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[Herald Interview] Contemporary dance project 'Init' brings together dancers across Asia

June 5, 2024 - 15:17 By Hwang Dong-hee
Dancers rehearse a scene from “Init.” (Korea National Contemporary Dance Company)

When dancers who appear to be performing without rules suddenly move together in unison, each movement and step falling perfectly into beats, it creates a breathtaking effect.

Choreographer Kim Sung-yong of “Init” likened this to an ink-and-wash painting, where different colors blend naturally and unpredictably.

The Korea National Contemporary Dance Company is set to premiere the DMAU project, "Init," from Friday to Sunday at the National Theater of Korea's Haeoreum Grand Theater.

DMAU, or "Dance Makes Asia become the Universe," is an ambitious project aimed at expanding the exchange of Asian dance, spearheaded by Kim, who is also the company's director and artistic director.

Kim expressed his vision to position the company as the hub of contemporary dance in Asia. He said it was fitting for the KNCDC, Asia's only national contemporary dance organization, to take on this role during his first press conference in September.

Dancers rehearse a scene from “Init.” (Korea National Contemporary Dance Company)

Auditions for the project took place last winter, drawing dancers from various Asian countries. Following a four-day workshop in February with 32 candidates, nine dancers from across Asia and two Korean dancers were selected.

"It was a fascinating experience to see the similarities in their bodily and dance expressions despite the cultural differences. Through the rehearsal process, we felt a growing unity, a shared sense of empathy," said Kim in an interview with The Korea Herald last week.

"Working on this piece, I often used the word 'universe' because it felt like each dancer represented a different universe to me,” added Kim.

"The environments in which they first encountered or learned to dance were very diverse. The training and their interpretations of emotions were all unique. We discovered many different talents."

Dancers rehearse a scene from “Init.” (Korea National Contemporary Dance Company)

The 11 dancers involved in the DMAU project were referred to as "processors," as Kim emphasized the need for genuine collaboration between choreographers and dancers in contemporary dance.

Through “Process Init,” a method of choreography development created by Kim, dancers explored the questions and stories exchanged with the choreographer and among the dancers, depicting the movements expressed throughout the process.

"So, I was looking for dancers who could express their opinions. That was the major characteristic that mattered during the casting," Kim said. "I needed dancers who could have a conversation with the choreographer, people who could improvise and solve problems in their own way when met with a challenge."

The competition was stiff, with seven applicants vying for each spot. The final cast of dancers' ages ranged from 23 to 39, according to the KNCDC.

The 11 dancers selected for the project come from diverse backgrounds. Kim Na-Eui and Lee Jung-woo come from Korea, Noutnapha Soydala from Laos while Bai Li Wiegmans was born in China and raised in the Netherlands. Ange-Clementine Hiroki, born and raised in France with Japanese origins, Ha Loc Nguyen from Vietnam, Sayuri Iimori from Japan, London-based Jason Yip from Hong Kong, Joseph Chua Kok Chuan from Singapore, Chieh-Hann Chang from Taiwan and Chen Shuchang from China make up the rest of the cast.

The DMAU project "Init" is also scheduled to be performed in March next year with the same cast.