Korea: Korean National Contemporary Dance Company

Korean National Contemporary Dance Company was founded in 2010 and has since performed for audiences in Europe, the US and Mexico. IAM speaks to head of programming, Sunny Kang, to find out more about the young company’s work.

What kind of dance does KNCDC produce?

KNCDC aims to produce high quality repertoire for both our national and overseas tours, so our productions incorporate a contemporary exploration of modern day issues with a Korean focus. We often draw inspiration from other art forms, including music, theatre, film and literature, to create original dance pieces.

The company also provides a platform for the professional development of Korean choreographers, and we offer comprehensive support to the artists who are selected to work with us. Recent names include Kim Nam Jin, Bark Neongkul and Lee Tae-Sang, who have created bold, experimental and challenging productions. Alongside this, our work with choreographers from overseas has ensured that Korean National Contemporary Dance Company performs work of a global standard to local audiences.

Does the KNCDC seek to collaborate with international artists as well as nurture home-grown talent?

Back in 2011, French choreographer Joëlle Bouvier explored the notion of love by casting dancers of different ages in her production What About Love?. Ivgi & Greben, the Dutch-Israeli choreography team, presented Social Skin in 2012. For this production the dancers’ physicality – and an enormous wall of clothes – explored the social meaning of clothes. And this year we’ve invited the Israeli choreographer, Idit Herman to collaborate with our dancers on a production called Into Thin Air, beginning later this month.

In light of the troupe’s motto, ‘Share with the people’, how have you sought to connect with audiences?

We have hosted audience Q&As with the choreographers of new works, which has helped to bridge the gap between the audience and the stage. We also run workshops for young students in accordance with the government’s artistic outreach programme. Our new artistic director, Ahn Aesoon, has plans to develop these workshops into a full education programme.

Tell us more about KNCDC’s international engagements. Has the work been well received?

Despite our short history, we have been invited to several international festivals, where we have received positive reviews from the local media and a warm audience reception. In July, the company performed at three venues in Germany: the Mainfranken Theater Würzburg as part of the Europa Tanzt gala; the Kurtheater Bad Homburg; and at the Berliner Festspiele. The performances were a great success, the dancers being likened to ‘goddesses from mythical lands’ by the Mainpost in Würzburg. We were very proud to promote the company’s artistic value as a contemporary dance organisation and to share our collaborations on an international level.

In 2012, the company was invited to perform Suspicious Paradise, a piece about the beauty and tragedy of the Korean demilitarized zone, at the 32nd Lila López International Contemporary Dance Festival in Mexico. This was a fantastic opportunity to show the world the remarkable level of Korean modern dance, and we received passionate support from local audiences. The company’s performance at DanceMotion USA’s Next Wave Festival was also a highlight of last year.

What qualities do you look for when you recruit new dancers?

We have a project-based system in which dancers are selected through audition for each programme. The dancers are chosen on criteria such as physical ability, technique, creativity and artistic personality. Of course, these criteria may differ depending on the choreographers and the concept of the performance. Thanks to this type of system, choreographers are not only able to offer opportunities to more dancers, but they are also allowed room to explore various styles of creation, something which is vital in contemporary dance.

Are dance companies in Korea facing similar funding challenges to those seen in Europe? Do you receive financial support from the government?

We were established by the Ministry of Cultures, Sports and Tourism of Korea, which monitors our income and expenses. The audience for Korean contemporary dance is small, however. As the only national contemporary troupe that is effectively run by the government, we would like to use our position to expand audiences and popularise the art form here in Korea. However, in order to spend the budget effectively, and extend the scale of the business, we need to find a way to increase revenue, predominantly through ticket sales but also through funding from other companies. We hope to acquire more financial support in the future by actively boosting the company’s supporters’ association.