(Dance Review) Laboratory Dance Project at Jacob’s Pillow

LDP/Laboratory Dance Project in 'Are you happy to see me?' (photo Christopher Duggan)
LDP/Laboratory Dance Project in ‘Are you happy to see me?’ (photo Christopher Duggan)

Laboratory Dance Project (LDP)
Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review by Anna Rogovoy

(BECKET, Mass.) –  In the mixed bill of three works that made up their Jacob’s Pillow debut [running through Sunday, July 31], Laboratory Dance Project (LDP) displayed a remarkable deftness and versatility. Called “young, fresh, and lively” by Pillow director Ella Baff, LDP is comprised of graduates of the Korean National University of Arts and led by founding member and current artistic director Chang Ho Shin. The three choreographers, including Shin, bring a diverse array of experience and training to their work, and the remarkable dancers tackle each with gusto.


Mi Sook Jeon’s Are You Happy to See Me? begins with a prone body face-down in a small rectangle of light. As a distorted clip of Edith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” plays, the dancer (Dongkyu Kim) forces himself up away from the floor and falls back onto it. At once fluid and charged with a sharp urgency, he struggles against inertia, wrestling himself into dancing. A second, larger rectangle of light appears, and Kim is joined by five others as the music shifts to a stark, rhythmic score.

In one memorable section, Chang Ho Shin is held horizontally on the shoulders of several dancers while Kihun Kim executes a whirling, quicksilver solo with particular attention to slicing movements of the arms. The Piaf sample plays again and the ensemble dances together, almost feminine in their sensuality yet unapologetically masculine in their physicality. There’s a sense of defiance in their embodiment of this contradiction. Happy ends with Dongkyu Kim in the same rectangle of light in which he began, but this time he stands, looking at himself and then looking out at us, reaching out a hand. It’s a simple gesture, but in the context of what has preceded it, it contains a plethora of meanings.


LDP/Laboratory Dance Project in 'Modern Feeling' (photo Christopher Duggan)

LDP/Laboratory Dance Project in 'Modern Feeling' (photo Christopher Duggan)

Modern Feeling, choreographed and performed by Insoo Lee with Jinyook Ryu, explores impulse and reaction in a martial arts-infused duet. The Ted Shawn Theatre stage is bare except for two chairs, the two men are dressed in slacks and button-down shirts, and there’s a sense of intimacy as we watch them coax, taunt, and fight each other, as if we had stumbled into their living room. The continuity of energy between their bodies as they push and pull each other is very satisfying, as is the inventive way in which they initiate movement through points of contact.


The last piece on the program, No Comment, is lauded as the company’s signature work, and it’s easy to see why: the dancers explode with power that has been only hinted at until now. After an opening solo (accompanied by Shin, who beats his chest with a fist) resplendent with feline agility, Sung Hoon Kim “conducts” a series of traveling cartwheels, flips, and intensely acrobatic leaps from one side of the stage to the other, as though the ensemble were an orchestra. And like an orchestra, they find their power both in their individual strengths and in the collective energy of the unison sections. Their movements are rarely perfectly synchronized, but it’s wonderful to see that much force and ability at work. When the lights flicker down, the audience is on their feet, and it’s hard to tell who is more exhilarated.



Anna Rogovoy is the Rogovoy Report’s chief dance critic. She studies dance, literature and writing at Bennington College.


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