Local choreographer Hong Sung-yup is widely nicknamed “the dancer of literature.”
The director of Korea National Contemporary Dance Company has been praised for his ability to translate works of literature into contemporary dances. Some of the state-run troupe’s repertoires include “Ah Q,” based on Lu Xin’s 1921 novella “The True Story of Ah Q,” and “The Blood in Horses’ Eyes,” an adaptation of playwright Peter Shaffer’s “Equus.” Hong’s latest output was “Rashomon,” which is based on Japanese writer Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s 1915 short story of the same title.
|A scene from Korea National Contemporary Dance Company’s “Mystical Paradise” (KNCDC)|
Next month the company is staging “Mystical Paradise,” a contemporary dance based on celebrated writer Lee Oi-soo’s 1992 fantasy novel “Byeokogeumhakdo.” A staple repertoire of KNCDC, the dance was premiered in 2010 and received rave reviews from the audience for its moving choreography and stage art.
Writer Lee is said to have written the novel in four years, after turning his room into a prison cell by setting up a steel-barred window. He lived an extremely secluded life while writing the piece; his goal was to “be only recognized by God,” although his writing “may mean nothing to those who live in this world.”
The novel tells the story of a young boy Eun-baek, whose grandfather is a spiritual guru in their village. He visits Ohak-dong, a utopian town of spiritual hermits with miraculous powers ― where one’s ego can be directly attached to things he finds beautiful.
He leaves the town with a traditional Korean painting named “Byeokogeumhakdo,” given by one of the hermits there. The boy, whose hair turned gray during his brief stay in the town, is told that he will be allowed to return to Ohak-dong ― only if he finds a person who can “fly while carrying the painting” in the secular world.
Eun-baek grows up in a society that is the opposite of the sacred town, which is filled with greed, selfishness and violence ― while desperately trying to find the person who has the special ability to fly with the painting.
Hong’s choreography focuses on the relationship between the earth, heaven and humans. One of the props of the show is red yarn, which symbolizes the complex connection between human beings and the sacred. In the show, the yarn eventually connects the stage and the audience seats, inviting the viewers to the virtual Ohak-dong, which is reconstructed on stage like a traditional ink-and-wash painting.
A total of 12 dancers have been selected for the show through an audition, and the group has been preparing for the upcoming show since January. The dance is being staged in celebration of the reopening of CJ Towol Theater, a mid-sized theater at Seoul Arts Center which recently reopened after a major renovation from 2011 to 2012.
“Mystical Paradise” runs from April 5 to 7 at Seoul Arts Center’s CJ Towol Theater. All tickets cost 15,000 won. For more information, call (02) 3472-1420 or visit www.kncdc.kr.
By Claire Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org