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<Golden Age> by Choreographer Lim Jeeae — Son Okju(Performance Scholar)

Choreographer Lim Jeeae, who has for years deeply delved into the theme of “tradition and contemporary,” unveils “Golden Age,” a new dance performance created with a cast of seven prominent dancers from Asia. It is implied, from the title at least, that the work encompasses a range of questions that Lim has faced as a choreographer: when exactly is the “golden age” of dance? Is it possible to divide the course of dance history into certain timeframes? If possible, then on what criteria can we define the “golden age of dance”? On top of that, it may be worth doubting that certain periods, debates and movement vocabulary emblematic of the “golden age” may be stereotypes of numerous familiar dance moves. And maybe these stereotypes have been entangled together to constitute the “traditional dance” today.

Through her latest work, Lim Jeeae seeks to continue her exploration of “traditional dance” on which layers of arguments over the golden age have accumulated, while making a fracture onto the gilded layer surrounding the notion of “traditional dance” which had seemed almost unbreakable. In the course of stripping the dance of its elements that claim to be traditional to its essentials, the choreographer and international dancers encounter the warmth and pulsation of dance that had long been hidden under the gilded surface of self-asserting traditional elements for a long period of time.

When it comes to “traditional dance,” there is a stark difference between Korean, Thai, Indian and Chinese dances. In some cases, representative moves of each dance can even be easily mimicked. However, as the Korean “traditional” fan dance is in fact a product of modern dance, dance in general, whose medium of expression is the human body, has questionable origins or “claim” to have spontaneously grown while they have actually been invented. Lim’s attention to the mechanism of reproducing certain movements into “something traditional” starts from the question about the unclear trajectory drawn by the history of dance.

The skepticism that what had been generally believed to be traditional may in fact be not wholly traditional, has given birth to a new choreography concept of a “dance unknown to anyone but that could actually be steeped in the mists of time,” rather than “publicly well-known traditional dance.” At the heart of this concept is the intention of Lim to view tradition as a dialectical outcome, not as a symbol of customs that had existed from time immemorial. Also, in order to replace the idea of tradition as being rooted in antiquity with a notion of a variable play, and to reset the body of dancers to a “nihilo” status (i.e. to a state totally devoid of any sort of dance moves), Lim invents varied methods.

For example, Lim intentionally rules out the dance moves that had been acquired by each of the dancers while attempting entirely new techniques. When each dancer comes forward and performs his or her national traditional dance onstage, then others would watch and choose the most memorable move and may even insert it in their short choreography work, creating a “patchwork” of contemporary tradition in defiance of the causality of history.

Ridding the body of learned moves means reincarnation into a void self. In “Golden Age,” this void self can be revealed by passing through the bodies embodying regional and periodic debates on Asia or Asia’s traditional dance. The polyphonic trajectory drawn by the “contemporaneous tradition” is ever more expanding in the field of art today.


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