Thank you for attending the performance by CCN-Ballet de Lorraine! Did you attend the film screenings or performance preview? Did you make it to the IAS event or the Fluxus gallery exhibit? What did you think of the show? Join the conversation!
Ahead of Bereishit Dance Company's debut performance at Northrop on Feb 28, we took some time to chat with dancer Jaewoo Jung about what life is like with the Seoul-based contemporary company.
First, a little bit about Jaewoo:
Jaewoo studied contemporary dance at Hansung University and joined Bereishit Dance Company in 2013. Jung has participated in the Seoul Dance Festival, HANPAC Rising Stars, Attakkalari India Biennale, Dance Salad Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and other international festivals. Jung has won several awards including the title of Grand-prix at the Competition of Korean Contemporary Dance Association, 1st place at the 14th International Dance Competition in Greece, and a Gold Medal at the International Contemporary Dance Competition in Korea.
Why do you dance?
I dance for the pleasure I get from expressing myself through dance and because of the sense of accomplishment after performances
What do you do to get ready for a show?
First, I take a shower one hour before the performance. This has become an important performance ritual for me now, so showering before the show is kind of a superstition of mine. Just before the performance, I sit calmly in a dark place backstage. When I stay in a dark place, it calms and relaxes me.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
I teach students during the day and practice for our performances in the evening. So, when I have some free time because there isn’t a performance for a while, I feel emptiness. My life has been filled with performance practice and teaching so I almost forget what to do when I have free time!
If you weren’t a dancer, what would you be?
I wished to be a service person when I was a child, but I’m not quite sure what I’d want to be now if I weren’t a dancer. Maybe I would work in a role where I could use my body, as I love to use my body and perform movements.
Who inspires you?
I’m normally not inspired by people, but rather from small experiences in everyday life. If I had to pick a person though, it would be Buster Keaton. I often watch his films.
What is life like with Bereishit Dance Company? What is it like working with/for Soon-ho Park?
I spent most of my 20s with Bereishit Dance Company. Bereishit is the biggest part of my life now. That is why I feel emptiness when I do not have performance practice.
Soon-ho is very persistent, so working with him can be quite stressful. However, through this I gain something much bigger than the hardship. That is the reason I continue to work with him.
What is your role(s) in Bow-control and/or Balance and Imbalance? Why are these pieces so special/unique?
I am a main dancer in both pieces. We spend a long time with the same dance partners so the pieces really illustrate our efforts in the time we spend together. That makes the pieces so special to me.
What is your biggest challenge in performing these pieces? What is your favorite moment in the show?
Researching archery and learning the ways in which to use a bow as an object was the biggest challenge. My favorite moment is when it’s just the musicians playing the drums in Balance & Imbalance.
What is your favorite part of the dance creation process?
Doing improvisation or researching is my favorite part.
Where is the most beautiful place you’ve ever been?
Bereishit Dance Comapny in Bow-control. Photo by P Lig
What happens when you put 20 international dance companies, over 40 emerging companies, 100 school participants, and 33 interns in the hills of the Berkshires over the course of ten weeks? Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival happens, and let me tell you, it’s magical.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota and saying goodbye to my wonderful Northrop coworkers, I packed up my life and drove out east for my summer internship at Jacob’s Pillow. I knew I would see a lot of amazing dance in my time there, but I had no idea quite how incredible it would be. I also did not anticipate that I would see one of my favorite performances of my life within the first two weeks of the festival. And lucky for all of you reading this, you can see this performance, too!
Bereishit Dance Company from Seoul, South Korea is a contemporary dance company unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The dancers are fluid and strong. They achieve partnering I have never seen before with an ease and focus that is simply unparalleled.
Bow-control is a powerful duet between two men, delicately finding new and inventive ways of exploring a simple bow—as if they had never seen a bow before. They allowed the audience in so we were able to discover it with them for the first time, too. The piece escalated into incredible feats of balance and strength, taking the themes of the bow into the physical body.
Balance and Imbalance is a larger group work with live Korean musicians. Each section grew in not only number of dancers but also energy. Each movement was more challenging and more impressive than the next. And yet the dancers moved as if they had water flowing inside them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen dancers as focused as these.
This is truly a performance you do not want to miss. It’s a brief performance, but it leaves you begging for more. Not to mention how special it is to be able to experience contemporary dance from across the globe. I saw a lot of dance this summer, and this still stands out as my favorite. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. You won’t be disappointed.
The location in Becket, MA is charming and the views are stunning. I felt inspired standing at the first theatre in the United States designed specifically for dance. It is fantastic to think about how dance has grown as an art form since that time.
After staring into space in awe of the history at Jacob’s Pillow, I pinched myself and decided to go for a walk. Lucky for me, Northrop’s previous student engagement intern, Abby, was working at The Pillow and was able to show me around. After dancing in the rehearsal space, purchasing my very own Jacob’s Pillow wine glass, visiting the archives, and polishing off a delicious dinner, I made my way into the intimate Doris Duke Theatre for a captivating evening of dance.
The first piece performed was Bow (2014), a striking male duet.Inspired by the tradition of Korean archery, Bow examines the physical training as well as the mindfulness needed to execute archery successfully. To me, the philosophical idea underneath explores the moment when you pull back the string—it’s very slow and tranquil. However, when you release it, it goes fast. The partnering reflected this. It was innovative and showed fast and slow movement—harsh and gentle. I also found it refreshing to see two males partner together.
The ensemble work Balance and Imbalance (2010) was full of clever choreography between the dancers and was accompanied onstage by two traditional Korean drummers and a pansori singer. It’s my understanding that the term “pansori” is derived from “pan” (Korean meaning: "a place where many people gather"), and “sori” (Korean meaning: "sound"). This traditional music (from the 17th century), was mixed with present-day movement and I enjoyed the juxtaposition in that. The vocals were also in Korean. Although I didn’t literally understand the words, the acting conveyed allowed me to follow along. Additionally, Balance and Imbalance shows off the dancers’ strength and physicality. There are flips, lifts, and jumps that are really athletic and exciting to watch.
So, although no one seems to pronounce “Bereishit” the same, I think we can all agree that the work was physical with fresh choreography and creative and playful movement. We were in standing in amazement and applauding at the end. I am very grateful that I get to see Bereishit Dance Company at Northrop again in February – I can hardly wait.
Ballet de Lorraine in Fabrications. Photo by Bernard Prudhomme
Ahead of CCN-Ballet de Lorraine's performance—and continuing Northrop's celebration of the legendary Merce Cunningham—I was thrilled to chat with the Cunningham Trust's Patricia Lent, one of the original dancers in Fabrications.
Not only did Ms. Lent perform in the Northrop premiere 30 years ago, but she taught the piece to the CCN-Ballet de Lorraine dancers. She will return to Northrop on February 16 to take part in the performance preview, and see the show that has become a significant part of her life.
Tell me a little bit about your background. How did you come to be a dancer? What do you do now?
I studied ballet as a child, and on through my teenage years. I stopped dancing when I went to college (University of Virginia), but then began again in my final year with an inspiring teacher named Nora Shattuck who encouraged me to pursue a career. I eventually made my way to New York where I spent a year-and-a-half studying ballet and training at the Merce Cunningham Studio before being invited to join Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC).
I danced for MCDC for 10 years (1984-93), and then White Oak Dance Project from 1994-96. I then earned a master’s degree in education and taught elementary school for 10 years. In 2008 I joined the staff of the Cunningham Dance Foundation. A year later, I was named by Merce to be a trustee of the Merce Cunningham Trust, and currently serve as the Trust’s Director of Licensing. My responsibilities include initiating and overseeing projects in which Merce’s work is shared with professional and student dancers worldwide.
How did you come to work with Merce Cunningham? What was it like working with such a prolific choreographer?
Like most of the dancers who worked for Merce Cunningham, I began by taking classes at the Merce Cunningham Studio. I first went to the studio in 1982, and began in the elementary class (this was expected of everyone new to the studio). I studied there daily, and was eventually invited to join the company class, which was taught by Merce and other senior teachers. I became an apprentice for about six months, and then joined the company in January 1984.
My years dancing for Merce were life changing, exhausting, and immeasurably gratifying. At that time, Merce was creating on average three new dances each year, and the company was touring and performing a great deal. We danced and danced and danced. The work was challenging, and Merce expected his dancers to inhabit, articulate, and push the limits of the choreography. It was an awesome responsibility. We were given very precise instructions when new dances were being made, and then relatively little feedback thereafter. We were left to find our way in the movement; to figure out how to dance it as fully as possible. It took courage and self-reliance. Fortunately, I was surrounded by an extraordinary group of dancers—my fellow company members—who were a source of guidance, motivation, and humor.
Tell me about debuting Fabrications at Northrop 30 years ago. What do you remember about the performance? What do you remember about Northrop Auditorium?
Fabrications was a co-commission of the Cunningham Dance Foundation and the Walker Art Center. Merce began choreographing the dance in New York, and then completed the dance during a three-week (I think) residency at Northrop. I remember that we worked in a basement studio that was wide and shallow. In the later sections of the dance—the ones made in that studio—there are many entrances that begin with slow walks into the space from the wings. I think that had to do with the shape of the room. Our studio in New York was exactly the opposite. It was narrow and deep, almost a square space, which made for a different spatial configuration in the beginning of the dance.
I remember that we barely finished the dance in time—that often happened—and were learning material right up to the day of the premiere. The Northrop stage felt vast after the studio, and the dance was able to spread out. There was a big emphasis at that time on moving big—big steps, big shapes, vigorous runs. The stage at Northrop encouraged and rewarded this. It was my first time on the Northrop stage, but we returned many times during my years in the company.
What was happening in the world at the time? How was Fabrications received by audiences 30 years ago?
The late 1980s were a fertile time for dance, and in particular for American modern dance. That’s why we were working and touring so much. Fabrications was well received from the very start—in part because Merce was in the dance. He was in his late 60s at that time, and was still dancing in every show. Typically he was in one of the three dances on the program. Fabrications became one of our “closers.” We danced it countless times.
What makes the piece so special? Were there any challenges you found in rehearsing and/or performing the piece?
Fabrications had a lush, majestic quality. The movement was vigorous and athletic and rhythmic. It also had an intensity—a sense of drama and community, not defined but ever present. In the beginning of the dance we seemed more separate, but as the dance goes on, there is more and more physical contact—partnering and touching. By the end we felt connected, a complex tribe, or herd, or team.
The movement is difficult to execute, but it gives back. For me, the dance felt very complete, like a purposeful journey.
How do you think Cunningham’s work, and perhaps Fabrications in particular, translates to audiences today?
I think the mark of a masterwork is that it is both “of its time” and timeless. The movement in Fabrications is very characteristic of the material Merce was making in the 1980s. It’s almost nostalgic for me to demonstrate the phrases, to watch the dancers dance them. And yet, when dancers encounter this choreography for the first time, in this decade, it somehow feels familiar and inviting—almost remembered. I think it may be the same for audiences—something distinctly from the past, but speaking to the present.
How does it feel, in a sense, to be coming “home” to where it debuted?
I sit outside the dance now, which is the most profound difference. Fabrications looks and feels different from the inside—from the stage, from the wings. It’s entirely different seeing it from the front.
I first taught the dance in 2002, when the Cunningham company was celebrating its 50th anniversary and asked me to help revive the dance. I was astonished to see it from the outside—to see how the various activities and sections worked together in space and time. To see how time unfolded. As a dancer inside the dance, I was caught up in my own personal journey through the dance.
In 2011, I had the opportunity to teach the dance again, this time to CCN-Ballet de Lorraine. It was a wonderful experience. For that staging, I had access to Merce’s choreographic notes, and was able to study the structure of the dance—to make discoveries about how Merce developed and organized the phrases, and wove the groups together. Just last month I had the opportunity to return to Nancy to work with Ballet de Lorraine again, in preparation for these performances. Another return.
I’ve been dancing or studying or teaching Fabrications for 30 years—over half my life. It is deeply familiar and yet still unpredictable. I look forward to experiencing it again at Northrop.