A Festival of Korean Dance returns to London for a seventh year

99Artcompany's 'Burnt Offering'.
99Artcompany's 'Burnt Offering'.

With shows that take in the joys of soaring, that explore the impact of social media, and that focus on presenting traditional Asian values and stories in contemporary ways, A Festival of Korean Dance will return to The Place for its seventh year, and for the first time will tour to Scotland. 

In addition to performing at Tramway, Glasgow, Korean Cultural Centre UK will continue its partnership with The Lowry, and are delighted to bring the Festival to Pavilion Dance South West and Dance City, Newcastle with the support of the Korea Arts Management Service. This year, audience favourite Sung Im Her will once again present new work, and Ae-Soon Ahn, former Artistic Director of Korea National Contemporary Dance Company (KNCDC), will be making her UK debut.

Opening the festival at Tramway (16 May) before touring to Dance City (18 May), The Place (22 May) and Pavilion Dance South West (24 May), Kontemporary Korea is a double bill of Flight by Melancholy Dance Company who make their Festival debut, and Tomorrowisnowtodayisyesterday (TiNTiY) by audience favourite Sung Im Her, who returns following last year’s Everything Falls Dramatic and 2021’s W.A.Y (re-work). Flight aims to express the human desire to soar towards goals through leaps and falls in a virtuosic duet, and in TiNTiY Sung Im Her looks at the impact of (social) media: the oversharing, over-saturation, the ‘entertaining content’, the conspiracy theories, confusion and anxiety. Three dancers perform to a club-like soundtrack composed by music duo Husk Husk.

Next at The Place (25 May), Burnt Offering is from 99Artcompany, a company focused on expressing the uniqueness of Korean tradition through contemporary stories. Burnt Offering invites us to consider what new rituals we need, what we might pray for, and how we can draw on the traditions of the past. Dancers are caught up in repetitive daily routines, their life burning away without meaning, but when they look up, clouds of incense float into the air, and a dance commences which burns with a noble spirit. Burnt Offering won the Best Production award at the 2nd Seoul Arts Awards hosted by the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture.

Closing the festival with performances at The Place (31 May) and Lowry (4 – 5 June), Cheok by Ae-Soon Ahn uses the Korean word, which is a traditional Asian standard of measurement meaning ‘span of the hand’, to explore personal and individual measurement. Six dancers perform in a rich and sensuous landscape of light, video, sound and movement, to create new connections that rediscover traditional Asian values. Ae-Soon Ahn was formerly the Artistic Director of Korea’s premier company KNCDC, and was the first Korean choreographer invited to choreograph at Chaillot National Theater in France and Liège Theater in Belgium.

Christina Elliot, Head of Programming and Producing at The Place, said“We’re delighted to be collaborating with our friends at Korean Cultural Centre UK, Korea Arts Management Service, Asia Culture Center Foundation, Tramway, Dance City, Pavilion Dance South West and The Lowry, to present what is now a nationwide celebration of Korean dance. We’re particularly pleased to be welcoming our co-commission with Seoul Performing Arts Festival, Sung Im Her’s Tomorrowisnowtodayisyesterday, to London, following its premiere in Seoul last year, and to be hosting revered choreographer Ae-Soon Ahn’s first performances in the UK, with her monumental work Cheok. Across the programme, audiences will discover visionary artists finding sublime ways to interpret modern life – we hope you’ll join us.”

Jaeyeon Park, Senior Producer at the Korean Cultural Centre UK, said, “We are thrilled to announce the expansion of our esteemed Korean dance festival to Glasgow, Newcastle, Bournemouth, and Manchester. This year, we’re collaborating with the renowned Tramway, Dance City, Pavilion Dance South West, and The Lowry. Get ready for a captivating tour featuring a double bill: Sung Im Her’s latest work and Cheolin Jeong’s Flight. Making her London debut will be Ae-Soon Ahn with Cheok – this profound piece offers a unique perspective on the Korean contemporary dance scene, adding another compelling dimension to the program.”

The Korea Arts Management Service (KAMS) said, “We’re pleased to introduce outstanding Korean artists Ahn Ae-soon, Melancholy Dance Company, 99Artcompany and Sung Im Her, who is an associate artist of the Seoul Performing Arts Festival (SPAF). Through partnerships with various theaters across the UK, we hope that more British audiences can experience Korean artists and their works.”

A Festival of Korean Dance was established in 2018, as part of the Korea/UK Season. Since 2019, it has been produced in a partnership between The Place, the Korean Cultural Centre, and the Korea Arts Management Service to introduce London audiences to the exciting contemporary dance scene in Korea. The growing popularity of the festival has coincided with the booming global success of the cultural phenomenon known as Hallyu – the wave of Korean pop culture. Over the span of six remarkable years, the festival has proudly welcomed the participation of 21 esteemed companies, among them the prestigious KNCDC, Art Project BORA, Modern Table and Collective A. Together, they have presented a total of 21 dance pieces, accompanied by an impressive selection of 12 evocative dance films and documentaries.

For more information, visit kccuk.org.uk/en/programmes/festival-korean-dance-2024.

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