DDD 2021: Eun-Me Ahn - North Korea Dance
JM Chabot

North Korea is one of the most hermetic - and one of the most mysterious - countries in the world. Little is known about their culture and even less about their dance. South Korean choreographer Eun-Me Ahn tried an approach, guided by curiosity and imagination. The result, full of virtuosity and colour, can be discovered on the closing night of DDD 2021. North Korea Dance is a stunning show, up to the grandeur of the stage of Coliseu Porto Ageas.

"For a very long time and until a very recent period, the relationships between South Korea and North Korea had been very tensed. When I grew up, the North was an enemy. Everything was scary and we didn’t have any information about what was going on there. It was a sort of taboo. Yet, I’ve always been curious to know what kind of dance was practiced there. After all, we share the same roots," says the most international of South Korean choreographers whom one day a critic called the "Pina Bausch of Asia".

The North Korea Dance is unequivocally a show inseparable from its political context: "Meanwhile, the situation between the two countries has improved and some people are now even talking about reuniting the two Koreas. I think that we are far from it, but I believe that artists have an important role to play to make the mentalities evolve and allow us to understand each other better. Dance is a fantastic instrument for that purpose: it is a universal language that creates bridges through movement. Sometimes even a lot more bridges than through words. With this piece I hope that the two Koreas could recognise themselves and approach each other through movement".

The creative process of North Korea Dance has inevitably come up against physical boundaries. Faced with the impossibility of a search in loco, YouTube became an indispensable working tool: "I watched everything, from a genre to another, from the 1950’s where propaganda ballets were predominant until the recent period in which, with a more relaxed context, the forms are lighter with a lot of traditional dances but also folk dances.".

The next step would involve the dancers in an intense physical work that avoided mimetism: "I used about ten of those videos as the working basis for the choreographies. The propaganda ballets, for example, are quite different from what we do in South Korea. We didn’t want to reproduce them exactly because we would never do it as well as the originals. I chose some dance forms where I could see similarities with what we were doing in my country because it also offered me more freedom to transcribe the movements and then twist them my way. On this basis, we started to reproduce the choreographies in order to understand the movements, to make it our own and getting familiar with its specificities".

Eun-Me Ahn and her ten dancers quickly realised the differences. She mentions that the choreographies of the North were more demanding; they used more muscles for the effort of an unnatural movement. "The dancers incorporated this vocabulary, confronted it with their own, and something very interesting came out from that confrontation, something I was far from imagining at the beginning of the rehearsals. It is not about copying and reproducing pre-existing choreographies. These choreographies were the basis to offer my artist vision as a South Korean about dance forms that are different from those practiced in my country, but not that far. Perhaps we are facing a unified dance vocabulary of a unified Korean peninsula or the dance of an unknown future”.

Eun-Me Ahn was interviewed in June 2020.

Eun-Me Ahn
North Korea Dance

02.05.2021 - 10pm

Coliseu Porto Ageas



15 APR — 02 MAY 2021