Joy, fantasy, minimalism intertwine in dance series

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Joy, fantasy, minimalism intertwine in dance series

The dancers stop moving and a husky male voice breaks in. “Hey babe,” Han Seung-hoon whispers.
“Who’s this?” Kim Na-rae flirtatiously replies.
“Hey babe,” Mr. Han repeats, a little louder this time.
“Who’s this?” Ms. Kim replies, stepping away from him.
This exchange continues until finally they’re shouting, and then they find each other. They dance quickly, hips and then shoulders dropping, then twirling, to the bare sound of chimes. Then they part and continue with the rehearsal.
Choreographer and dancer Deresa Choi turns to me and says, “On the Internet, you can chat with people you don’t know.”
Ms. Choi calls the Net a strange, lonely-yet-social virtual place. She has translated that odd combination of feelings to the stage in “Wireless Communication,” one of four modern dance pieces that make up “Wonderland,” the third installment in her “Movement and Technology” series. The multi-media spectacle, with sets designed by Shim Jae-pil and Ms. Choi and music by Kang Eun-gu, opens Thursday for a three-day run at the Seoul Arts Center’s Jayu Theater.
Ms. Choi’s talents run the gamut from writing books and film scenarios to choreographing and writing musicals. But she is best known for staging elaborate dance performances that woo the mind and the senses. She has been invited to La Ferme du Buisson in France, one of the world’s premier international dance festivals. In the past, she has interwoven closed-circuit television into her productions, filming the audience and the dancers and feeding it live to large screens on stage.
In a sense, the minimalist “Wireless Communication” and “Energy,” another “Wonderland” piece, are typical of Ms. Choi’s work. In both pieces she confronts the kinks in society, utilizing the entire stage, the audience and the talent of her Deresa Choi Dance Company dancers to create an indelible experience.
“Adam and Eve” and “Birds,” the other two pieces in “Wonderland,” draw on more classic movements, the former telling the tale of the biblical birth of sin and the latter offering an interpretation of a fairytale.
“I wanted to take something small, and make it spectacular, like a dance musical,” Ms. Choi says. “Honestly, there’s no theme,” she adds with a laugh.
While her performances are often highly intellectual, it’s the otherworldliness of dance that first attracted her. “When dancers move, when they dance, they create a fantasy world,” she says. With “Adam and Eve” and “Birds,” she returns to the simple joy and fantasy of dance. “I want to give my audience happiness,” she says.
Ms. Choi began as a traditional Korean dancer, studied modern dance at Ewha Womans University and continued her dance training in France and New York.
Emerentienne Dubourg of the French dance company Les Saisons de la Danse calls her a dancing volcano. “She takes advantage of hidden movements,” Ms. Dubourg says. “It seems as though it arises from her like lava, possesses her like a trance and escapes in a burning stream, leaving its ephemeral trace in the air.”
Ms. Choi founded Deresa Choi Dance Company in France in 1994 and moved it to Seoul in 1998. “I don’t want dancing to be about nationality,” she says. “I want dancing to simply be an expression.”
With the diverse paths that Ms. Choi has taken, her productions draw from a rich well. She has ideas for the fourth in the “Movement and Technology” series, she says, but we’ll have to wait until next year to see what her next expression looks like.

by Joe Yong-hee

The Deresa Choi Dance Company will perform “Wonderland” this Thursday through Saturday at the Seoul Arts Center. It will stage “Movement and Coda” on June 3 and 4 at the Performing Arts Center of Dongduk Women’s University. For more information, visit or call (02) 521-4602.
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