Wednesday, December 31, 2008

finishing ...

I am back in Rotterdam. Was it worth it?
Yes, definitely.
It has been a great experience.

Even though many things worked out differently from what was intended, it has woken me up on many layers, professional and personal - so I intend to not fall back into sleep again.

I thank every one I've met in Korea on this trip:
Thank you for meeting and exchanging, whether it was very little or very much. May your life have much happiness and receive for what you gave when we met.

As for Seung-heeYang and Professor Jeong-ho Nam, I cannot thank you enough.

감사 합니다 !

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

last minute

it's time to round up.
there is a last exam-class, the last pedagogy-class with Prof. Nam, saying goodbye to students, staff & people in Seoul. there was a very nice dinner after the exam-class with everybody of the entire Department of Choreography, to finish off the year. I even had to give an improvised speech, but had lost my socks, so I did it bare-footed, which is not so polite in Korea... I used the moment and told the students that more than in any single form, I believe in that something which can create many forms, and that this is what I focus on as a teacher. Dept. of Choreography at Korean National University of Arts can be such a place to study and train this ability.

I meet and have a wonderful Indian dinner with Hee-kyeong Nam and Hee-ah Choi, two dance-therapists that studied with my friend Dr. Meg Chang. we discuss about Kinetic Awareness®, authentic movement and dance-therapy in Korea.

there are many brochures and notes to bring back with me to Rotterdam. they are all too heavy and I have to send them by post.

I have a last dinner with a small group of students at my favorite Kimchee-restaurant
(naebang station, exit 3, turn right, second block 02) 598-9492) **

Suna Choi of Seoulfringefestival has brought me in contact with some interesting people (among them Momggol who also have ties to the 'Lunatics' in the Netherlands, and Trustdance)

I made a last-minute visit to Noridan at Haja Center A center for young people who try to find alternatives to the regular scheme of school - university - job. Instead they create their own jobs and they are very successful with it. There is an alternative drumming group who work with recycled materials, an organic cooking school, a social enterprise institute. They all work towards the future and I could feel a very inspiring energy at their presentation.

** Prof. Nam and students and me had some wonderful dinners in our favorite Tofu restaurant BaengNeyonOk 백년옥 2407 Nambusunhwan-ro, Seocho-gu, Seoul (Nambu Bus Terminal Stn. Exit 4-2 on Subway Line 3), 10am–10pm +82-2-523-2860 - it's just across from the KNUA compound, off Nambu Bus Terminal - very recommended! ~

Saturday, December 6, 2008

silver raven

(for full screen / high-quality view, go to

performed 1 November 2008
Korean National University of Arts, Seoul

audiovisual assistant: Yeong-Jeon Kim
lights: Eun-Mi Lee
stage manager: Tae-Hyeon Kim
video-registration: Seung-Hee Yang
special thanks to: Professor Jeong-ho Nam, Kazue Ikeda

A mediator-character between the realms of the living and the dead, but also still human being performing.
A poet who feels like a prophet, the inability to communicate what is felt. (Again I used words from "Kassandra" by Christa Wolf, she too is unable to communicate her visions and insights to the people around her, because of her profound disbelief and inability to commit to one direction)

As a choreographer I was interested in movement compounds, comparable to the Korean writing system of HanGeul, which are made up of several sub-units (Chinese characters work in a similar way, but are even more diverse, because some sub-units are used for sound others for meaning)

In terms of meaning this can be very easy for dance as long as there is no further specification: the associations can go many directions even from one single movement. Dance-technically this was rather difficult and I am more satisfied with the ending part in that respect.

The piece was very under-rehearsed and so the audience as well as myself were left with a feeling of a void when I ended it. I show the result for what it is.

Special thanks goes to Professor Jeong-ho Nam and Kazue Ikeda, who encouraged me to go for my artistic work fully, not holding back, which I managed to do during the performance.
Seung-hee Yang helped to make this registration possible...

Also, I would not have been able to get anywhere without the help of all the people listed above, as well as many more students and people at the university who each did their part in getting everything ready.

Kamsa Hamnida! (thank you)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

graduation time

Following the natural course of seasons, the academic year in Korea begins in the spring and ends in the winter As the academic year comes to an end it is not only getting very cold outside, but it is time to finish up the processes of the semester.

On November 15th, several BA and one MA student presented their graduation pieces. I got to guide three of those who passed the audition of their final pieces to be completed and performed:
Hyang-Chun Kim made a duet about leaning and by extension socially motivated support, which told a story of two women-characters, mixing at times subtle, another times very direct domination and inter-dependence.
Hye-Jin Shin made a trio of pure movement arranged in many variations in space to the clicks of a metronome, including movements from contact improvisation as well as derived from classical ballet.
Jeong-Yeon Kim, who also assisted both Kazue Ikeda and me many times with her excellent English translation skills created a 21st century intermedia version of the late-Romantic ballet "Spectre de la Rose", complemented with video by Hyo-Jeong Jang and haunting music by Jeong-Hyeong Paek.
With all of the difficulties that usually go together with the making of student work, I was happy about each choreographer's individual interests and their drive to realize it as much as possible.
As before, Professor Jeong-Ho Nam mediated where necessary and filled in gaps that were left open by cultural differences and by the fact taht this was my first time to guide student work as a staff-teacher.

Finally I would like to specially mention the graduation piece of Heung-Gyun Go:
a quartet for three men and one woman dressed in office-like uniforms (white shirts with ties, black pants / short skirt for the woman, bare feet)
The dance was performed with a very mature blend of dance-technical precision and acting skills. There was no music other than sounds made by the dancers. Through simple permutations and combinations of the same dance material such as vertically lifting each other, walking, ts-ts-ts-ts-ts-ts sounds, forced laughter and "Love me" cried out by the female dancer, exaggeratedly cute kisses performed by the male dancers, the choreographer told a non-linear story that hinted at high-school or office romance, unhindered by gender barriers, which is still largely a taboo in Korea.

I am happy to know that next to the many mainstream-oriented pieces of that evening, which made up about 50% or more of the presented material, there is still space left for these very individual young emerging choreographers who are not afraid to follow their own path of creativity. Obviously the Department of Choreography, since it was established 13 years ago, still manages to bring out such artists, even in the face of cultural conservativism which demands to be entertained and confirmed, rather than made to co-think and move/ dance together with the artist/s ...

While I was here in Korea, it has been my pleasure to meet many artists who have been driven to the fringe temporarily. With the Seoul Fringe Festival and Mullae Festival there are now some funded spaces that are available for them. There are producers for young talent like Ji-Yun Jeong / Jung Art Vision / Young Artists Club. In fact there is an enormous number of contemporary dance groups in Seoul that get to play in various kinds of medium and small theaters. However like many places elsewhere, there are rules of majority-taste and conformity.

Some people like Sin-Cha Hong have found wider acceptance later, by emigrating with their work to another country before returning. Jeong Yeong-Du is ready to bring his works abroad, with help from the Korean government. Seung-Hee Yang, has found a way to combine his new kind of work with teaching at several universities.

At KNUA (ex)-students like Jeong-Hyeon Kim /Improad Badak Co., Han-Sol Yu, Ok-Kwang Cheong, Hyeon-Ju Park, and many others, are working hard on their paths to make it happen. They and many others work in and out of school regulations about what makes acceptable work. They question the necessity of having to produce directly understandable work for their audiences, but instead they follow their passionate interests as best as they can. I found that each of these artists is making very exciting work, but many have risked or experienced major rejection by a decision-making group of people in the past.

It is to be hoped that censorship, whether because of govermenent regulations or personal taste, will not succeed in hindering enough dance artists to express the state of NOW in their work, whether it is more widely understood or will need more time.

Professor Nam once said something very beautiful when we were talking about the difficulty of making authentic work. She said that the demands of dedicating oneself to working for art deterred her: it is so much more tempting to remain comfortable, and to a degree also widely acceptable (especially in a middle-class oriented consensus-society) rather than spending all the necessary time and energy on creating one's work and not hold back, either by convention or personal character or fear.

Perhaps this is a good moment to mention Mary O'Donnell's wonderful short text about fear in her Online / E-book "Release": fear can be an indicator that certainties are about to change, that a new experience could demand new strategies. In such cases it is a matter of personal responsibility of whether one follows the advice of fear and hopes for safe survival, or is ready to give in to the unknown and proceed further, risking survival, essentially. The dangers are real...

I believe that for each of us and society as a whole, this issue of censorship brings us to a very similar point each time anybody confronts us with something so new - it either passes right by our senses and we don't even realise that something important is there with us, or we start to feel that our habitual patterns could be challenged by a work of art that is new for us.

Friday, November 7, 2008

teaching Kinetic Awareness® at the Korean National University of Arts

Every Friday evening from 5 to 7pm I have taught a number of Kinetic Awareness® classes as technique classes for the 4th years BA students Choreography, at the Korean National University of Arts in Seoul, South Korea.
The classes came after I did a class on working with joints and one on navel-radiation (as used in Developmental Movement / Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen's BodyMind Centering®

I realized that the students were ready to work in-depth on the experience of their own body in movement, with the slow, concentrated way that is so characteristic for especially the beginning phases of Kinetic Awareness®

The major obstacle was not so much the general use of imitation as a means of instruction in Korean teaching culture, but the language barrier: every time I would say something that was meant to be an additional element, the students would immediately stop anything they were doing and direct their full attention back to me, only to have to wait for the translating volunteer student to tell them in Korean what I wanted and then sort of going back into that very sensitive state... to varying degrees of success, obviously.

So guiding from the side has not really been possible and I've had to try and find the most ideal timing and phrasing of giving enough verbal information to the students so that they could continue to work on a given topic on their own, not saying anything else in the class, but rather- if necessary- going to a student and trying to say a few simple words and often mimic and demonstrate in movement what I tried to tell them. Energy communication is crucial in this, I am quite careful about my movement and emotional tension, because the words themselves carry no meaning for either one of us.

Eventually imitation proved to be a major potential kind of instruction: once I'd shown a taste of what I do when I am moving very very slowly on a ball, the students did get the idea and could independently continue to go further on their own.

Today has been another one of those very fruitful and rich sessions.
By now, the students can work independently on a body part of their own decision and know how to use one or several balls. They are no longer imitative in the sense that they look to me for every single answer, but they perhaps ask a question when they want to be absolutely sure, which happens rarely, because all of them are very able to sink very well into a deeper level of sensory awareness. They are also able to indicate what kind of ball they would like to try, change balls if they do not feel comfortable and otherwise have become very nicely independent.
And finally they have become comfortable telling each other about what they have experienced in the session at the end of the class.

This time we were three students and myself: the main indicated topic was shoulder, unless another body part would demand the most attention. The students were very able to take their explorations deeper and deeper, changing ball-positions to find out how exactly a certain ache or stiffness was constructed. One student came into a fully 3-dimensional dance at the final phase, another had his shoulders finally drop and fell asleep for quite a while to get used to this new state, the third student found an unusual freedom in her jaw.

Everybody could by now appreciate the feedback of the other. Before, it was very difficult to even get them back into the studio with their awareness, they all preferred to stay inward and only reluctantly re-connected with the outside world.

The other major tool that I used was repetition of a known structure, which as I have been informed by my wonderful Professor Nam, is a key feature of Asian teaching: one single form to still the mind, so that the sensory differences and (partly unconscious) learning processes can happen. By now the students know what the different phases of a class can be:
I do a scanning, the three breaths (fat, skinny, invisible), exploration of a body part, ball-work with that body-art, re-integration of the body-part with the entire body(mind), and some voice-verbal exchange of experiences.

It is very heartening to be allowed to experience this ongoing process of continued awakening and development every week and I hope to continue this exploration with them until I leave December 13th.

Yang Seung-Hee / Contact Improvisation: space & body together

While teaching I've been following Prof. Seung-Hee Yang's Contact Improvisation Class at the Korean National University of Arts (KNUA) for a while now.
(For those who do not know: it was from his suggestion that I got invited to teach here)

His class is very interesting for me: he adapted this kind of dance to traditional Asian teaching methods and movements. We follow a set sequence of specified movement tasks, mainly in pairs, echoing traditional East-Asian partnering stretches, but here they are tasks for warming up our bodies and minds and establishing contact with each other. From these stretching exercises we continue to different kinds of taking weight and lifting each other, following an inherent logic. Finally we end with more open forms of improvisation, at times changing partners.

This class is repeated over a long period of weeks (compare to the traditional method of teaching Tai Chi Chuan) Judging from the frequency with which I see these movements re-appear in dance pieces here in Seoul, it obviously impresses the students, not just at KNUA but across the universities where he is teaching, just like I think it should... ;-)

As the months progressed Seung-hee started to change this form to match the higher level of experience of the students and he began to introduce more layers, such as being in touch by sensitive energy and emotions, rather than direct skin touch or acrobatics.

Last week he did something extraordinary:
from a warm-up of contact with each other back-to-back, he guided us into ever greater amounts of contact-space that we create between us. Eventually we were on our own with the studio and each other.

The results were phenomenal.
Everybody including myself moved with extraordinary ease and connectedness / alignment. All the movements really made sense.

It was the solution to a problem I see in dance very often: the logic of the moving body is too often broken down by dysfunctional mental forms and anatomically incorrect or superficial patterns.

Here, with Seung-Hee Yang, body-movement and space became one. Form and movement and body came to match each other extremely closely from the very first beginning.

It was clear that we needed the longer part of careful preparations by repeating the same sometimes rather advanced movement patters, to build up enough internalised knowledge for this revelation.

In my own work "available tension / sensitive energy" I have been looking for a similar physical state for years.

I am very happy to have experienced it here with Seung-Hee.

감사 합니다 (Kamsa hamnida) !! ^^

Monday, October 20, 2008

silver raven - voyager

On November 1st I can present two short works at Korean National University of Arts, (metro: Nambu Bus Terminal, exit 3)

6pm until maybe 6.45pm
studio 105,
free admission

special thanks to:
Prof. Nam Jeong-Ho, Yang Seung-Hee, the tech-crew of students, Hayley Bae, Kazue Ikeda, and many more people who have made this concert possible with their help and support ...

Saturday November 1st, is All Saints Sunday November 2nd is All Souls Day. Both days are related to the coming of winter, death, spirits...

There will be two pieces:
- a solo that I dance myself
- a piece that we all do together

silver raven is a new version of my older solo "Raven".
I created the old solo when I was an artist-in-residence at the Kinetic Awareness® Center, New York City in 2005.

This new version comes from my experience of Korea / Asia / the University / KNUA.
There is a new layer, more maturity, but also a different meaning.
An Agent between Life and Death...

voyager is a new piece.
It is made to the video " Voyager" by Daft Punk and Leiji Matsumoto from the music-anime "Interstella 5555"

This dance should be done by us all together.
> When the music starts and the drums play, just move up and down like you would in a disco or at a party.
> After a while think of somebody in your life who has died, and continue to dance.
Maybe your dance will change a bit...

Here is the video (YouTube):

This piece is inspired by the Death Festivals in Mexico.
There are many celebrations like this, and in many cultures around the world. Most of them happen when Winter comes, or Summer.

For example, in Korea there is Chuseok, where the family comes together to give thanks for the harvest and invites the spirits of the family-ancestors to join them in a very special and very prescribed meal.

For this piece I am interested to have something sacred and something commercial at the same time. This is also the reason why I chose the Hanja for the concert: I was informed that it mainly means 'business', but sometimes it can also mean ' action' , or even ' karma' ... (it is also my guiding sign for this trip to Korea)

I hope you will come and join in... ^^

Saturday, October 4, 2008

where I live

I live in Bangbae-1(Il-) dong, in Seocho-gu, Seoul Korea. This is a relatively new and wealthy area on the South Bank of the inner city (there are many more related towns around it, which is how still about half of the country's population ends up working & living here)

I have my own apartment within an apartment-complex (Toti Hill Castle, 931-3, Keum-Kang Kil)
It is perfect for one person and I find it very comfortable. I really like the heightened wooden floor and that there is an actual space where I can leave behind my shoes / sandals, or even put them away into a cupboard.
Everything is spaced very efficiently, I even have cupboard space left. And I really like it that I have two to three cups, two large plates, two larger Korean eating bowls and two smaller bowls, pans, very good kitchen knives, two pairs of chopsticks, spoons, forks, knives etc. I have my own washing machine for clothes on the balcony, as is customary here. The programming can be very exact, how much water to use, for how long, how many flushes. And it's customary to wash with cold water, then hang it out to dry.

The heating system works very well: one hour of floor-heating is enough to be warm for the evening, all over, even when it is -10 degrees Celsius outside. I wish average Dutch houses had similar heating efficiency...

The cutest phone ever!
And a dish with delicious persimmons fruits of the season, together with a gift from a friend...

The location is excellent: traffic is nearby & multiple, subway or buses, it is close to work at the University, the main organic supermarket of the city is 6 min. from me, there is an organic dry-clean about one block away. There is a very friendly small night-shop, another supermarket above, and some nice eateries near the bus-station / subway station. Really everything one can need in daily life.

Unlike in Rotterdam, recycling is mandatory and very easy: just put all that can be recycled (paper, plastics, glass) into any kind of clear plastic bags, same kinds together. The general trash is collected in special bags for which one has to pay, this is at the same time the fee for garbage collection. If you have a lot of (larger) trash, you pay more... Collecting recyclables is free.

I notice that the houses in this neighbourhood are sometimes not at all new or slick. Sometimes the brickstones are a bit withered, there are cracks in the pavement, as if they were rather old already. And this is not such an old neighbourhood at all. I like this a lot, it reminds me of the area of where my grandparents used to live in Budapest.

Quite a few houses are unfinished or are separated from the street with giant wrapping while they are in the process of being demolished inside (an excellent idea to wrap the house, so that the dust won't get around the neighbourhood). But I guess that to actually have a house on your own is already quite something, rather than to live in one of the mega-flats which are housing many thousands of people in perhaps even smaller apartments than mine.

And it's not like the average Korean wouldn't need that much space bodywise. I may be a bit taller here than average, but that is also statistical: the elder generation who are now in their 50s and 60s has many people about 2/3rds of my length. But otherwise there are more than enough adult men and also women who easily come very close to or match my size, or are taller than me.

How do they all fit in? The proportions of cars, houses, shops, is in general lower and a tiny bit more narrow, than what I'm used to even in the Netherlands, though not as narrow and tight as Belgium, where houses can tend to be even more vertical and narrow (at least in Antwerp and Brussels) ...

This fan was available for free at the National Museum. Korean history impressed me a great deal, what an amazing achievement of a people in such little time...
The fan was also excellent to avoid the electric fan and for killing the very aggressive, but actually more easy to kill mosquitos ...

sensory - the medium is (part of) the message

I really notice how my energy/tension-approach to people here is often not matching well.
I sense a lot more lightness & at times also delicacy from people and complexity in their physical attitudes when talking to me, my own is often not in very efficient response to that.

since my Korean-phrase collection is still rather limited and almost no one really understands or speaks English (it is an island, with north-Korea and China to the north, Japan to the West and then for a longer time nothing much) this is pretty much to what I am left in terms of getting along, which always demands some communication with people.

in the school I think people are slowly getting used to me, so that helps (we're a month further now)

I am sensitive enough to feel when I have violated the ongoing flow of tension-communication with someone, in form or content, by not responding with the correct way something said, or saying something too soon and therefore interrupting someone (not very well taken at all - many people sense very keenly when I am just about to speak and then silence themselves, but clearly not finished yet saying what they needed or wanted to say - for example!)

but I am not yet sensitive enough when I try to communicate something to someone myself, and that's where often the lapses or breaks etc. will happen.

^ Dongdaemun Market at night

They really liked this face when I did it at the shop where I bought this vest & shirt to look more presentable, it frightened and made the girl laugh at the same time. So I did this for her!...

The clothing styles that I see here are a mixture of Western / Turkish / Asian / Chinese / Japanese elegance: many colors, but no bright or highlighting ones (dyed clothing was for a very long time a privilege of the rich and the Shamans, the ordinary people wore white, natural fibers, no color) Many women wear shining glitz and glitter in some way, sparkling hair pins, sparkles on the coat, or the make up. Nail polish in all colors except for overt red. The young men remind me a lot of young Turkish men in Istanbul: very elegant trendy several different major styles that are adapted individually. As a nice example, check out Holy Banana ... Many business men in suits, sometimes with pink or turquoise or lilac ties. Lots of asymmetry in the designs, lots of copies from major designing houses. Louis Vuitton copies everywhere. Sometimes there are women wearing a subdued variation of Hanbok, the traditional Korean dress.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

technique comes from movement research!

I notice especially the younger students as very form/shape-oriented. Learn a specific shape, that is also the content, that is the thing you need to know. What makes all this especially difficult is that I don't speak Korean, they hardly understand or speak any English. So all learning is very sensory and/or imitative.

Also it seems to be more a matter of learning a certain kind of alphabet of forms (rote learning?) rather than methods that are applied in different ways. So if they repeat one set of movements continuously they will learn their own way within that set of movements, usually tests for certain goals / abilities. (I compare this with my tai-chi experiences, where I simply do what the teacher does, time after time again and understand more each time, depending on my eagerness to study.)

I would like to guide them to think for each situation anew, to be able to do movement research. How can I get them to study the research of movement, each time anew, find as many different forms as possible, based on a single principle?