Wrapping Up in Korea: Dance Is a Cultural Currency

posted by Ashley Werhun on Tuesday, Jun 12, 2012
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After an entire week in Seoul, Korea, we spent our last night in the most well-equipped theater on this tour: no sunlight, smells, people smoking backstage, pre-show speeches, or sharing the stage tonight. It was just TMP. The crushed rosin sounded like fall leaves being stepped on as it made a spiderweb of dust on the dark Marley floor. I could close my eyes and be transported home to the Morrison Center in Boise. The Goyang Aram Nuri Arts Center was enormous. We swooped around the stage in our low hop-skips in In Dreams, blue dresses catching the wind like ship sails. The feeling of the ballet was extra weighted tonight—it will be taken out of our rep next season. Burying a ballet after a fully realized run always feels like waving goodbye from a moving train. Maybe we will visit it again someday.

 

TMP in In Dreams. Photo by Tho Le, Courtesy TMP.

 
This performance ended our jam-packed week in Korea. Days were bursting with outreach events: teaching master classes with university students, taking workshops with the homeless, learning hip-hop from high-school students, and jamming out with intellectually disabled young adults.

 

Sharing a high five with a student at the Dawon Cultural Center

 
Our last engagement of the 2012 Dance Motion USAsm tour captured the essence of this month abroad. There were moments of joy, surprise and revelation. The Dawon Cultural Center exposes intellectually disabled young people to the arts and those we met had so much to share. We started off with our bubbling presentation from A Day in the Life to see how they would respond. They enjoyed it, but it was incomparable to how their faces lit up when they performed for us. A K-pop song blasted from one of their iPods as they found their rhythm through choreographed steps. I could feel the rapport building and their confidence was brimming when they began to teach us a few steps. The beat of the music uncurled them from shy, slouching positions and lifted the edges of their mouths into smiles. It was pure joy. I was humbled by the reminder to bring the real stuff to the stage in my performances: human connection, relationships, and love.

 

Hip-hop with high school students at DCC

 
TMP is coming home culturally overwhelmed, in the most fantastic way. I felt like I existed in a cloud of wonder this month, hungry to learn and curious to discover cultural differences. It was an example of cultural diplomacy at its finest as artists inspiring each other and human beings shared joy. The result was real relationships that will hopefully lead not only to great art but help bridge the gap between countries.

 

A final bow in Seoul