Rainy Hall, Assembly Hall, Edinburgh
August 19, 2015
Themed programmes bringing together companies from particular countries are now a well-established feature of the Edinburgh Fringe. One such this year focuses on dance from Korea, part of which was an entertaining double-bill under the banner One Fine Day from EDx2, one of the country’s leading contemporary dance companies.
Modern Feeling (현대식 감정) by artistic director Lee Insoo (이 인수) is based on the true story of its two male dancers (Lee and Ahn Kyum, 안 겸) and their complex, mixed-up relationship. It opens with one sitting staring into space. The other enters and seems to ask what’s wrong. He places a hand on his friend’s knee, which quivers. The lyrics of the opening song, “I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve you,” could hardly be more perfect.
Lee and Ahn are both strong and believable. There’s great chemistry between them. As moments of indifference and harmony, conflict and peace come and go, their dance is sometimes passionate, sometimes quite athletic and aggressive with hints of martial arts. The highlight is an inventive duet during which the couple both have their hands clasped and are always linked. When they separate, and the music stops, the sound of their heavy breathing adds emphasis to the emotion.
Modern Feeling does leave itself open to the criticism that it goes nowhere and explains nothing. But then it’s not intended as a story, it’s a picture in time and, in a way, the unanswered questions that leave you guessing are all part of its attraction.
What We’ve Lost (우리가 잃어버린 것) presents two takes on imagination. Lee’s lyrical choreography is still there, but now with a dash of hip-hop and acrobatics thrown in. The work explores ideas of make-believe versus reality and fantasy versus illusion. It centres around an extended sequence that sees the cast of six play with an invisible ball that is increasingly speedily hurled, passed and tossed between them. The actions are often accompanied by sounds (whee…whoosh…) from the dancers as the ball zips around. It is wonderfully jokey and full of fun; and the sense of humour is quite infectious. It was all done with such excellent precision that it was easy to believe there really was something flying around the stage. It’s a simple idea but Lee uses it to allow each dancer to take the lead in turn, and constantly change the special relationships between them.
A second scene takes place in the mind of someone who dreams of moving in a way he is no longer able. Which is better, Lee seems to be asking, the world of our imagination or memories, or the world as it really is.
Again, What We’ve Lost has no story, but also again what Lee and his talented cast present is some highly engaging, always skilfully and effortlessly performed choreography. They leave you wanting more; and who could ask for more than that?
EDx2 is at Assembly Hall, Edinburgh to August 31. Tickets via Edinburgh Fringe website or 0131 226 0000.