The 10th edition of Los Angeles Performance Practice’s LAX Festival came to an end this weekend at L.A. Dance Project Studios (LADP) with the incredible NORRI, created by DaEun Jung. A different iteration of this work was part of the Dance at the Odyssey series in February 2023. The version seen on Thursday, November 2nd was, if possible, even more brilliant. As stated in her program notes, Jung “interlaces forms, principles, and methods of her ancestral and contemporary performance practices.” I read somewhere that Jung was very influenced by composer John Cage’s use of the I Ching and chance methods. I will add to this that Jung is also a masterful mathematician.
Entering the performance area of LADP one was met by a black Marley floor covered with a grid composed of pink, blue, yellow and green lines; musician and composer Daniel Corral sitting at a small table with his electronic equipment upstage left; vocalist Melody H. Sim seated on upstage right; and a row of 4 digital counters lining the back of the stage area.
As the lights shifted from house to performance mode, four dancers, Arletta Anderson, Hyoin Jun, DaEun Jung, and Tulsi Shah quietly entered in a line with a simple repetitive step that carried them across the front of the space, along the stage left side and along the back area. Their costumes reflected the colors of the grid lines and, like Jung’s choreography, were a fusion of contemporary and classical Korean costumes.
What proceeded next was a host of repetitive movement phrases that formed every conceivable arrangement on the grid area as well as breaking it apart and ignoring the lines. This was accomplished, however, while each dancer maintained a rhythm dictated by the music. Simple but elegant gestures were introduced, and delicate hand movements gathered up the back or gently gripped the front of their costumes. The amount of concentration that this took from the performers was astonishing and throughout they still managed to smile, make eye contact with the audience and each other, and even add to Sim’s vocalizing.
For a short time, I tried to figure out the counting, but soon gave up as it appeared to be constantly shifting. Movements were repeated eight, ten, then twelve times, but never in a way so as to predict what was coming next. In addition, the tempos quickened, stopped and then returned to a steady heartbeat tempo. Even when the dancers were performing different solos or brief duets, they would suddenly drop back into a meticulous unison – down to their arm and hand gestures.
NORRI was not a dance filled with extraordinary lifts and technically complicated jumps and turns, even though there was some jumping, turning, handstands and cartwheels. If anything, I was taken back to an earlier time in dance history to the initial work of Trisha Brown and Twyla Tharp where repetition and minimalism was prominent. Jung’s work is nothing like either of those women’s, but she has combined the ancient, the recent past and the present into one form of dance art.
NORRI was choreographed by DaEun Jung; Sound Composer/Video Counter Creation by Daniel Corral; Pansori Vocals by Melody H. Sim (Shim); Lighting Design by Chu-Hsuan Chang; and Sound Ian Stahl.
Each one of the four dancers, Arletta Anderson, Hyoin Jun, DaEun Jung, and Tulsi Shah were brilliant in what was required by them but because of her classical Korean dance training, it was Jung who brought the subtle head and eye movements to the work. If you see that NORRI, or any of Jung’s choreography, is showing near you, I highly recommend that you go.
For more information about DaEun Jung, please visit her website.
To learn more about Los Angeles Performance Practice, please visit their website.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Los Angeles Performance Practice – LAX Festival – (L-R) Arletta Anderson, Tulsi Shah, Hyoin Jun, DaEun, and Melody H. Sim (Shim) in NORRI, choreographed by DaEun Jung – Photo by Michael C. Palma.