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A Festival of Korean Dance 2020

Here’s hoping that I’m not tempting fate by posting this press release. I really hope that the health emergency is over by the end of May. Keep your fingers crossed, because this festival gets better each year.

As last year, there are three performances and one pre-performance discussion:

A Festival of Korean Dance 2020

29 May – 5 June 2020
The Place | 17 Duke’s Rd | Euston | London WC1H 9PY
Tickets £17 (£13 Early Bird) | Details on The Place website

  • The Festival of Korean Dance returns to The Place for a third year
  • An all-female line-up of four leading contemporary choreographers explore movement in the context of gender and sensuality over three evenings
  • Jin Yeob Cha, the choreographer of the 2018 Winter Olympics ceremonies, returns to London with a World Premiere following her sell-out show in the inaugural festival
  • Art Project Bora also return with a piece inspired by the legacy of iconic composer Isang Yun which will see dancers dismantle a piano live on stage
  • Soo Hyun Hwang and Yun Jung Lee make UK debuts in a double bill that plays on the senses
  • The festival is part of The Place’s celebrations for its 50th birthday year
Jinyeob Cha: Body-to-Body
Jinyeob Cha: Body-to-Body. Photo by Kim Wolf

“This is the first UK festival of Korean dance. Let’s hope it’s the first of many.” score-2score-2score-2score-2score-0 The Observer (2018)

At a time of widespread interest in Korean culture following the historic Best Picture win for Parasite at the Oscars (and the ever-growing popularity of K-Pop), A Festival of Korean Dance returns to The Place with a programme comprising four women choreographers at the cutting edge of Korean dance culture. Having built a following among audiences and critics, the festival returns once more to The Place in the year contemporary dance’s touchstone institution celebrates its 50th birthday.

Leading this year’s line-up, Jin Yeob Cha’s Collective A present MIIN: Body to Body. A project that began as an outdoor performance in Seoul, it will now have its World Premiere as an indoor theatre presentation during the festival. Jin Yeob Cha’s sell-out show Riverrun provided the iconic images from first Festival of Korean Dance in 2018, enjoyed by passengers on the Tube in the lead-up to the festival. This was not long after she had choreographed the ceremonies for the Winter Olympics and her return to London is eagerly awaited. MIIN: Body to Body see her examine how perceptions of beauty and femininity have evolved beyond our conceptions.

One of the highlights of last year’s festival, Bora Kim’s Art Project Bora also returns in collaboration with her partner Jaeduk Kim (Modern Table) to present MUAK, an innovative performance which draws on the condition of synesthesia and the legacy of iconic Korean composer Isang Yun, while dancers dis-assemble a piano live on stage.

Completing the festival and returning to the topic of the relationship between sound and movement, a double bill of artists new to the UK seeks to break down the boundary between performer and audience. Dance Project PPoKKi / Yun Jung Lee will present One Seventy-fifth Second and Soo Hyun Hwang presents Sense of Black. In Sense of Black, blindfolded dancers move to rhythms supplied by their co-performers, using the sounds they make as cues to inform their gestures, while the boundaries between audience and performer are subverted. One Seventy-fifth Second looks at balance and imbalance through the prism of the shortest possible unit of time – a split second. It won the ‘Dance of the Year’ award at the 2017 Dream & Vision Awards hosted by the Korea Modern Dance Association.

In addition to the programme of performance, Emma Gladstone will be leading an engaging discussion about gender politics in Korean contemporary dance. The Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Dance Umbrella will be in conversation with a panel of female Korean choreographers: Jin Yeob Cha, Bora Kim and Sung Im Her.

Speaking about A Festival of Korean Dance, Artistic Director of The Place Eddie Nixon says, “This year’s festival is a line of up all female choreographers, demonstrating the considerable breadth and talent of female makers in Korea. We are delighted to welcome back Jin Yeob Cha and Bora Kim, who have both presented work in previous editions of the festival, and to introduce the work of Yunjung Lee and Soo Hyun Hwang to UK audiences for the first time”

Speaking about the festival, Jungwoo Lee, Director at the Korean Cultural Centre UK says, “We are delighted to be presenting 4 of the biggest talents working in Korean dance today, through their pieces we discover some of the different perspectives female choreographers are bringing to expression and movement, as well as their experiences as choreographers in the Korean contemporary dance scene. We hope that you enjoy this year’s festival as it promises to be our best yet!”

Speaking about the festival, Doil Kim, President of the Korea Arts Management Service (KAMS) said, “We’re delighted to introduce the four female choreographers who represent Korea’s contemporary dance scene, with their outstanding artistry and global dance careers. With the excellent curation of The Place, UK, audiences can see things from different perspectives on the body and movement of each dance company. We hope that this festival will strengthen the cultural partnership between Korea and the UK as a successful platform.”

Speaking about her work, Jin Yeob Cha says: “I believe the body is like a circle, endless, without a start or end, Saṃsāra (a Buddhist concept of endless birth, life, death and rebirth), the nature of the universe. Circle means endless changes and repeats, and it echoes the female body.”

Bora Kim says, “Isang Yun’s music has opened up the infinite possibilities for me to work without being tied to formality. The music is difficult to interpret but the more I listen to it, the more attracted I am by its powerful energy. I indulge in the illusion of seeing music and listening to dance.”

Yun Jung Lee says, “I believe contact improvisation is a good way to experience a sort of ‘in-betweeness’. In my work, a small unit of thematic movements transform through repetitive movements, and then those transformed movements expand to contact improvisation.”

Listings information

A Festival of Korean Dance
29 May – 5 June 2020
The Place, 17 Duke’s Rd, London, WC1H 9PY
Tickets £17 (£13 Early Bird)
020 7121 1100 |

Fri 29 May: Collective A | MIIN: Body To Body 7.30pm

Fusing precise choreography with a captivating soundscape, Critically acclaimed choreographer Jin Yeob Cha examines how perceptions of beauty and femininity have evolved beyond traditional and contemporary definitions.

Tue 2 Jun: Pre-show Conversation 6pm

Emma Gladstone, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Dance Umbrella, will lead an engaging conversation with a guest panel of female, Korean choreographers; Jin Yeob Cha, Bora Kim and Sung Im Her, to discuss the subject of gender politics in Korean contemporary dance. £5 or £2.50 if booked with MUAK

Tue 2 Jun: Art Project Bora | MUAK 7.30pm

Seven performers burst the confines of logic as they dismiss the notion that we watch dance, and hear music, exclusively. Using physical force, they dismantle a piano creating a live soundtrack through their movements inviting the audience to see the sounds as a spectator and hear movement as a listener.

Fri 5 Jun: Double Bill: Soo Hyun Hwang / Yun Jung Lee | Sense of Black / One Seventy-fifth Second 7.30pm

In Sense of Black, the performers close their eyes throughout the show to create a shared experience with their audience. One Seventy-firth Second sees three dancers attempt to create a physical moment and asks – at the moment of collapsing, does balance indeed disappear?

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