Retro swings its way into the hall

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Retro swings its way into the hall


Given that anyone going to a dance club these days will be exposed to throbbing pelvises, revealed flesh and possibly even bodily fluids, it’s difficult to believe that five decades ago, dancing in public could get a person arrested for disorderly conduct.
It’s that world of secret dance halls and sly looks that the “Dancing Sisters” are trying to recreate. Those “sisters,” known in Korean as the Chumchuneun Eonnideul, form a project group spun off from Play and Dance Group Dang-Dang, a larger theater troupe. The project group is holding weekend dance events at Theater The Other in Daehangno, northern Seoul.
The event for this weekend was conceived by Kim Min-jeong, a performance artist and the founder of Dang-Dang. “We experiment and devise fun things, unique ways to open up new possibilities for performances,” Ms. Kim said.
The Dancing Sisters aren’t tied to this particular event, however. They’re regular participants in the annual Seoul Fringe Festival and have made a name for themselves with their outrageous, and hilarious, take on modern dance.
“Dancing is no longer viewed negatively these days, but dance halls or night clubs still retain a shady image. We wanted to bring dance into the light, where everyone can enjoy themselves and to create new ways of performing by including other genres,” said Roh Hyeon-ji, the programmer of the event.
The night starts on the theater’s third floor, which is decked out in retro Korean dance hall artifacts, posters and so forth. The dance, however, is less retro than traditional, featuring the heavy twang of the geomungo (a six-stringed zither) and the gayagum (with 12 strings). The players mimic the style and moves of old-fashioned women entertainers, known as gisaeng.
The real show, however, is down on the first floor. Each week the theater has different themes for dance ― including belly dance, tango, swing and modern ― and for music, done by underground bands and artists. Dance lessons are available every Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m.
The musicians are definitely a diverse lot: for Jamaican music, there’s Kingston Rudie Ska; the Cambodian traditional dancer Khen Vanthy and an instrumental group called Daedanhan Band (meaning, “Fantastic Band”).
This weekend is the “Solo Dance Relay,” in which dancers must perform inside a yellow area measuring only six square meters (20 square feet). Next weekend will be the “Rock ’n Roll & Swing Dance Party,” featuring the Rock Tigers, a Hongdae indie band with a ’50s-retro look.
The Seoul Dance Hall project is the third in a series for Ms. Kim. “The dance ‘room’ serves as an interactive venue. Audience participation will be recorded and recreated in future works,” Ms. Kim said.

by Kim Su-jin

The project “Seoul Dance Hall” will be held every Saturday at 9 p.m. and Sunday at 8 p.m. until Dec. 18. Free dance classes are held on Wednesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. (Dec. 14 will be swing). Admission for weekend performances is 10,000 won ($9), which includes one drink. The Theater The Other is located at 1-132 Dongsung-dong, Daehangno. Take Hyehwa station, line no. 4, exit 2. Walk through Marronnier Park; the theater is behind the Arts Council Korea Building. For more information, call (02) 742-1602 or visit the Web site at
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