Photo Essay: Yin and Yang in Korean Dance

Jo Seong-hee captures Yi Chuljin and Nam Youngho in rehearsal with some stunning images. Text by the editor.

In a carefully-planned and stimulating collaboration at Roehampton, Yi Chuljin and Nam Youngho presented an evening of balances and contrasts, explicitly referencing Yin and Yang on several layers.

Yi Chuljin, in white
Yi Chuljin, in white

Most obviously, we had a male and a female performer, one dressed in white, the other in black.

Nam Youngho, in black
Nam Youngho, in black

We had contemporary dance set alongside the traditional dance – the Seungmu – it seeks to reinterpret. And with the two traditional dances performed by Yi Chuljin, the energetic Seungmu…

Yi Chuljin rehearses the Seungmu
Yi Chuljin rehearses the Seungmu

… originating from the Buddhist tradition was full of dramatic movements of the long, flowing sleeves in which the hands were hidden, while the Salp’uri, from the shamanistic tradition…

Yi Chuljin rehearsing the Salpuri
Yi Chuljin rehearsing the Salpuri

… was paradoxically much more restrained, requiring much more confined body movement and accurate hand gestures.

Within Nam’s dance the first half in which she wore the long sleeves traditionally worn for the Seungmu …

Nam Youngho rehearses Le Corps est un Visage
Nam Youngho rehearses Le Corps est un Visage

… balanced well with the second half in which more of her body was revealed …

Nam YounghoNam Youngho

… her arms and her long hair. Nam Youngho, who lives in France, was trained in classical and contemporary dance, and came to Korean traditional dance later in her career. She choreographed Le Corps est un Visage herself, working closely with French poet Paul Godard …

Paul Godard
Paul Godard declaims his text

… who was commissioned to write the poem and recited the text while Nam danced. The text itself pointed to Yin and Yang contrasts …

Le corps est un visage - The body is a face (Paul Godard)
Le corps est un visage - The body is a face (Paul Godard)

il-elle and blanc-noir were constantly recurring motifs which stressed the counterpoint of opposites.

Another theme to be drawn out in the discussion after the performances were the calligraphic aspects – the long sleeves in the Seungmu seemed to draw characters in the air…

Yi Chuljin: calligraphy in the air
Yi Chuljin: calligraphy in the air

… while Nam made the reference explicit in the second half of her performance by using her long hair as a calligraphy brush:

Nam Youngho and her calligraphy brush;
Nam Youngho and her calligraphy brush

These shots were all taken in rehearsal. The performers needed a bit of rest and meditation before the real thing …

Yi Chuljin at rest
Yi Chuljin at rest

… after which there was a lively trilingual (Korean / French / English) discussion to bring this well-attended evening to an end. More performances will follow in France during December and Seoul next year. It is a highly recommended experience.

Yi Chuljin and Nam Youngho performed at the Michaelis Theatre, Froebel College, Roehampton University on Wednesday 2 December.

All images © Jo Seong-hee who can be contacted via her website, www.joseonghee.co.uk

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