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Korea National Contemporary Dance Company

Korea National Contemporary Dance Company

Established in 2010, the Korea National Contemporary Dance Company is Korea’s only national repertoire company commissioning new works from a range of Korean and international contemporary choreographers.

Here they perform two dramatic, punchy works from new-generation Korean talent:

On a bright white stage six dancers build up an intense pattern of intricate synchronised movement. Sometimes appearing like parts of a machine, sometimes like members of a tribe and sometimes as pure individuals, Mechanism plays with how we see the human and our interaction. The pulsating rhythmic score by MC Bluechan builds up the tension, growing in intensity to propel Mechanism’s club-like joyous finale. Mechanism is choreographed by leading choreographer Lee Jaeyong, a founder members of the SIGA Dance collective (also performing in The Aldridge Studio on 6 May).

When things fall, do they disappear? Is falling death? Everything Falls Dramatic by Her Sungim offers a powerful and emotional meditation on our sense of fragility, resilience, loneliness and solidarity. Six dancers move sinuously through contrasting scenes of free and casual abandon, defiant energy or loving care. Everything Falls Dramatic features a dramatic set design and a richly layered soundscore by electro-acoustic duo HuskHusk. Everything Falls Dramatic features the choreographer Her Sungim, renowned in Europe as a performer with companies like Ballet C de la B and Needcompany.

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Korea National Contemporary Dance Company ON TOUR

Our review on Korea National Contemporary Dance Company

Kontemporary Korea - The Lowry, Salford - Monday 24th April 2023 by Karen Ryder

Our Rating

The thing I love about my job is being introduced to a wealth of talented performers, companies, and art forms that I may otherwise have skipped over.  Korea National Contemporary Dance Company is a show that I may have missed out on in a previous life, and this would have been such a shame for it was so unique.  I hope I can encourage people who think that a dance show isn’t for them to try it out, give it a chance and revel in the kind of love and joy that it clearly brought tonight's audience.

Firstly, this is not an unknown company. They have been around since 2010 and are Korea’s only National dance company, expertly telling relevant stories of the past, the present and ones of hope for the future. The combination of how these stories are told, along with their messages, ensure that they can be appreciated by any generation in any location. Their contemporary and diverse approach allows for collaboration with multiple choreographers, ensuring authenticity and free expression. Their desire is to enrich our lives through their storytelling and dance, and this new generation of Korean talent do just that.  Mechanism has a score written by MC Bluechan and is choreographed by Lee Jaeyong (leading choreographer and founding member if the SIGA Dance Collective). Everything Falls Dramatic has a score written by electro-acoustic duo Husk Husk and is choreographed by Sung Im Her(Ballet C de la B and Needcompany). Husk Husk have created a score with a strong beat and clever sampling.  It crosses multiple complex rhythms with a heavy string instrument influence.  The result is electric and produces a score that builds to make you feel alive and glad to be so.

The show covers two stories; Mechanism and Everything Falls Dramatic.  Mechanism starts on a sparse, clinically white stage, with six dancers.  Through isolations, staccato movements and the development of canons, they build up a synchronised and intricate pattern that symbolises the inner workings of a machine. The movement, story and choreography are so intrinsically clever, that it allows the story to shift into a strong tribal style choral dance, before segueing into juxtaposing individuals.  These changes aren’t as random as they sound.  Nothing about this performance is random.  It is all thought out with minute detail, and these seemingly disconnected ideas ultimately forge an arc as to how we see ourselves and others as humans.  How do we operate?  How do we connect?  And how do we thrive?  As the tension of the piece builds up to a dramatic climax, we see the release of human emotion through expression, in a club like scene where everybody lets loose and the repetitive frenzied swinging of arms becomes hypnotic.  The timing of this piece is outstanding.  I have no idea how the dancers match each other so perfectly, and their spatial awareness of each other is incredible.  They really do operate as one, even when moving entirely alone.  It is mesmerising to watch.  Due to the nature of the piece showing of the intricate workings of mechanisms, there is a lot of repetition and certain sections or rhythms are continued for quite some time, which does work as the company do not miss a beat, but equally it can become a little less engaging the more we see of the same.  There were a few moments when I wasn’t entirely sure what I was watching but I also couldn’t fail to be in awe of it, such was the talent and energy on display.

The second piece tells the story of Everything Falls Dramatic.  It is an emotional and powerful retrospect of our own paradoxical features as humans such as fragility versus resilience and loneliness versus solidarity.  The six dancers take us on a journey through our complex and contrasting existence as humans, exploring free and casual abandon, right through to defiant energy and loving care.  It focused on the things we continually lose in life, whether that is quickly, slowly, and whether we are expecting the loss or not.  It is an inevitable part of life, and so the patterns repeat, but do we ever learn how to handle them any better?  Memories fade too and so we almost lose the thing we lost all over again with the decline of its presence and importance in our mind.  It’s a fascinating and confusing parallel to wrap your head around and it really made me think.  Yet even though we are constantly losing things, whether these things be objects, memories, or people, we somehow carry on.  Therefore, it also explores our resilience in the face of loss, resilience we all too often feel we don’t possess.  But with this pattern of loss on continual repeat, it makes us question, at what point do we run out of resilience?  This idea was born out of Sung Im Her’s personal story following her father suffering a stroke, and so it inevitably raised the questions of death within her.  What is it exactly?  How do we approach it?  View it?  Can we understand it differently, treat it and approach it differently so it’s impact can be handled from an alternate meaning?  Understandably, we witness the dancers falling down and getting back up a lot, but it is choreographed into unbelievable sequences that will blow your mind.  Whether you know dance or not doesn’t matter, because you do understand the topic of this story.  We all do.  It is the one guarantee in life after all, and therefore it resonates and oddly makes you keen to grasp life by its dangly bits and embrace what we do have rather than allow what we have lost to hold us back.  The opening of this piece is done in utter silence, yet the dancers are able to move on beat with each other, timed to perfection.  I have no idea how they do this with no audible cue, and they are not looking at each other either, so have no visual cue.  It is quite remarkable and fascinating to see a company so in tune with each other that it felt like they were breathing as one.  The end of this piece was beautiful.  There were a few moments when we thought it had finished and then realised it hadn’t, and there was also some post show audience debate as to what it actually symbolised, it was wholly agreed that it left an imprint.

I have been to many kinds of shows in my work, including dance shows, but I have never seen anything quite like this one.  It is energetic, repetitive, moving, beautiful, curious, and calming all at the same time.  Come with an open mind and come with the knowledge that it will stay with you and have you thinking about it long after the show has finished.  I do wish that there had been a programme or something available to inform us about the story and to learn a little about the dancers as I think this would have helped.  I did read up on the pieces a little online prior to the show but this information would have been useful and potentially encourage more people to attend and feel included.  Yet even if you don’t fully understand what you have seen, you do feel that it is enriching you and challenging you in ways you may not even be conscious of.  Any art form that can do that is worth opening our hearts to because you will be rewarded. 

This performance by Korea National Contemporary Dance Company is part of the Festival Of Korean Dance 2023, of which The Lowry are a producing partner.  It is great to see our local theatre being a part of giving such a wonderful platform to shows that don’t always have the big commercial pull, because, for anyone who is interested in performing arts, these are the shows where you gain your education, where you discover new ideas, and are able to take them away and create even more new theatre within your own groups.  Watching the intricate work and connection between two sets of six dancers was humbling.  It was a marvel to see how they each tell a story in such personal and unique ways. So go and watch to learn, be curious, discover, enjoy, and be inspired.  Tonight's show forms part of the Festival Of Korean Dance and you can catch the next instalment Kontemporary Korea: A Triple-Bill of K:Dance: ‘Foreign Body’, ‘Did U Hear’, and ‘Rush’, at The Lowry on Saturday 6th May. 

Tonight's audience gave one of the biggest responses I have seen to a show in a long time.  The applause and appreciation were immense, with standing ovations and cheers long after the dancers had left the stage.  It was an experience in itself being in an atmosphere such as this, and I found myself captivated by the audience as their love for Kontemporary Korea rang out loud and clear.



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