Moonea Choi and Deborah Brockus are two dance artists who are also entrepreneurs and Ambassadors of Dance and who have been coordinating together since 2019 to introduce audiences in their respective countries to contemporary dance forms.  Choi is based in Seongnam, Korea. She is the director of the Seoul International Dance Festival in Tank, the CEO of the ING Collaboration Group, and art director of Korea and France’s joint creative works, Seoul. Brockus is the artistic director of BrockusRED dance company, director of Brockus Project Studios, and the founding artistic director of the Los Angeles Dance Festival (LADF) and others. On Thursday, June 22, 2023 the two festivals shared an evening titled Contemporary Dance Stories in Ari Hall at the Korean Cultural Center, Los Angeles (KCCLA).

Following introductions by KCCLA Director Sangwon Jung, Choi, Brockus and others, the program opened with the dance film AnHang (A flock of wild geese) choreographed by Korean dance artist and educator, Hyunsun Kim and performed excellently by members of the Kim Hyunsun Dance Company: Hyeon mi Park, Ye eun Lee, and Hyun sun Kim. AnHang was filmed at Tank and was first seen online at the 2020 LADF and again at Dance Camera West Festival 2023.  It is cinematically gorgeous and the movement by Kim greatly captures the physicality of black geese on the ground and in the air while staying true to traditional Korean dance.

With each viewing of the film, and I have seen it three times now, the subtleties of head, shoulder, arm, and use of the performer’s costume stand out as necessary intricacies to the art form. These three performers are depicting geese on land, in the air, vying for position status in their flock, but it is the execution of the artform, the structure of the work, and the stunning videography and editing by Min Hee Lee that deserve praise.

AnHang was directed by Moonea Choi and the music was composed by Chung Eun Han who also played Daegeum (a large bamboo flute), with Seong Bae Kim on Bass.

BrockusRED - "The Great Beyond" - Screenshot by LADC

BrockusRED – “The Great Beyond” – Screenshot by LADC

The Ari Hall does not have a large stage, but Brockus adapted her work Great Beyond with stunning results. The work was inspired by her lifelong fascination with the night skies and by a poster of deep space honoring the death of English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author Stephen Hawking in 2018. One of Hawking’s area of science focused on Black Holes which swallow up everything around them including stars and planets. Utilizing a very large sheet of opaque plastic as the cosmos, multiple portable lamps as stars, and dancers as souls traveling into the next realm, Brockus’ Great Beyond was an excellent introduction to contemporary dance, improvisation and technology for the substantial Korean audience members who attended the concert.

The wonderful dancers who brought Brockus’ vision into reality were Arturo Gonzalez, Mara Hancock, Denali Huff, Hannah Joo, Rebecca Lee, and Ann Lee Rohovec.  The soundscape was by Deborah Brockus.

Project Artdock - Photo courtesy of SIDFT

Project Artdock – Photo courtesy of SIDFT

Dance dove into the realm of evolution with Special Dot choreographed and performed with great intensity and control by Jeon Ye-hwa, the representative of Project-Artdog. Seen first in a crouched position facing upstage, the focused amber lighting played a huge role in emphasizing Ye-hwa’s control of the muscles in her back, shoulders and upper body. With movements that both hinted at and mimicked the images that today’s humans think of early mankind, Ye-hwa transitioned from an undefined creature into an ape-like figure and finally an early upright human being. Remaining in her early human character, Ye-hwa physically investigates various emotions like curiosity, fear, and loneliness. Her work was an intriguing research into how primitive humans may have moved.

Ye-hwa’s inspiration for Special Dot came from a 1967 book by English zoologist and ethologist, Desmond Morris titled “The Naked Ape,” which according to Wikipedia, “depicts human behavior as largely evolved to meet the challenges of prehistoric life as a hunter.” Morris’ book was removed from the shelves of some New York libraries in 1976 and became the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court case in 1982.

The program concluded with the exquisite performance by eight members of the Yoon Sumi Dance Company in a beautifully choreographed work titled Dance, that excitement. Sadly, the names of the performers were not listed in the program but they deserve special mention for their amazing skill and energy that overcame the confines of the space provided by the Ari Hall stage.

Dressed in a unifying white costumes and movement that referenced traditional Korean dance, the entire ensemble lit up the theater and connected directly with the audience as they moved in front of bleacher-style seating, up the center aisle and finally up onto the stage.

The program notes stated that the work was designed to answer three questions all at once: Why do we dance? What IS dance? and how do we balance between dance and life? I do not know if it met its goal, but I do know that for me, it truly does not matter.  The work was that rare combination of high dance art and entertainment, depicting the strong emotions of joy, sadness, death and celebration. I, for one, was extremely glad that I was there to witness this beautiful work.

The Los Angeles Dance Festival International also featured two days of classes and performances at Brockus Project Studios (BPStudios).  Hopefully this festival will continue on into the future.

For more information, please visit the Los Angeles Dance Festival website.

For more information on the Seoul International Dance Festival in Tank, please visit their website.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: SIDFIT company – Photo courtesy of LADF