Choreographer tackles the great unknown

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Choreographer tackles the great unknown

Roh Jung-sik has always been known as a rising star. He was one of the youngest dancers to be admitted to Tuitmaru, one of Korea’s esteemed dance troops. Last weekend, he shared his first full-length piece as a young choreographer, “Irreversible,” at Seoul Arts Center.
Inspired by Gasper Noe’s movie of the same title and the poem, “If I Knew Then What I Know Now,” by Korean poet Ryu Shiva, Mr. Roh, 31, explored moments that forever alter a person’s life, particularly death.
Critics such as Park Sung-hye identify Mr. Roh as someone to watch. “He’s part of the new generation of choreographers,” Mr. Park says. “He shows a definite distinction from old choreographers who are still pursuing old methods.”
The presentation of “Irreversible” is more akin to the experience of watching cinema. Voice, lighting and multimedia are all part of the performance, which starred eight dancers, including Mr. Roh.
In between rehearsals, he talked to IHT-JoongAng Daily about his piece and his experiences as a dancer.
“Irreversible” will be shown on KBS in the third week of March, but no date has been set yet.

Q: The subject matter of “Irreversible” is serious, but at times, you take a whimsical approach to death.
A: Death is a heavy subject, but it doesn’t just happen during bad times. Some people die when they’re happy. And sometimes, when a person is about to commit suicide, they follow a ritual ― writing a letter, cleaning up their room, making sure a cup of water is in the perfect place. There’s a beauty in that ritual I wanted to convey.
Also, I would listen to the music at home, and it was so serious. I started to feel worn out, lonely and cold. I wanted to be able to match the despair with lightheartedness.

When did you realize you want to dance?
I’ve always wanted to dance. I just never knew it was fun. In my third year at Sejong University, I took a class with a British teacher. I don’t even remember his name, but I watched him, and thought, This is the joy of movement. Up until that point, my education as a dancer focused on technique.

Does being a man make a difference in the dance world?
The two years that a man has to give up for the army has broken many dancers. After you come out of the army, you have to start all over again.
But if you make it, it’s actually easier to be a male dancer. More men are sent abroad than women. And if you work really hard, a road appears.

What inspires you?
Dance and daily life, but mostly movies. I don’t like just one particular director. One director can create a good movie followed by a bad movie.
I also don’t like to do the same thing again and again. I’m sure I have a character, but I want to try something new. Eventually, my pieces will come together in my repertoire. That’s what Roh Dance Project is about.
After the first public performance of “Irreversible,” what do you think?
It was fun working with the troupe, and they put in tremendous effort. Even before this performance, I’ve trained all of them. A staging of this piece with other dancers would not be the same.
But I wasn’t able find the answer I was looking for. In one hour, filling the stage with a story of a person’s life is near impossible. There’s something incomplete about “Irreversible.” Perhaps I’ll explore it in the future.

by Joe Yong-hee
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