Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bak Myeongsuk's "Hwanggeumgaji, Honja Nunddeuneun Achim II"

My friend Chae Haeri, an awe-inspiringly well-connected scholar of Korean dance, invited me to go to a  modern dance performance today. Generally speaking I have had quite a few experiences with Korean modern dance that left me disappointed (and a few, almost all choreographed by Ahn Eunme, that left me stunned and grateful to have eyes in my head). This has generally taught me to save my dance watching for traditional dance, and leave the modern dance choreographers(except Ahn Eunme) alone. But I went because there were reasonable expectations that it would be good on Haeri's part, at least.

The house was nearly packed, with a large number of people milling in the lobby (Haeri introduced me to some of them). Tickets were 20,000 (at least where we were sitting) but Haeri had been gifted with them, thanks be.

The show was uninspiring to say the least.

I was irritated by two issues:
1. the music, esp. in the first half was extremely over-powering. It included well known French chanson as well as well known Western songs (one was by the Beatles). The easily recognizable music dominated the performance, esp. at the volume at which it was played. Also the cuts from one song to the next were done with no finesse, they simply ended and then started at the beginning of the next song-- no blending or editing involved.
2. the female dancers were in many cases obviously instructed to use hairography-- they were whipping their hair around-- but not artfully as a punctuation, or frenetically for effect, but as if all big movements were supposed to also include a hair whip.

But by far the largest problem (aside from a lack of any conceptual through-line in the 1 hour 20 minute show) was that there was NOT ONE dancer who was eye-catching/mesmerizing/charismatic/highly skilled in such a way that you were drawn to watch them and ignore the others on stage. In a cast of over 20 dancers (only about 5 in the first half, the rest in the second half), there should have been at least some people so clearly talented that even with lame choreography they would shine. But no. Perhaps talented dancers detract from an effort to seem entirely mediocre.

There were moments when I found the lighting and background video images interesting, and a couple of movement sequences (never lasting more than twenty seconds) that I enjoyed, that brought me to momentary hopefulness... but this was never sustained.

After the show I went out to dinner with Haeri and a friend of hers who is a scholar of drama.


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