The Novel Hall Dance Series’ Asia and New Look (亞太新勢力) closes this weekend with a visit by the South Korean troupe EDx2 Dance Company, the youngest of the three companies to perform this fall, having just been established in 2010.
However, the well-traveled EDx2 shows there is more to contemporary modern dance in South Korea these days than Psy’s “Gangnam Style.”
The company has brought two of its works for a 60-minute program: Modern Feeling (當代的 Fu) and What We’ve Lost (留也留不住).
Company founder and choreographer Lee In-soo is often labeled a street dancer-turned-choreographer, a label that belies his strong academic training in dance. Lee is from Daegu, where he studied dance at Gyeongbuk Arts High School before earning a bachelor’s degree and masters’ at the Korea National University of Arts — South Korea’s equivalent of the Taipei National University of the Arts. While still a student, he became a member of the Emio Greco & PC Dance Company in the Netherlands, which helped broaden his scope. In 2005, he joined the Laboratory Dance Project (LDP) Dance Company, which had been founded by alumni from his university’s dance department four years before. During his time with LDP he won several awards for his choreography at festivals, and in 2008 he established the Soo Dance Project to explore his vision of new movement. That project morphed into EDx2.
Despite his strong academic background in dance, Lee has carved out a name for himself based on his fusion of street dance and hip-hop, sparked by a desire to bring dance closer to younger audiences and connect with the public. However, his style is more than just flashy moves; he has worked hard to incorporate dramatic elements and story-telling into his productions.
Modern Feeling, in which Lee is one of the dancers, is an homage to a long-standing friendship between two men. It explores their first meeting, their conflicts and compromises in vocabulary that ranges from hip hop, martial art movements and acrobatics to contact improvisation. Lee has been praised for his ability to break down each movement and then fuses the pieces back together again. It is face-paced and funny. The work won the Grand Prix award at the 2008 Seoul International Choreographer Festival.
The second piece on the program, What We’ve Lost, is an exploration of the differences and similarities between imagination and reality, fantasy and illusion and retrospection and memory. The first part of the work mixes uniformed schoolgirls, children and hoodlums “playing” soccer with an imaginary object in a scene right out of childhood. Their playing gets faster and faster until it becomes a dance. The second scene is set in the imagination of a physically challenged person who dreams of moves he can no longer perform himself, raising the question of which is better, our imaginary world or reality.
It may be a short program at just over 60 minutes, but Lee’s works give a glimpse of the fast-paced world of South Korea’s modern dance scene.