Korean dancer/choreographer shocks European audiences

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Korean dancer/choreographer shocks European audiences


ANTWERPEN, Belgium and AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands ― Dancer/choreographer Ahn Eun-mi, often dubbed “the rebel” of the Korean dance scene, has shocked Europe with her production and performance in “Chunhyang,” a new dance adaptation of the classic Korean novel “Chunhyangjeon.”
The 15-day European tour included seven cities in four countries ― Italy, England, Belgium and the Netherlands ― starting with a performance in Udine, Italy on April 7.
The European debut itself was an attention grabber, but the fact that World Music and Theater, the European production company that invited Ms. Ahn to perform during their World Music Theater Festival, was the official sponsor sparked even more interest. Usually when a Korean dance performance goes overseas, a domestic company pays the production costs and is responsible for marketing, so to have a European company back “Chunhyang” was an unusual case.
The basement theater in Antwerpen, Belgium was silent at 8:30 p.m. on April 14 for the opening scene of “Chunhyang,” in which four naked men could be seen from behind, loosing their long hair.
In this adaptation, only the bare silhouette of the original story “Chunhyangjeon” is left. Ahn Eun-mi, 40, plays the lead role of Chunhyang, who in the original text is a teenager. Ms. Ahn as Chunhyang acted a chaste virgin in some scenes and an uninhibited impassioned woman taking her top off in others. Lee Mong-ryong, the male lead of the story who falls in love with Chunhyang, is depicted as homosexual.
The tempo of the dance sequences is either very fast or very slow. When the characters perform Korean traditional dance numbers, they dance faster than the original steps require. In scenes in which the movements are intended to portray the direct emotions of the characters, the dancers move slowly and sinuously. The Korean traditional music provides a composed elegance and follows the movements of the dancers to the millisecond.
After the 90-minute performance, the response of the audience was divided. Some said the show was, “disorganized and chaotic” while others shouted out compliments, and some even shed tears.
During a performance in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on April 15, “Chunhyang” received a standing ovation, which is quite rare for an avant-garde, modern dance performance.
The performance proved to be a shock for those Europeans who expected subtle, oriental mysticism.
Robert Van den Boss, the art director for the World Music Theater Festival, said that the company didn’t want to remain in the past and that only Ahn Eun-mi could succeed in bring this kind of show to life, where an Asian sentiment is portrayed in a modern, sophisticated form of art.
Dance critic Kim Nam-su applauded the show’s success saying, “Europe wants to see the gutsy, forward excitement of Ahn Eun-mi’s dance.”

by Choi Min-woo
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