A whorl of the world’s dancersThe Seoul International Dance Festival opened Wednesday with three pieces joining the talents of Canadians and Koreans. This spirit of collaboration will continue throughout this month’s festival, with more than 10 nations represented.
“When different countries work together, cultures may be different, but art is possible,” says the festival’s artistic director, Lee Jong-ho.
The Dutch company Introdans will perform several works Oct. 15 and 16 at Seoul Arts Center, including “Messiah,” which won the Netherlands’ choreography prize. Performing with them will be the Introdans Ensemble for Youth, who will present seven pieces, one with the help of 32 young Korean dancers. “Clogs,” choreographed by Hans van Manen, celebrates the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the Dutch sailor Hendrick Hamel in Korea. Hamel was shipwrecked off Jeju island in 1653; after returning, he wrote about his experiences in “The Hermit Kingdom,” the first Western account of Korea.
Campania Flamenca will perform Oct. 21 and 22 at Seoul Arts Center along with Chu Li, the first Korean student at Madrid Royal Dance School, who now directs her own company. Headlining will be Ramon Martinez and Rocio Marquez, based in Andalusia, Spain, the birthplace of the flamenco dance form.
Several Korean, French and U.S. duos ― Kim Young-soon with Pascal Benichou, Lee Yun-kyung with Ryu Seouk-hun and Kim Ho-dong with Yun Myung-hwa ― will perform duets Oct. 11 and 12 at Seoul Arts Center. The Little Asia Dance Exchange Network includes modern dancers from Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. They will perform Oct. 21 and 22 at the center.
Also worth watching for is La Compagnie Maguy Marine from Spain, who will perform “One Can’t Eat Applause” tonight and tomorrow at Ho-Am Art Hall. The celebrated Australian choreographer Natalie Wier will have her works “Glass Heart” and “Carmen” performed Oct. 24 and 25. Japan is represented by 66b/cell, a modern troupe that uses computer graphics and animation. They will appear Oct. 12 and 13 at Ho-Am.
Closing the festival is Ballet Preljocaj, returning to Korea from France with their version of Stravinsky’s “The Rite Of Spring” Oct. 27 to 29 at Seoul Arts Center.
Since the inception of the festival five years ago, says Mr. Lee, the founders have sought both to thrust Korean dance into the international arena and to bring worldwide trends to the local scene. This seems to be working: as a result of previous festivals, Korean companies were invited to festivals in France, Mexico and Greece, to name a few destinations.
After participating in this year’s program, the Korean choreographer Ahn Ae-soon said, “Korea may be far from the international dance community, but we’re thinking of ideas and getting solid results.”
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A confluence of cultures makes for a family of art
The opening night program of the Seoul International Dance Festival, held last night at the Ho-Am Art Hall, closed with “One Second,” a powerful piece that fused chaos and structure as dancers melded into each other and then scattered, breaking apart.
The program, a collaboration between Canada and Korea, required a considerable amount of effort in order for the chaos to be only of the choreographed kind. Two dancers from Montreal Danse in Canada came to Korea to teach members of the Laboratory Dance Project here the movements to “Solitudes,” choreographed by Dominique Porte. Laboratory is a troupe founded in 2000 by graduates of the Korean National University of Arts.
In return, Ahn Ae-soon, a Korean choreographer, went to Canada to teach the Montreal Danse members her piece “One Second.” Both pieces will be shown at Montreal Danse’s Big Bang Program early next year.
From the costumes in “Solitudes,” grey with flashes of orange, to the black Helmut Lang-inspired bondage ensembles of “One Second,” the two works on the surface look very different. But the inspiration for the two is the same question, according to Kathy Casey, the artistic director of Montreal Danse: “What happens when you think you are dying?”
Ahn says, “As a child in Florida, I fell into the ocean and I thought I was dying. The past, the present and the future, images, sounds, all went through my mind.” “One Second” begins with a red thread, which represents the umbilical cord, and the complete love of a mother for her child, Ahn says. But life is difficult, she says, and sometimes there comes a point when you have to decide whether to continue or not. “I held on and decided to live,” Ahn says.
Putting the pieces together took a lot of perseverance. “It’s very fascinating and very frightening,” Casey says of international exchanges. “You’re in a vulnerable place and trying to understand and learn, and you don’t know if you’re going to succeed, but in the end, something new is born. Art exchange is about understanding how things function in different places,” Casey says, “a sense of an enlarging family.”
by Joe Yong-hee