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[From the Scene] Rain couldn't dampen spirits at Busan International Dance Festival

June 10, 2024 - 15:39 By Hwang Dong-hee
Dancers from Park Eun-hwa & Contemporary Dance Company Jayu perform "Wind of the Abundance" at the Haeundae Beach Special Stage in Busan, Sunday. (BIDF)

BUSAN -- Despite unexpected rain and a shifting schedule, the Busan International Dance Festival wrapped up its vibrant three-day celebration Sunday, showcasing a rich tapestry of performances from around the globe in the southeastern city.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the festival offered a unique experience in seeing dancers perform on an outdoor stage next to the sea.

As rain poured on Saturday, the festival’s official program at the Haeundae Beach Special Stage had to be rescheduled twice. Initially moved to 3 p.m., the performances were ultimately relocated to the Haneulyeon Theatre at the Busan Cinema Center at 6 p.m.

Although the theater was not filled to capacity, it buzzed with energy as it hosted a variety of performances ranging from classical ballet to contemporary and ethnic-inspired dance.

Percussion group Tago kicked off the evening with dynamic, energizing drum beats. The Tatmarroo Dance Company from Korea followed with a humorous, jazz-infused routine in white suits that had the audience clapping. “Resisting Resistance” by House of Sand from Australia and New Zealand felt like watching playful sprites frolic in nature.

Among the spectators was a young married couple from Jecheon, North Chungcheong Province, visiting Busan over the weekend. “It was quite a spontaneous choice to come here, but we really enjoyed it,” said the wife, who only gave her surname, Park. The couple didn’t know about the festival, but saw a rehearsal at the beach the previous day and decided to see the show.

“It was great to see so many different types of dances,” said Park. “My favorite was the one with the mask,” her husband Kim added, referring to the Aura Dance Theater’s “Game Changer,” from Lithuania.

Dancers from the Brazil-Busan team perform a special collaborative work in the Haneulyeon Theater lobby in Busan, Sunday. (BIDF)
Dancers from the Brazil-Busan team perform a special collaborative work at P.ARK at Yeongdo-gu in Busan, Saturday. (BIDF)

The forecast had promised clear skies on Sunday, but rain continued until midafternoon. Morning street performances at Gwangalli Beach had to be canceled.

One particularly missed performance was the Brazil-Busan team, collaborated by Grupo Tapias from Brazil and Busan Kyunghee Dance Theater, who had special performances designed specifically for the venues. They performed at Yongdusan Park and Songdo on Friday, and P.ARK at Yeongdo-gu on Saturday.

They eventually decided to give their final performance in the lobby of the Haneulyeon Theatre. Their space-specific performance saw 10 dancers -- four from Brazil and six from Korea -- using the stairs, escalators and audience to create an interactive, dynamic experience.

"The work is about the exchange with the space. So we have some moments already built, and depending on the space, I can play the sequence in different ways," said Tapias.

"Yesterday at the sea, you have the ocean, you are inspired by the wind. Here, it's more concrete, you have more people's noise, we have to be really concentrated here. We work with what we have here because it's a piece that's alive. It's about presence, being here."

Visitors watch the performances at the Haeundae Beach Special Stage in Busan, Sunday. (BIDF)
Dancers from Tatmarroo Dance Company from Korea perform "Men on the Beach" at the Haeundae Beach Special Stage in Busan, Sunday. (BIDF)

As the rain cleared in the afternoon, the festival concluded with open-air performances at Haeundae Beach that drew larger crowds. Children played in the sand while their parents enjoyed the sea breeze and stopped to watch the dances.

A woman in her 30s, accompanied by her 5-year-old, said, “The weather is perfect now, not too hot, and it’s so refreshing to watch the performances with the ocean in the background.”

Applause and cheers spread along the beach as spectators admired the dancers’ flexibility and movements. Joggers paused to take in the performances, adding to the festival's lively ambiance.

In all, the 20th Busan International Dance Festival played host to over 60 performances by 40 dance troupes from 10 countries -- South Korea along with Lithuania, France, Brazil, Peru, Indonesia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand -- featuring over 400 participants.