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REVIEW: CONTEMPORARY KOREAN DANCE MARKS THE PASSAGE OF TIME

 

By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 23 FEBRUARY 2016 — A double "Korean" programme, with the passing of time as its theme, was presented at the Theatre des Abbesses to mark the year France-Korea, beginning with a creation by the French choreographer, Fabrice Lambert for the Korean dancer, Namjin Kim.

Lambert chose to stage a dialogue between the pendulum of Léon Foucault and the thoughts of Michel Foucault with Antipode, a poetical creation with a unique atmosphere. Original and inventive, the work opened upon a rectangle of light on a darkened stage where one could eventually see a solitary figure behind a swinging pendulum, suspended from high above the stage. Faceless and treading backwards as if going back in time, Namjin Kim staggered and lumbered around the pendulum to the increasing intensity of the score by Marek Havlicek until the sound grew almost unbearable and the circling globe took center stage. Interacting with the orb, in what became a duo rather than a solo, the interpreter was now revealed as a young man, at one with both the moving pendulum and the score.


Namjin Kim in Antipode
Choreography: Fabrice Lambert

In the second part of the programme, the question of time was also at the center of the very beautiful, dream-like work, As time goes by, by choreographer, Ju-Hyun Jo, on her first visit to France, indeed to Europe, with one of her own creations.

Ju-Hyun Jo, dancer Jae-Seung Kim, and singer In-Hye Park are three highly gifted young artists who got together in Seoul 2 years ago. With her lovely voice, In-Hye Park, a traditional Korean singer was voted ‘Young Artist of the Year’ in 2012, while the tall, handsome Jae-Seung Kim, his youthful almost adolescent appearance belying his 34 years, is a traditional Korean dancer capable of interpreting both contemporary and hip-hop works with the utmost grace and sincerity. Ju-hyun Jo herself began to work as a choreographer in her homeland after a successful career dancing with the Washington Ballet in the U.S.A. With artists of the quality of In-Hye Park and Jae-seung Kim working alongside her and with the examples of such companies as Tao Dance Theater, eyes are beginning to turn towards contemporary dance in Asia.

As time goes by is a fascinating, mystical piece based on a poem or letter written by the choreographer’s great grandmother over a century ago. In it, Jung Cha Ok reminisces over the relentless passage of time, evoking the world of a springtime long past, and deploring the loss of her youth. At over 70 and no longer recognizing her reflection in the mirror, she questions the loss of her soft, smooth skin, her strong, supple body and long, lustrous hair. She doesn’t want to grow old, to fade and wither as do flowers past their prime. But they, she reminds her reader, will still be there in one hundred years, whilst she will not.


In-Hye Park and Ja-Seung Kim in As time goes by
Choreography: Ju-Hyun Jo

The musician, A-Ram Lee has put her words to music, and Ju-Hyun Jo’s work begins with music sung by In-Hye Park in pansori syle, her back to the audience, singing in a low, softly modulated voice, while Ja-Seung Kim draws pictures in the air with his fingers, reaching out into the mists of time. Inspired by traditional Korean dance, it was interpreted with sincerity and charm. The evocative lighting effects from above the stage caught Jae-Seung Kim in a shaft of light, enhancing his big, graceful movements. Dance, décor and score merged into one fluid, coherent whole.

The second movement of the piece, more contemporary, continued with choreography devised by the interpreter himself to Arvo Part’s Spiegel im Spiegel, followed by excerpts from Schubert. At times, the dancer moved with quicksilver, high, soft leaps into the air, but it was not so much that the choreography was inventive as the fact that it was performed with a freshness and spontaneity rarely seen in modern dance today. Nothing was forced or labored in this very personal work where gestures borrowed from hip-hop and influences from the West merged effortlessly into the whole.

Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Based in Paris,  Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque.

 

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