The Language of Emotion Rules This Choreographer's Galaxy
A small middle-aged woman is perched on top of a table placed in the far corner of the rehearsing room. Dressed in a black jogging suit, she suddenly tucks her legs beneath her body and grabs a cigarette as two dancers in the center of the stage make contact and fall to the floor. The young dancers, a male and a female, stop and look anxiously at the woman. They know her impatient movements are conveying her frustration.
"Make it richer, more saturated than butter, can you?," she orders, rather ambiguously, and waits.
Ahn Eun-mi, an experimental choreographer, dancer and director of the Ahns Ance Dance Company speaks to people through the language of emotional experience. Even when giving the simplest directions, she speaks in metaphors and expects people to translate her words into movement.
"Dance is literally the language of the body," Ms. Ahn explains adamantly in her interview with the JoongAng Ilbo English edition held in the LG Arts Center's basement, where she is in last-minute preparations for the upcoming performance of "Galaxy Express 000."
Ms. Ahn's performances stirred up controversy from the very beginning of her career. In her early series, "White Grave," she appeared onstage with her hands firmly tied together with a piece of rope dangling from the ceiling. She was completely naked, with only flour covering her body. Not only did her nudity create a sensation in the conservative group of elite dancers in Korea, but the work's eccentric nature brought a whole new genre to Korea's contemporary choreography industry.
The provocative gestures continued in her later works such as "Seoul Rainbow Cafe" and "Fresh Track," both of which earned favorable reviews from the New York critics.
"Call me a sensationalist but I like things that instantly transport me to a state of ecstasy," she says. Though some may call it the art of escape, Ms. Ahn admits that as a choreographer she is attracted to things that give instant visual stimulation.
"Don't be distracted by conceptual references too much," she says. "Theories will follow if you are working with the right intuition. Sprinkle flowers if you have to. It doesn't have to mean anything," she says, raising her voice. To her, practical considerations always precede theoretical ones.
Ms. Ahn likes to improvise. She creates scenarios spontaneously as she tries out planned gestures with the troupe. If an idea bothers her, she is quite willing to change it on the night before the performance.
"I am not afraid of presentation simply because I don't have any expectations. I don't have the desire to create a masterpiece, or anything that would make me hesitate as an artist experimenting with the medium," she says.
Inspired by the 1980s popular Japanese animation "Galaxy Express 999," the upcoming performance "Galaxy Express 000" deals with a nomad called Methyl who travels to the stars in the galaxy. Set in Teheran Valley, the home to thousands of Korea's dot-com businesses and venture software companies, the show deals with the theme of cyborgs and the dependence of human beings on technology. It's an inter-disciplinary show that gathered filmmakers, costume and multi-media artists together for their contributions for stage settings and complementary visuals.
"My favorite part is this one statement in the show saying 'tea or coffee.' It's one of the questions the passengers are asked before the Galaxy Express 000 leaves the planet Earth. To me, it sounds like life and death," she explains, while taking a bite out of a roll of gimbap (Korean-style sushi roll).
"Come and see the show. You'll understand what I am saying," she entreats.
Ahn Eun-mi knows the secret: Some things in life can only be experienced through involvement with them.
"Galaxy Express 000" starts on April 12 and runs through April 15. For more information in English, telephone 02-2005-1426. The LG Arts Center is located near Yeoksam Station, southern Seoul.
by Park Soo-mee