Asian Festivals Exchange 2018, and a Trip to Seoul

I thank God for the last three weeks in Korea. For the six weeks in total, devoted to creating “Ignoramus” with Ho-yeon and JungHa of the Dab Dance Project.

Thank you, M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival and Seoul Dance Collection.

It's been a ball of a time.

Ho-yeon, JungHa and I first met in June, to begin the creation of a collaborative work, courtesy of the dance organisations mentioned above. We had never worked together, and hadn't chosen each other as collaborators. (Well, they chose each other, they've been working together as two of the main guys of the Dab Dance Project.) The festivals were the ones who determined that we should work together. The festivals were the ones who trusted us to create a dance piece that other people would enjoy watching.

Quite the stroke of luck for the three of us. Turns out, we actually enjoy each other's company, and despite some language barriers, enjoy working with each other! Who says match-making doesn't work, eh? (Make of that what you will. Haha!)

It started with the two Korean dudes proposing a book* to read and draw ideas from, and me picking one of the many ideas the book contains. And so, we ended up making a piece inspired by the effects the Scientific Revolution had upon us humans.

Inspired by, not about. The work isn't a critical essay on the effects of the Scientific Revolution, nor it it meant to be a masterpiece of modern dance dramaturgy. It's a work put together by three guys who like to dance, enjoy exploring movement, and after doing a whole bunch of reading and  thinking, tried to make a piece that they could feel, rather than one they could think their way through, whether they were in it or watching the umpteenth video of themselves wobbling around a dance studio.***

It was a piece made in both Singapore and Korea. The representative of the Singapore festival proved to be a much worse host than the representatives of the Korean side though. I realise that I'm often preoccupied, looking forward to the next dance practice and jam session (not rehearsal) while Ho-yeon and JungHa were much better hosts when we were in Korea, taking me to experience something Korea is known for the world over - Korean BBQ. Man, it's so good in it's country of origin, if you know the places to go to. Barbecued pork belly and pork neck together with binaeng (bibim naengmyeon, cold buckwheat noodles with spicy sauce), on a cold autumn night…. Bliss. Hard to do better than that.

And no, before you ask, I didn't eat any octopus. The opportunity to do so with the guys didn't arise, and I'm certainly not an adventurous eater when I'm by myself.

Adventure for me was climbing Bukhansan, up to Baegundae, the highest peak on the mountain, trying not to die falling out of a handstand at the top, getting clawed by a cat so I would drop the food I was trying to tempt it with so I could pet it, stopping by a stream on the way down for a dip in the cold mountain water (must have been around 8°C outside when I shuffled my way into the water) and then trying to jump down the rocks of the stream, instead of taking the path. One way is certainly more fun than the other.

Climbing Bukhansan is no joke, though. There were bits where I had to crawl up. And the middle-aged Korean ladies climbing the mountain with their entourages to take Instagram pictures seemed perfectly fine when they go to the top. I think I need to work on my fitness.

That was Korea. There was more to it, of course. A lot can be done in three weeks, and was. But what else do you need to know about, besides Korean BBQ, Bukhansan and an excellent time with the dudes of the Dab Dance Project? A collaborative experience that will, if things work out, continue for many years to come?

The adventures for this year aren't over yet. In less than a month, I travel to Derry-Londonderry to perform a solo piece at the Echo Echo Dance Festival. The first time I'm ever performing a solo of my own creation in a foreign country, at the invitation of a foreign dance festival. And then I head back to Malaysia, for a short project for a few days, before wrapping up performing for the year (as far as I know) in Singapore with a sharing at Dance Nucleus that'll be a sort of summary of what I've been doing the whole year, watching and being inspired by freeride mountainbiking and trying to delve into my practice of The Art of Falling.

I don't know how these things happen, but I am thankful for them.

If you'd like to watch the works that I have been performing, do get in contact, and we can work out  a way to get you a video. Works aren't created and performed for free, and even after they have been performed, I believe that watching them on video has value too.

If you would like to support my creative processes and the sharing of knowledge that is given out for free, do check out to find out how you can be a part of creating dance for everybody.

*If you're wondering, the book - which I recommend that you do not read - is Yuval Noah Harari's “Sapiens”, a work that in my opinion, includes many really interesting ideas that are quite poorly explained and substantiated, as well as criticisms of various religious beliefs supported by bits and pieces of religious texts taken completely out of their contexts. A topic for another day. But if you're interested, take a peek at the “critical reception” section of the book's Wiki page.

**Also, sorry Ho-yeon and JungHa. I actually never discussed my feelings about the book with you. Plenty of interesting ideas, but boy, I hate the way it was written.

***Yes, that's a personal beef with the art form of which I'm a professional practitioner. Sometimes contemporary dance is too much thinking, and not enough feeling. Or, strange as it seems to type, too much movement and not enough feeling. Not enough feeling - yes, I just said it again - to create a sense of the suspension of disbelief.

It seems, based on feedback I've heard, that our work, Ignoramus, achieves that to a degree at least. And you can hold me to this claim, that this is what I hope to achieve in the work that I create, this suspension of disbelief, so that you can stop looking at how a work was constructed and then be present to receive what it has to communicate.

Wei-An Hwa