A world in motionIn the seven years since the launching of Seoul International Dance Festival, better known as SIDance, its organizers have strived to create a forum for exchanges between the local dance scene and the larger world of dance. This year’s festival, which begins Saturday and runs until Oct. 24 at Ho-Am Art Hall in downtown Seoul, Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul and the National Theater of Korea on Mount Namsan, aims for nothing less.
Joint international productions this year include the Little Asia Dance Exchange Network, Korea and Hong Kong’s Love Duet and a program created by choreographers from Singapore and Korea. The lineup also includes prestigious companies like the Britain-based Akram Khan Company, which opens the festival, Centre Choregraphique from France, Switzerland’s Parano Foundation, BalletLab from Australia and the Israel-based Clipa Theater, just to name a few.
The Singaporean and Korean collaboration, Angela Liong’s “12 SMS Across the Mountain” and Park Ho-bin’s “Babylon’s Air Garden,” has its premiere on Oct. 10, and has been invited to the 2005 Singapore Arts Festival. Back after its debut last year is the Love Duet program, which this year is the work of Hong Kong and Korean artists. As the name implies, it’s performances by couples (or, in one case, artistic partners), exploring love and different cultural backgrounds.
Another popular program is Little Asia Dance Exchange Network. This year, five choreographers from Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Australia collaborated on one piece, “On the Double.” After the Oct. 20 performance in Seoul, the piece will tour Singapore.
SIDance also provides a stage for rising Korean artists. Contemporary Korean Dances by Young Artists brings together eight promising Koreans under 30 for programs Saturday and next Thursday.
The festival began in 1998, as a celebration of the International Dance Council UNESCO’s 13th general assembly, hosted by Seoul that year. Since then, its organizers have annually invited choreographers, dancers and festival directors for performances, workshops and symposiums. The aim is to stimulate Korean dance and simultaneously introduce Korean choreographers and dancers to an international audience.
Thanks to this exposure, Hong Sung-yop’s Dance Theater ON has been invited to Lyon Biennale de la Dance and Kim Young-hee’s MUTDANCE to Mexico’s Cervantino Festival, and dancers Kim Hee-jin and Jun In-jung successfully auditioned for the French company Centre Choregraphique.
by Joe Yonghee, Wohn Dong-hee
For more information, visit the Web site at www.sidance.org. Ticket prices vary, but mostly range from 15,000 won ($13) to 60,000 won.
Akram Kahn’s worlds collide
One of the foundations of “ma,” a dance piece by Akram Kahn Dance Company that opens SIDance 2004 on Saturday, is modern dance. Another is kathak, a traditional dance from northern India involving rhythmic footwork, ankle bells and spectacular spins. One might expect such a combination to be bizarre, were it not for the fact that its creator is Akram Khan.
Khan, one of the United Kingdom’s most celebrated choreographers, once declined to define “contemporary kathak.” “Ask me four years later, when I can understand more thoroughly the subject I am exploring,” he said in a 2000 interview with an Indian dance Web site.
It’s now been four years since that interview, and in that time, Khan has only solidified his reputation as an artist with a crosscultural vision. Born in London to Bangladeshi parents, Khan studied kathak under Sri Pratap Pawar at the Academy of Indian Dance. He also studied contemporary dance at De Montfort University, and later at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds. At the age of 25, he started his own company.
By the time he created “ma,” which debuted at the Singapore Arts Festival in 2002, he had visited Pakistan and begun thinking more about his cultural heritage. According to a review in Britain’s The Guardian, “ma is the Hindu word for earth and it’s into this work that Khan as choreographer unloads his most pressing questions. While his programme notes tell us the work is about issues of land, kinship and belonging, Khan is also investigating what happens when Indian and western styles of storytelling and performance share the stage.”
It sounds as though Khan might still be unable to define contemporary kathak, but the search is yielding pieces that have won him a devoted following.
Performances are at 6 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday at Seoul Arts Center’s Towol Theater. Tickets are 20,000 to 60,000 won.
A Swiss loop with no ending
In art, as in religion, the questions posed by death are central. Do we live only to die? Are our bodies just temporary shells, places where our souls rest before beginning a longer journey?
“The Moebius Strip,” to be performed at SIDance 2004 next week by the Swiss dance company Parano Foundation, depicts the movement of life, but death is a constant presence. The five dancers in the performance crawl around steathily on the floor, brushing against each other, forming a loop which, like a Moebius strip, has no end.
Its choreographer, Gilles Jobin, is resident choreographer at the Theatre Arsenic in Lausanne, Switzerland, and president of the Vaud Association of Contemporary Dance. Among his works are the trilogy “Bloody Mary,” “Middle Suisse” and “Only You,” which he developed in 1995 and 1996 while working as co-director of the Theatre de l’Usine in Geneva with Yann Marrusich and Anne Rosset.
Among other awards, Jobin in 2001 won the New Choreographic Talent prize awarded by the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers Paris/Brussels/Montreal. He was the first Swiss choreographer to win the prize.
“The Moebius Strip,” which features music by Franz Treichler and lighting design by Daniel Demont, is his best-known piece. It has been praised by Le Monde as an “exercise in imaginary geometry” and by Le Temps as creating an “impression that will stay engraved on our visual memories.”
The piece has spawned not one, but two films: a film of the piece itself, titled “The Moebius Strip,” that was screened at the 2000 Locarno Film Festival, and a documentary about the making of the performance, titled “Le Voyage de Moebius,” which was shown at the Prix Italia competition in Palermo in 2002.
Performances are at 6 p.m. Oct. 9 and 4 p.m. Oct. 10 at Seoul Arts Center’s Jayu Theater. Tickets are 20,000 won to 30,000 won.
Chilean piece is still evolving
Despite being an older piece, “Mammame,” which debuted in 1985, continues to evolve and inspire audiences. It also inspired a movie of the same title, directed by Raul Ruiz, a Chilean expatriate active in avant-garde theater. The New York Times called the movie “visually evocative,” a description that also applies to the performance.
The piece, choreographed by Jean-Cluade Gallotta, is staged with eight members of Centre Choregraphique, formerly known as Groupe Emile Dubois, one of France’s leading dance companies.
Gallotta, the company’s founder, was born in Grenoble in 1950. He discovered dance at the age of 20, and began creating pieces that were performed in friends’ apartments, on the streets and in studio spaces. He was lucky enough to grow up in a time rife with postmodern possibilities. In New York in the late 1970s, he met Bob Wilson, Merce Cunningham and other leading choreographers.
Back in France, he established the Groupe Emile Dubois in 1979 with dancers, actors and musicians. The works he created were influential in the “nouvelle danse” movement. His works drew upon both traditional, formal dance movements and the movements of daily life.
Centre Choregraphique, which is based in Grenoble, first performed in Korea at SIDance 2001 with “The Tears of Marco Polo.” The company returns with two Korean dancers, Kim Pan-seon and Kim Young-lan, who will continue touring with the company in Taiwan.
The company has launched the careers of dancers like Pascal Gravat, Prisca Harsch, the aforementioned two Koreans, and Jun In-jung, who went on to work in Germany, and who brings her company Blue Elephant to SIDance this year.
Performances are at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at Ho-Am Art Hall. Tickets are 20,000 to 60,000 won.
Singapore and Korea, together
A cross-pollination of Korean and Singaporean talent bears fruit at this year’s SIDance.
Premiering Oct. 10 will be “12 SMS Across the Mountain,” performed by male Korean dancers and choreographed by Angela Liong, artistic director of the Arts Fission Company in Singapore.
Sharing that night’s bill, also in a world premiere, is “Babylon’s Air Garden,” choreographed by Korea’s Park Ho-bin and featuring female dancers from Arts Fission. (Completing the circle, Park chose the Korean dancers for Liong’s piece.)
“12 SMS Across the Mountain” (the “SMS” in the title refers to cellphone text messages) deals with the constricted sense of space experienced by Asians living in large cities. According to Arts Fission, the performance juxtaposes the low, circular, island dynamics of Singapore and the ascending, linear, mountain dynamics of Korea. The staging includes the projection of images by the American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein onto Chinese landscape paintings. “Babylon’s Air Garden,” according to publicity materials, depicts lovers wandering in an urban maze, trying to create a garden among the buildings.
The pieces are scheduled to be performed again next June at the Singapore Arts Festival 2005.
Arts Fission is Singapore’s first multimedia dance company; Liong has been its full-time artistic director since 1999. She has staged performances in such unconventional spaces as the 35th floor rooftop of Singapore’s Centennial Tower and the atrium of Singapore’s Ministry of Information and the Arts Building.
Dance Theatre CcadoO, a multimedia modern dance troupe led by Park, was known as Dance Company JoBac until it was renamed earlier this year. Park has said he aspires to become the Merce Cunningham of Korea.
The performances start at 6 p.m. Oct. 10 at Seoul Arts Center’s Towol Theater. Tickets are 20,000 won to 40,000 won.