Ong Dance Company in Dance Mission’s Down and Dirty Series, January 21, 2012

27 Jan

It was an anomaly if ever there was one to see these highly trained classical Korean dancers appear in a series titled Down and Dirty.  Translated it meant “unsubsidized,” self presented and shared with another company, Jessilito Bie’s Steamroller Dance Company whose work was as thrown together as Ong Kyoungil’s was finished and rehearsed.

Ong’s company enjoyed a congratulatory statement by Kee Jeong Gwan, Consul General for South Korea in San Francisco. Unsurprising,  the audience, easily one half Korean, departed during intermission.

Readers might  note I tend to follow the Asian habit of family name first, birth name second when writing about artists from East Asia.  It just feels right to me to follow their habit, rather than the Western one, one of those “woolly western eye” habits.

Ong presented a two-part premiere performance on the same theme – the mythic origins of Korea, first with the highly traditional court dance  Cheoyongmu, and then with an interpretation titled Shadow of Cheoyong, allowing a fuller range of movement, percussion and expression from the two male dancers, Choi Soo Jin and Kee Hae Jun, and four women, Oh Soomi,Lee Mihyun, Min Yusun and Kang Ryun Kyeong.

The court dance Cheoyoungmu, danced with lengthy earth-toned masks, exaggerated in width, daunting in impression, uses five dancers, one for each cardinal direction with a fifth for the center and dates from the Silla Dynasty (57 BCE-935CE).  Cheoyong , son of the Yongwang, the dragon king, takes human form to save his human wife from the smallpox spirit by singing and dancing.  Used traditionally to dispel evil spirits and bring tranquility to royal banquets, the dancers wore cardinal colors – white, blue, black, red and yellow – and took measured steps, lifting each leg bent at the knee as they move, hands obscured with white coverings extending from the brilliant brocaded sleeves.  The movement was accompanied by the shrill tones of Korean wind instruments in minor key and the frequent punctuation of large brass cymbals.  Visually impressive and clearly danced with understanding, it also was rendered in a tempo we impatient Westerners consider dirge-like.

The pace quickened in the second half. with a half dozen hip-high drums on which the dancers beat fervently and expertly after swooping like swallows around them, tossing  extended white butterfly sleeves like rapidly written calligraphy, forward and up, to the side, sometimes twining around their bodies, occasionally at one another  as if in a carefully coded form of conversing.  Ultimately, the dancers took their places at the  drums, armed with sticks, and went for it, moving from drum to drum, playing the drum next to them; Lee Jae Jun as the central figure played two at once.  The ensemble managed to create quite a sound, the energy of attack cousin to jazz musicians’ frenzy.  Nearly possessed, at one point Lee jumped on top of two drums.

Steamroller’s premiere, The World Has Shifted, followed intermission; there scarcely could have  been a wider comparison.  Jessilito Bie delivered a long monologue about his former husband, his bout with addiction, his serious illness.  Accompanied by Kyle Griffiths and Andy Williams, the trio did not look fully prepared  physically to dance, so the presentation seemed like three friends horsing around on an afternoon.  Mark Morris has been known to state, “Just because you have something to say doesn’t mean the audience wants to hear it.”  Fairly brief, The World Has Shifted felt like the planet had  tumbled.

6 Responses to “Ong Dance Company in Dance Mission’s Down and Dirty Series, January 21, 2012”

  1. Cees Vanaalst February 26, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    Go fuck yourself.

    • woollywesterneye February 27, 2012 at 12:52 am #

      Hygiene, Hygiene.

    • Carlos Carvajal February 29, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

      Dear Mr Vanaalst!

      Just because you think you are more discerning than the reviewer and most of the audience doesn’t make your point any better by using such
      language. If you had a dfference with the reviewer, it would have been better to make a point of your difference by writing something “intelligent” that would give the reader something to understand. If you saw the performances, which seems that you didn’t by your remarks, you would have been able to compare the groups and agree that they shouldn’t have been on the same program. Nor just write some nasty command to a woman who could be your grandmother!! Yes, she was shocked by your nasty remark. . Where did you learn manners?? will you reply to me in the same way?? Let’s get out of the muck and converse like educated and civilized San Franciscans! I know it is possible.

  2. Jesselito Bie February 26, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    OMG, you suck. You wouldn’t know good dance if it bit you on the ass!

    • woollywesterneye February 27, 2012 at 12:52 am #

      Bottoms Up!

    • Carlos Carvajal February 29, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

      Shame on you for saying such a thing to the most knowledgeable reviewer in our region. She absolutely DOES know dance from its origins and on. She is more than qualified to judge what is good dance and what isn’t. I saw both performances at this venue and am in agreement with what she saw.
      You ought to be angry at the person who put this program together for being insensitive and basically ignorant of what they were doing. To present both groups on the same program was a huge disservice to your presentation. It looked shoddy in comparison and should never been allowed to happen. And particularly to allow the professional group to open the show. I know of what I speak since I have programmed shows for so many years.
      I’ve You may find it easy to dismiss such criticism with at F–Yo u or You Suck, but it doesn’t erase the fact that the comparison was forthcoming and ment with no real malice toward you and your dancers.

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