More known for producing top-flight classical-ballet dancers, Korea has been all but absent on the contemporary dance scene. Seoul-based Bereishit Dance Company seeks to change that. Founded in 2013 by choreographer Soon-ho Park, the company has done limited international touring, making its U.S. debut in 2015 at Houston’s Dance Salad Festival. Bereishit makes its Pittsburgh debut on March 4, courtesy of Pittsburgh Dance Council, as part of a six-city U.S. tour.
The name “Bereishit,” Hebrew for “in the beginning,” implies the process of creation, writes Park via email: “Creation of a piece is like the creation of a world.” The company will present two of Park’s creations blending contemporary dance with traditional Korean music. “I learned contemporary dance from Western culture,” writes Park. “For me, [Korean] tradition is a new culture.” Park says his use of traditional Korean music is not just about combining contemporary movement with traditional music; he is simply inspired by such music.
Park’s 2011 piece “Balance and Imbalance” is a prime example of such a pairing. The 25-minute work for six dancers is set to a pansori song (a genre of musical storytelling) about the sea palace of Sugungga, whose king, taken ill, needs to eat a rabbit’s liver to survive. A turtle is sent to dry land and lures a rabbit to Sugungga with tales of riches. But the rabbit, seeing his peril, outwits the king and escapes. But Park says the story is of little consequence to “Balance and Imbalance”; rather, the work looks into “the sound made by the body and the movements made from the sound.” The pansori song — to be performed live — works sonically for that purpose.
Also set to traditional music on a kayagum (a 12-stringed instrument) played live is Park’s latest work “Bow.” Up until now, “Bow” has been a sort of work-in-progress, says Randal Miller, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust director of dance programming. Miller, who saw the work performed as a duet, says that in Pittsburgh, for the first time, a third dancer will be added — along with a live archer.
With “Bow,” Park says, he is thinking not about the physical aspects of the sport but rather its “mental or spiritual strangeness and harmony. Through the archery, we can see ourselves deeply.”