A gifted dancer inspires others to soar

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A gifted dancer inspires others to soar

In the sunny studio of Poz Dance Theater, Vack Yuun-zung harbored a desire. “I have to design costumes for these dancers,” she thought. So she approached the choreographer Woo Hyun-young. Privately, Ms. Woo, 32, had her doubts.
“Clothing for dancers has to move,” Ms. Woo says, stretching her lithe arm above her. “It’s not about looking good walking. The shape of the clothing has to look gorgeous through all of the dancer’s motions.”
After seeing the excitement and energy on Ms. Vack’s face, though, Ms. Woo relented, agreeing to work with her pupil, who is also one of Korea’s young, hot fashion designers. Now, two years later, Ms. Woo says she has never regretted her decision.
The rapport between the two has led to brilliant costuming, most recently seen in the dance, “Saharis.” “Vack inspires me,” Ms. Woo says.
Inspiring others and cultivating talent seem to be Ms. Woo’s gifts.
“Saharis” debuted in Korea during the fifth “International Dance Meeting,” which also brought out a new side of the American choreographer, Jason Parsons. “I was all set to bring a melancholic piece about death,” says Mr. Parsons, who brought two members of his New York-based Parsons Dance Project to perform in Korea. Woo encouraged him to create a more lighthearted piece. The result is “The Kiss,” a playful take on boy meets girl, girl wants boy, set to music of the French vocalist Edith Piaf.
“[Ms. Woo] challenged me and it became a gift in disguise,” says Mr. Parsons, whose oeuvre is the avant-garde. “What inspires me is watching people move, the way space is constantly evolving. Dancers learn technique, but there’s no one way of doing things. Right when you think you’ve seen everything, you see something new.”
The challenge to grow is mutual. Having participated in “International Dance Meeting” since it began in 1997, Ms. Parsons says, “I see my reflections in [Ms. Woo’s] work.”
When the annual festival first opened, Ms. Woo, the organizer, observed a talent gap between the foreign and Korean troupes. “But now, we motivate each other,” she says.
That inspiration also takes place in daily conversations, which in this case resulted in “Saharis.”
“Every guest I invite to Korea asks why the women only smoke indoors,” she says. “They get so angry when I tell them women have to hide, while men are free. And that got me thinking about men and women, then reality and dreams.” “Saharis” is a haunting vision of birds in the desert. Despite the apparent inequality in society, Ms. Woo created a vision of hope. “If life is an oasis, then today is a blessing,” she says.
Ms. Woo studied ballet in Korea from age 5. After college, she left for New York to study dance, and returned to Korea in the mid-1990s, refreshed and filled with ideas about dance, fashion and women’s liberation. She searched for masters who had danced before her, and gathered support to create a program to shake up the local dance scene. Ms. Woo even convinced Mia Michaels to perform in Korea a year before Dance magazine called Ms. Michaels “a fast-rising jazz-dance star.”
Ms. Woo’s eye for talent has brought her Poz Dance Theater to the forefront of modern dance. The studio is open to young adults for modern dance and ballet lessons.
Poz participated in the Danza Arte Festival in Italy last summer and has been invited to perform there again. She is now preparing to move her studio from Apgujeong-dong’s Rodeo Drive to the nearby Cine City.
She stops speaking when a dancer passes by. “I haven’t told them yet,” she says. “I want to make sure everything is perfect so I can present them with an amazing studio.” The vaulted ceilings of the new premises attracted her, she says, because she is cultivating the spirit of her students “to soar.”

by Joe Yong-hee
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