White noise makes a sound like freedom being crushedIndividuality crushed by the collective forces of modern society is the theme of a new dance work, “White Noise,” by the internationally acclaimed A-Soon Dance Company. It tries to depict individual voices overwhelmed by the cacophony of mass communication and the oppression individuals suffer, sometimes without even knowing it. White noise is a type of noise that is produced by combining sounds of different frequencies together so that they neutralize all other sounds nearby. The choreographer and representative of the dance company, Ahn Ae-soon said, “It is not about oppression itself but it’s what disguises the oppression.”
“This is about our civilization. We are used to the larger voice of civilization,” Ms. Ahn said. “We are so used to it that we do not know it is oppression.”
“This is also about individuals. Individuality is obliterated in modern societies,” she said.
Ms. Ahn mentioned that the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, who won the 2006 Nobel Prize for literature, was subjected to criminal charges because he made a statement about his country killing 33,000 Kurds and a million Armenians. Although the charge was dropped in January 2006, she said the incident, combined with other examples of people being silenced by oppression, prompted her to choreograph the work.
The performance starts with dancers on a subway station. Each performer behaves as if they are surrounded by thousands of people. They are also being watched by the authorities through security cameras. They are confined in a uniform environment ― in this case a subway station ― and they dance as if they feel alone in the middle of crowds. The audience can hear infinite mechanical noise in the background, a.k.a. white noise, created by Germany-educated contemporary music composer Ahn Yong-joon. Asked about the reason for choosing such an abstract subject, Ms. Ahn said, “Dance is an abstract form of art.”
A-Soon Dance Company, founded in 1983 by Ahn Ae-soon herself, has produced many pieces including “The 11th Shadow,” “Circle-after the Other” and “Just.” “Circle-after the Other” was featured at the Cervantino International Festival in 2004 and the Asia-Pacific Week in Berlin in 2005. Ms. Ahn herself had a distinguished career as a dancer and won the 1994 Best Dancer Award and 1998 Grand Prix at the Bagnolet Seoul Choreography Competition.
Ms. Ahn has established a reputation for harmonizing Korean traditional dance with modern styles, which she said differentiates her choreography from that found in Western countries. Her company has had over 70 shows domestically and 30 performances outside Korea.
Ms. Ahn also talked about the declining number of spectators for performances based in pure art. Though the company has loyal fans, she said, “Popular arts are rooted in the pure arts. If popular arts do not have pure arts as their base, the foundation of popular arts is going to be shaken.”
“I wish there were more spectators who consider a performance to be something more than just entertainment,” Ms. Ahn added. “I wish they were together with us. Worrying about the numbers in the audience and being unable to communicate with them, I feel disconnected.”
Ms. Ahn has also worked on local productions of many musicals including “Guys and Dolls,” “Chorus Line,” “Cabaret” and “Les Miserables.” She said she would choreograph major Korean musicals if they had Korean themes.
“The directors of many French musicals have been choreographers,” Ms. Ahn said, citing “Notre Dame de Paris,” “Ten Commandments” and “Romeo and Juliet.” “That is why dance elements in those musicals are very strong.”
The 70-minute performance of “White Noise” will start at 6 p.m. on Jan. 6 and 4 p.m. on Jan. 7, at Arko Arts Theater in Daehangno, Dongsung-dong, Seoul. It can be reached from exit 2, of Hyehwa station on line No. 4. Ticket prices are 20,000 won ($21) to 50,000 won.
by Limb Jae-un