Inspiration through Dance - Dance To Connect in Busan

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Being part of a multi-racial society can be a barrier to making friends due to the limitations of language, but recently here in Busan four groups of people crossed that divide in a most unusual way.

The Dance-To-Connect workshop arranged by the American Embassy Seoul and the American Prescence Post in Busan invited the Battery Dance Company (BDC) from New York to hold a week long workshop in Busan.

The worksop was hosted at the Sohyang Music Theatre near Centum in Busan and comprised of four groups of people numbering about a hundred strong.

The four groups were split into, North Korean family members, disadvantaged children, a choir and multi-national housewives.

The theme of the show was to highlight the emotions of the lives of people in each group. I was very fortunate that my wife, a Filipina was one of the housewife group members and became the photographer for the event.

The event started on Sunday 25th January and lasted until Friday 30th January. On the opening day each group was assigned a dance instructor from the famous Battery Dance Company, who would guide them in Modern Dance towards the final performance which was not actually made known to the participants until later in the week. 

Clement Mensah, African by birth but trained as a dancer in London and later joined the Battery Dance Company in New York was the instructor for the housewives group that I followed.

The opening, was to have the housewives talk in their own language about the stereotypical view of the housewife and how it influences their role in society. Clearly sitting in a group trying to talk of such a personal subject needed some encouragement until one or two strongly focused ladies presented their views and issues about life a multi-racial household.

The starting point was for each dancer to dance out their name, this helped everyone to recognise each other when there was no common language between them. This melting pot of nationalities included, Korean, Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese and Ukrainian with limited common language skills. There were a few of the group members that knew each other previously but in general they were strangers to each other. It is amazing that even weeks after, I see some of the dancers still recognising others by the name-dance.

Then each member would have to dance out their daily houshold routine in front of the whole class -twice !, and even at this point it was interesting how the second performance improved over the first.

This was the opening for Clement to use their emotions to act out in 'Modern-Dance' style, some of their activities and later to add emotion and build a dance routine around this.

Over the course of the week, Clement built on the subject of the household routines and selected parts to be used in the final performance.

For me there were some memorable days, one of those was asking the group to form either pairs or small groups and try to lift or carry each others weight. With little guidance I saw some very strange moves and efforts and found myself being called to photograph some hilarious moments as they struggled and collapsed into piles on the floor. By the end of the thirty minutes I was the one sweating !

The final performance was on Friday night, the first time the group saw the theatre was about two hours before the performance when they pitched up to practice their routine under the direction of the lighting and performance director's command.

The theatre is a truly beautiful place with almost 1200 seats in two teirs. The stage was enourmous in both depth and width. From the audience the lighting, sound and visual effects were stunning. When I saw the final practice I was amazed and excited and knew that I had to get it right in the camera because this was a remarkable event.

The final performance would have the performance by the amateur dance groups interspersed by a performance from the professional Battery Dance Group.

As previously agreed by the Organisers I have put many of the photos of the amateur performers on Flickr for anyone to look at, these can be found at : (please like your favorites)

The choir had been tutored by Mira, she is a very talented songwriter, musician and dancer. Three of the four songs were written by the children and the last by Mira. All were fantastic and worthy of praise, at the same time they danced out thier routines, clearly some appeared to depict the struggle in North Korea and the survival of these people. It was hard to believe that just a few days before they were not even dancers, now they looked professional. One of the dancers introduced the western influence of break-dancing by spinning around on the floor and using one handed break-dance routines.

The housewives bought their piece of homelife to the stage with real pazazz, it was obvious that the group had bonded well and turned their 26 person routine into real eye-candy using the routines they had designed and practiced themselves during the week.

Not to take anything away from the true professionals though, the routines of (Battery Dance Company) were amazing. In all honesty, and I am sure like so many of you reading this, I never developed a liking for this expressive modern dance style. This is probably due to not understanding it, but after a week with these groups I not only understand the art of modern dance but feel the passion in the story of the dance. Clement put on many solo routines, clearly an amazingly talented dancer with a strong muscular body that most men pray for. His routines depicted the developemnt of 'man'from birth and through life in a way that stirs the passion of the audience. It was like opera without the singing and the music added another dimension to your perception of the dance.

The BDC  were four, they each performed impressively both individually and together in a flawless performance that made the audience pay full attention.

Equally however we must remember that the BDC has turned ordinary people into great dancers in just a few days and that the dancers put a lot of effort into becomming those great dancers to everyone's delight.

From an outsiders perspective, I saw individual people dancing in their own tightly controlled space on day one, clearly aware of the group perception of themselves, to a group of flamboyant dancers using every inch of space they could get, share it withothers and even buckets of tears when they finally said goodbye. If this is about connecting people it worked to perfection. the group have formed lasting bonds, got thier own social network group and will soon attend a reunion dinnner once more.

thanks to the American Prescence Post in Busan; Mr. Kim DB, and Mr. Byung Junghwan in particular for their efforts.

FB : "Battery Dance Company"



Created with flickr slideshow.


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