Project “S” For Whom : Korean Dance Expression at Its Best

Article by Luis Vazquez
Photo by Oliver Cimafranca

“…Most of you think that my choices have been foolish-I’m considered a failure in life and labeled a “loser,” but I don’t think of myself that way…..”

How often do you even hear about dance companies with all-male performers. What did our audience think watching two men in superhero masks at first glance? Well, for one night at La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, we watched these three men all the way from South Korea, perform a two-part fusion of dance and theatre focusing on two aspects of their lives, childhood dreams and future aspirations.

Led by Suk Soon Jung, the artistic director and Choreographer of Project S, the first half of the program called “Heroes” begins with Jung (Hulk), and Sang Man Pyo (Iron Man), also a chorographer and dancer with JJ Bro since 2014, a man who has been a multiple festival invitee, with superhero masks. This part focuses on their memores of their youth. At first they stand together still, stoic. But as soon as the music plays, these two launched into a hip-hop inspired routine that was an interplay of balletic as well as athletic moves.

When they stopped for a break, the inter-play involved the type of horseplay and games of imagination that anyone can relate too. The boredom that sparks the creative juices.

But suddenly Hulk, who moments ago was flying in his playful bliss, now collapsed and cried. His body wet and limp. He has lost his identity. Pyo tries to consule him and entice in a flying game. An interesting moment is when Sang tries to fix the slumped body piece by piece and imitates Hulk.

Then Iron Man is suddenly disinterested later on and sits cross-legged, face in hands, looking quite dejected. It’s Jung’s turn to find the key to get Pyo interested once more.

The show had its comedic moments of which there were quite a few with Pyo switchung on Iron Man’s blinkers and making the sound for flight. It never failed to get a reaction. Also watching his imagined flying was quite hilarious yet symbolic of youth in general.

During the intermission we listened to Sang Man Pyo as he held an I-Pad which played a pre-recorded story in which the introductory excerpt in this article is pulled. He shared the journey he took from a stabile job to freelance in 2012 and the risks he engendered by pursuing the thing he loved to the behest of those around him. We return to the show.

The second half introduces us to a new character, Young-Hoon Oh, who you might recall as the winner of the Best Actor Award from the 29th Seoul Dance Festival, who works with Hulk. The second act, called “Paradise Edition” is supposed to signify the adult aspect of their life now. But you can also make a comparison of the youthful looking Oh to the older Jung. It appears more like father and son, or the adult Hulk and his younger past he dances with, wrestles with in some fantastically fluid chemistry that leaves you in total admiration of the skill level presented.

The direction of the dance reflects the hopes of the future. They first they are combative, fighting against the current of life. But eventually maturity as shown by the modification of their moves. The forms of dance they enter into presents the hopes of the future.

Sang Man Pyo gets his licks in too appearing to bully him early on. But Pyo has to come to the rescue of a depressed Oh and places the Hulk mask on Oh and duplicates his step-by-step fixing until they both fly away to their future. In the end we are left with no exact answer to whether they were successful.

This show is the letter and we, the observers, are “For Whom.” this was meant to be sent to. How we respond will be the payoff. Regardless, no matter how we answer whether with silence or loud applause they have already accomplished the task. They were here and we will never look at dance performers the same way again.

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