Tuesday,18 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1369, (16-22 November 2017)
Tuesday,18 June, 2019
Issue 1369, (16-22 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

So you think you can dance

The Korean Modern Table Contemporary Dance Company’s show impressed Reham El-Adawi  

So you think you can dance
So you think you can dance

Inspired by the ancient Korean song Poomba, the Korean Modern Table Contemporary Dance Company, led by choreographer and artistic director Kim Jae-duk, performed Darkness Poomba at the Cairo Opera House Main Hall on 27 October to celebrate the third anniversary of establishing the Korean Cultural Centre in Cairo, and 74th anniversary of the Cairo Declaration on 30 October.   

The 60-mintue show reshapes the past to explore the future in a powerful, sophisticated way. The choreography is exquisite — innovative, varied and peppered with a blend of traditional Korean dance, martial arts and contemporary dance at its best. A fluidity, rich with rhythmic changes, showed no fear of stillness and communicated a rare sense of sincerity. This is multilayered and expertly executed display of work — entirely captivating. 

“People’s deep emotions of anger, sorrow and grief, as they were scorned and looked at with contempt is expressed with sighs and dark sounds in this performance. The fear to be defeated by the darkness is continuously shown by the dancers as they dance and sing, with a movement similar to Dionysus’,” Kim Jae-duk explained.  

Produced by Elly Eunji Jun with lighting by Lee Jang-han and no set, the show features seven dancers (Lee Jung-in, Lee Pil-seung, Choi Jeong-sik, Kim Lae-hyuk, Han Tae-jun, Lee Un-gi and Hwang Chang-hwan), one traditional pansori vocalist (Jeong Seung-joon) and three musician (Heo Seong-eun on the drum, Lee Tae-il on the guitar and Kim Hyeong-min on the bass guitar).

The dance piece started with a simple line: seven dancers all in black shirts and suits on a black stage, visible only thanks to the most economical golden glow giving warmth and humanity to otherwise sad bodies. Kim Jae-duk says, “Poomba is a song that’s sung by the homeless when they beg. It has sadness but also includes humour. It crosses over between smiling and crying. The routine of Darkness Poomba is re-interpreted into modern dance from Korea’s traditional Poomba material. This is related to the concept of Han, defined as deep resentment and sorrow, an expression in Korean culture. The frame of the basic melody is transcribed in a more modern idiom with strong movement for audiences to enjoy without distinction of sex or age worldwide. Darkness Poomba possesses a unique Asian character with live sounds and male dancers dancing in dynamic curves. In the middle of the performance, the barrier between the performers and the audience is nowhere to be found as the dancers come down to the audience seats communicating with the audiences in movement and sound. The dance piece is not only performed on stage; the dancers use the performance area as a whole to communicate openly with the audience as well, making every audience member feel like a performer as well.” 

Modern Table is a young, up-and-coming troupe that focuses on interdisciplinary projects. The mainly contemporary dance company also stages “pansori”, rock and hip-hop performances, bridging genres. It has gathered much attention from the public and critics for its unconventional ideas and experimental projects, often breaking down the fourth wall. In its performances, pop culture is reinterpreted using academic techniques and traditional practices take on contemporary form. Its major works include Darkness Poomba, Joker’s Blues, Simchung Guyz, Awake, Clocker, Kick, Smile, Sok-do (Velocity), Smart Illumination and Meditation.

Following the performance of Darkness Poomba at the 2016 Odoru-Akita International Dance Festival in Japan, dance critic Norikoshi-Takao wrote of the troupe, “The members are only males and it has techniques and speed too. The performance is in speed and the detailed nuances from hands and necks are tied together. It was powerful and attractive at the same time and the attraction is like running on a sheet of ice. A vocal came up and started to sing Poomba in a very deep and rough voice from the stands. Then Jae-duk also sang and led the whole audience into excitement. The last part was even better. The metal chopsticks were put on the stage in the same space between. The dancers kneeled down in line and danced like chopsticks to chop at the ground also brought about images from tap dancing. The traditional spirit Han included motions singing about harsh realities and absurdity without exit. The movement from Jae-duk was very stylish and modern but it transmitted that Han was swirling inside”.

Between 2011 and 2017 the company performed at the Chekhov International Theatre festival in Moscow, the K-music Festival in London, the Beijing Dance Festival, China, the Buenos Aires Denza Contemporanea Festival, the Sibu International Dance Festival in Malaysia, the Tanztage International Festival in Germany and Tokyo Dance Triennale as well as participating in Travelling Korean Arts events in Washington DC and Sao Paulo and Curitiba in Brazil.

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