Echo

“The memory of a man who studies the nature, origin and transformation of sound. The urban fable of ‘A Girl Reading a Book’ is explored in juxtaposition with the image of an island and memories of a rural girl.”

There were some absolutely beautiful moments of movement, colour and sound in the piece. I kept thinking ‘what a shame it is I don’t know enough Korean to understand what the dialogue means!’ The piece was based around a man (a Writer, going by the prominence of a typewriter) whose corporate life was stripped from him in the form of briefcase, jacket, tie and shoes, by three hooded figures in black. I thought his glasses might get taken too, but they didn’t. He was surrounded by voices from the ether, unable to decide which to listen to.

The orchestra consisted of a Clarinet, Trumpet, Xylophone and Cello. They played abstract, low, unpredictable music throughout the piece, which was beautifully enchanting. There was a soprano singer, dressed beautifully in white, who came in and out of the piece, also talking, questioning and tormenting the Writer in a sing-song voice. I wondered if she were his muse. Or his lover. Or both?

Through almost the entire piece sat a figure in white, on part of a park bench that had been sawn in two, a book in her hand. She wore white ballet shoes, a white body suit, a white jacket, white wig, white hat and gloves and had a white-painted face. She sat still as a statue until the Writer had taken her hat and book in a moment of despair. She took off her jacket, revealing a beautiful slender body, and danced a wonderful contemporary balletic piece. She had a moment of brief contact with the Writer, before returning to curl up on the bench.

The same three black figures danced with lengths of red, blue and yellow cloth around the Writer, which they used eventually to tie up the writer, almost like a maypole. They pulled him one way and another until he collapsed, tortured, centre stage. They covered him in a white shroud, put a papish pale paper-bag hat on his head and left a large bell by his head. The three figures in black entered in a procession, holding another length of red silk aloft, the middle of the three carrying the female statue on his shoulders, the red silk wrapped once around her waist. She knealt and lifted the shroud, as if mourning. The Writer rose, ringing the bell, tossing his shroud over his left shoulder. The movement and sound grew to a frenzy until the female statue beat the Writer to the floor with a bouquet of white flowers. To end the piece, the Writer returned to the stage in his original costume. The two halves of the broken bench were pushed together, and he sat next to the statue in white, who was now composed once again. He returned her book to her hands and gave her a little box. Finally, she spoke. He laid his head on her shoulder and she opened the box – sweet music began to play and confetti fell upon the pair. It was an enchanting piece, I only wish I had been able to understand the dialogue.

Originally written on Sunday 9th October 2011, and published on Tumblr.

Having thought back to this piece several times over the last (almost) two years, and having written a dissertation on Korean Shamanism, I am pretty sure there are several references to the female Mudangs (priestesses) of Korea. The lengths of primary colour fabric relate to some Musok rituals; the three figures in black suggest the idea of unseen beings from the spirit world; the drawings in my notebook include a hat, traditionally worn by Mudangs (both male and female) during Kut rituals. I only wish I had known all of this before seeing the piece, so I could have fully understood the relationship between the traditional rural practices and the modern practice of theatre.

If

A multidisciplinary piece about spirits unable to move from this world into the next. Some sections were absolutely beautiful – some utterly impressive choreography in the opening sequence – but I didn’t entirely understand the storyline, if there was one. There was a funny bit with a singer possibly getting killed which I was unsure about – none of the characters in that bit reappeared in the rest of the piece. The ending was beautiful – towering figures with two faces, singing: one person on another’s shoulders facing opposite directions, under a long black cloak, which reminded me of ‘no-name’ in Spirited Away, a Studio Ghibli film. I asked a Korean friend about this later – she didn’t think it was a Korean idea of spirits – maybe it’s Japanese or just coincidental use of a similar idea. I realised during this piece that costume, hair and makeup seemed to be a fairly minor focus in all the dance pieces I’ve seen. Costume is co-ordinated but the clothing worn doesn’t seem specifically designed. Hair and makeup seems to be entirely the performer’s own choice, (some of the girls had their hair down, and it kept getting in their faces, whereas others had it up out of the way) whereas at home I would normally think of it as part of the costume, decided by the director.

Originally written on Thursday 6th October 2011, and published on Tumblr.

Report W

Setting: Two white women and two Korean women, a mental hospital. It was truly weird. I think the two white women were patients; they were wearing pyjamas, doing lots of floor work and making odd noises. The Korean women were doctors or scientists, in white coats, doing experiments on the patients by holding up lighters on opposite sides of the stage, watching the patients run towards one flame, putting it out, and watching as they ran towards the other flame.

It all seemed slightly like a childhood game turned nasty. At one point the Koreans got a patient lying on a table on her stomach and poured hot wax from a lit candle over her back. The audience flinched as the wax dripped across her back, and the other patient spoke angrily in Korean.

Interestingly, the Koreans had spoken in English to give orders, but the white woman spoke Korean. I thought at this point that maybe the piece was meant to be some kind of critique on Imperialism; maybe British (or possibly Japanese) control over Korea – the loss of identity and suffering of the Koreans during the annexation of Korea to Japan: the comfort women? I felt that they were prisoners, trapped in something foreign and unfamiliar to them.

This piece had lost it’s newness and sense of exploration or surprise. It all seemed routine. The dancers focus wasn’t in the moment as it should have been. The only moment in the piece that I liked was the end, not  because it was over, but because although the performers left the space and the house lights came up, the music continued so there was no definitive ending to the piece. At a moment like this, the audience becomes an actor (if they weren’t already) and must make the decision of when to end the piece. Somebody always starts clapping sooner or later, and then everyone joins in then leaves, but the performance could in theory go on much longer than necessarily planned for. Very intriguing.

Originally written on Tuesday 4th October 2011, (Seoul, South Korea) and published on Tumblr.

Fade

Two male dancers. The piece began with the motif of a bouncing ball. The first dancer used mime-style manipulation to imply the solidity of the ball in one place, and the second dancer replaced the ball with his head, and back again. It was a really playful piece, moving from silence, punctuated only by heavy breathing (in unison) and the sound of the dancers movement in space, and really quick latin music which kept the pace moving. They had wonderful control of their weight and one another’s weight, but their movement was still very free and comfortable. It was absolutely beautiful to watch. Their rhythm did not stop: they would go from cannon to unison and back to cannon seamlessly. The lighting was fairly simple but very effective. I was very impressed by this piece.

Originally written on Tuesday 4th October 2011, and published on Tumblr

Rest

A story of two lovers; the only set a single chair. The two dancers were both on the chair together for the entire piece – a lot of intricate, delicate movement. There was a beautiful moment when their linked hands mimicked a joint heartbeat, coming into unison and then blurring back into cannon; another moment when the male dancer trapped the woman’s head underneath his t-shirt, and she panicked, kicking and crying out as if suffocating, but once she relaxed they were able to explore the new dynamic of the relationship. The control shifted back and forth between them nicely. Unfortunately the movement had lost its newness. This is understandable for performers who’ve done the piece uncountable times, but it’s still new for the audience. The touch between them could have been so much more special it could’ve given the piece an electric atmosphere, but it just wasn’t. The pair were also not loose and comfortable enough in their movement either.The music and lights were not very interesting, so detracted from the piece rather than adding anything to it.

Originally written on Tuesday 4th October 2011, and published on Tumblr

Hugo of St. Victor, qtd. in Edward Said, ‘The Mind of Winter’.

“The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is a foreign land. The tender soul has fixed his love on one spot in the world; the strong man has extended his love to all places; the perfect man has extinguished his.”

One of my favourite quotes about travel and nomadic life. I think it speaks for itself.

Highlight of my dance career

Full Tilt 2008I’d forgotten I danced at Sadler’s Wells in 2008. Performing on such a well-known national stage was a big deal, especially for such a young group of dancers. I was only 18. Our group, Full Tilt, performed a piece inspired by Frida Khalo’s life and art. We braided our hair and wore long red skirts. We’re only a name on a list of performers on Saturday 12th July 2008, but we were there. Check it out:

http://www.sadlerswells.com/show/National-Youth-Dance-Festival

A feminist anthropologist exploring the realities of culture, gender, and sexuality in contemporary Asia