten Dream," which is about silence in the aftermath of war.

On May 12 and 13, works embodying the idea of returning home, or reconciliation will be presented. The Vietnam Opera & Ballet Theater will perform a series of modern dance projects about the peaceful life of a seaside community on May 12. Korea's Poz Dance Theater, one of the few contemporary jazz dance groups based in Asia, presents "Zero" which explores notions of Korea's reunification. On the 13th, an experimental group, Mok, which means tree in Korean, presents "The High Speed of Longing" which reflects the process of healing. The festival closes with the "Echo in the Dawn," performed by a Korean-Japanese dancers' collective.

In the larger context, the festival examines the issue of isolation. This not only includes the geographical separation of the Korean Peninsula, but also embodies the academic disputes between contemporary dancers and traditional ones and the sense of isolation that exists between people in modern societies. The festival shows the organizers' endeavor to escape from the elitism of high art and attempt to communicate effectively across society.

The performances on May 10 and 11 start at 8 p.m., and on the 12th and 13th at 7 p.m. For more information, call 02-747-2091 (English service available).

by Park Soo-mee

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