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A Festival of Korean Dance - The Place

Jin Yeob Cha

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

REPRESENTING the rich cultural exchange and collaboration between South Korea and the UK, leading London dance institution The Place will collaborate with the Korean Cultural Centre in London to present A Festival of Korean Dance.

A festival featuring performances by five Korean dance companies, it runs from May 9 to May 16, 2018.

The week-long festival, curated by The Place, will be headlined by the Korean National Contemporary Dance Company (KNCDC) making their first ever UK appearance to present the UK premiere of Immixture (May 9), a piece that exhibits the beauty of Korea, combining the music and movement of East and West.

After premiering in June 2016 at the Théâtre National de Chaillot in Paris, Immixture has been presented by Theatre VARIA in Brussels and has toured in Spain, Croatia, USA and Korea.

Always international in its outlook, the KNCDC has presented work at major festivals and theatres including Berlin’s Tanz Im August Festival, Fabbrica Europa in Italy and the Americas, and each year invites an international choreographer to Korea to develop a new piece of work, most recently working with Laurence Yadi and Nicolas Cantillon on a piece called Shooting Star.

KNCDC’s Artistic Director Sungsoo Ahn trained in Korea and at the Julliard School under Benjamin Harkarvy. He is known for technically demanding hybrid choreography that combines contemporary dance with ballet, reflecting his philosophy that through ballet, dancers are better able to envision dancing as a fusion of mind and body. Formerly a founder of Sungsoo Ahn Pick-up Group, which has toured the U.S and Europe extensively since the company was established in 1992, he has led the KNCDC since 2017.

The second evening of the festival is a double bill that begins with the Ahn Soo Young Company’s Swan Lake (May 12), which takes the story (and score) of Tchaikovsky’s ballet and reimagines it as a warning about environmental destruction, incorporating dance styles from Hip Hop to poppin’, B-boying to contemporary dance.

The show was awarded the Grand Prize at the Seoul Choreography Festival when it was first performed in 2011 and has toured to the Netherlands, France, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Panama, winning acclaim from critics.

The second part of the evening is Kyoung Shin Kim’s Ordinary Stranger, which interrogates memory and identity with a cast of three performers – Saju Hari who trained in Kalaripayattu and contemporary dance and has worked with Akram Khan Company; Dickson Mbi who has performed with Russell Maliphant Company, Boy Blue Entertainment and was nominated for Emerging Artist and Outstanding Male Performer (Modern) by the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards 2017; and Kyoung Shin Kim who has performed with Russell Maliphant Company, Hofesh Shechter Company and Diversions.

The third and final night of A Festival of Korean Dance will see choreographer Lyon Eun Kwon presenting Glory (May 16), which looks at a little-known aspect of Korean dance culture – the Dong-A Dance Competition, where the prize on offer is exemption from the compulsory military service all South Korean men must undertake. Performing in this investigation of a fascinating real-life phenomenon is Namkeun An, a former participant in a competition that won him freedom from serving in the army.

Glory was performed at Danse Elargie in Paris in 2016, winning 3rd prize and the Audience Prize. Trained in South Korea, Lyon Eun Kwon is a choreographer and training supervisor with the Lee K. Dance company who performed at DanceBase during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017.

The evening will be completed by psychedelic art-dance work Riverrun (May 16). A collaboration between choreographer Jinyeob Cha and The Hague/Seoul-based visual artist Vakki, whose work is characterised by bright colours and swirling repeating patters, the piece takes its title from the first word of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, aligning the novel’s circularity with a spiraling physicality.

Speaking about the festival, Christina Elliot, Senior Producer at The Place said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with KCCUK to deliver this programme of Korean contemporary dance. The companies are all exploring rich physical and conceptual ideas, spanning contemporary and hip-hop dance. They really represent the vibrancy and quality of the Korean dance scene.”

Speaking about the festival, Jaeyeon Park, producer at the Korean Cultural Centre UK said: “We’re excited to be working with The Place on this inaugural Festival of Korean Dance, we hope that the week will bring UK audiences closer to both Korea and Korea’s contemporary dance scene.”

A Festival of Korean Dance is part of Korea/UK 2017-18 year of cultural exchange which launched in July 2017 and has so far seen the UK playing host to leading Korean artists from a range of disciplines including music, theatre, dance and visual arts. Celebrating the friendship and co-operation between the two countries, Korea/UK 2017-18 is a companion programme to the British Council’s UK/Korea 2017-18 which has seen British artists including Company Wayne McGregor and Balletboyz visit Korea.

For more information or to book tickets call 020 7121 1100 or visit www.theplace.org.uk/.