Theatre visit: Eun Me Ahn’s Chunhyang – an impossible love

by Philip Gowman on 11 April, 2006 updated 10 December, 2017

in Dance | Event reports and reviews | Fusion music

ChunhyangI’m afraid I lack the critical faculties to describe the evening adequately, but it’s well worth going to and I think I might be going back to see it again tomorrow. It’s two nights only. I went along with an avowed non dance fan and someone who was hoping for something very traditional, and both thoroughly enjoyed it. Music was impressive — traditional instruments (apart from the keyboard); and yes there was some pansori singing, but it was much broader than that. A huge amount of variety. Bits of Philip Glass & Steve Reich, but with hyperactive drum rhythms from darkest Africa or Stravinsky; and chaotic shamanistic(?)-style music with frenetic gongs and that instrument which sounds like a strangulated oboe. And I can imagine the Kayagum player had sore fingers at the end of the evening. I’m not a great connoisseur of dance, but I was fully engaged throughout the hour and a half’s performance. Lots of variety, and I was amazed at the strength and stamina of some of the dancers (how do you hold an open fan between your toes for five minutes or so without your toes aching unbearably?). There was lots of energy, but also some very gripping scenes when there wasn’t much in the way of movement, including a rather homoerotic moment when the two topless male leads circled each other slowly. And it wasn’t just the guys who were topless. A tip. Make sure you read the (free) programme before the show. A couple of times. The show is perfectly enjoyable as an abstract experience (and yes I do know the story of Chunhyang). But after the show was finished I went back over the programme notes and realised I’d missed about 90% of what was meant to be happening. It didn’t really matter though.

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Colin Bartlett December 30, 2006 at 12:22 am

I’m afraid I lack the critical faculties to describe the evening adequately, but it’s well worth going to and I think I might be going back to see it again tomorrow. It’s two nights only.

(1) I thought it was worth going to Amsterdam to see it again, and I didn’t regret that decision: quite the reverse.

I went along with an avowed non dance fan and someone who was hoping for something very traditional, and both thoroughly enjoyed it.

(2) It seemed to very successfully combine traditional Korean movement with contemporary dance movement. (The “seemed” is only there because I don’t know enough about traditional Korean dance to make any unequivocal statements about it.)

Music was impressive — traditional instruments (apart from the keyboard); and yes there was some pansori singing, but it was much broader than that. A huge amount of variety. Bits of Philip Glass & Steve Reich, but with hyperactive drum rhythms from darkest Africa or Stravinsky; and chaotic shamanistic(?)-style music with frenetic gongs and that instrument which sounds like a strangulated oboe. And I can imagine the Kayagum player had sore fingers at the end of the evening.

(3) The music was impressive, but I have a vague recollection (which I’d have to find and read my notes to check) that I thought that some (not much) of the mainly keyboard “up-to-date” music was a bit nondescript and sort of merely filling in, rather than adding to the performance. But mostly the music was strong, and I really liked the pansori elements.

I’m not a great connoisseur of dance, but I was fully engaged throughout the hour and a half’s performance. Lots of variety, and I was amazed at the strength and stamina of some of the dancers (how do you hold an open fan between your toes for five minutes or so without your toes aching unbearably?).

(4) See (2) above. Also, there was the contrast in style(s) to mark when the “tyrant” became the governor: for example, three (?) women “walking” in an almost fashion catwalk style, but doing so in a way that was an integral part of the dancing.

There was lots of energy, but also some very gripping scenes when there wasn’t much in the way of movement, including a rather homoerotic moment when the two topless male leads circled each other slowly. And it wasn’t just the guys who were topless.

A tip. Make sure you read the (free) programme before the show. A couple of times. The show is perfectly enjoyable as an abstract experience (and yes I do know the story of Chunhyang). But after the show was finished I went back over the programme notes and realised I’d missed about 90% of what was meant to be happening. It didn’t really matter though.

(5) I didn’t read the programme beforehand, I do know the story of Chunhyang, and I don’t recall thinking that I was missing a large amount of what was meant to be happening: I think that all the story was there, albeit sometimes in a rather (or very) abstract way.

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