Review: Eun-Me Ahn - Let Me Change Your Name - The Place

Performance: 24 & 25 October 2017
Reviewed by Ruby Embley - Tuesday 24 October 2017

 Let Me Change Your Name. Image by Eunji Park

The first thing to say is that Eun-Me Ahn’s Let Me Change Your Name is deliciously colourful. The all-white dance floor soaks up whatever shade of light is thrown at it. At different moments we are inside a glowing cube of pink, red or green.

Later in the post-show talk Eun-Me Ahn tells how she came to work in dance. She stumbled across a group of dancers, while playing in the street as a child in South Korea, and suddenly felt like the world was lit up in bright rainbow colour. She begged her mother to send her to lessons.

Let Me Change Your Name is constantly flitting between sensible uniformity and bonkers individuality. At the drop of a hat the atmosphere switches from dark and ritualistic into a pulsating, neon party. The six women and six men begin by pacing identical patterns across the stage, dressed in floor-length black tunics. The piece continues and they swap black for neon green, blue, pink. Over and over, as one dancer jumps into the air another will come from behind, grab their hem and whip it overhead before they hit the ground, revealing nothing but white underpants underneath.

Ahn cleverly pushes repetition to absolute breaking point. She waits until we think we know the pattern before turning it on its head. The last dress comes off to reveal, not the expected underpants, but an identical dress underneath, prompting a quiet smile from the audience.

There is an enjoyable throwaway quality to the dancers’ athleticism. Their movement is deliberately unfussy. Ahn is interested in universal, everyday movement. In the style of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker we see flashes of familiar, repeated phrases but from different angles, different bodies. Even within this uniformity the dancers’ individual personalities stand out. Ahn’s men are coy, seductive, her women stride through the space, shirtless, aggressive, demanding attention.

Ahn has made the interesting choice to include herself in the work. The gap in age and experience makes for a beautiful dynamic. The high-energy athletics rise to a peak then suddenly crash into silence, making way for Ahn’s robotic, clipped exploration of the space. She is quietly articulate, absorbed in her task.

Let Me Change Your Name is full of beautifully simple images. At one point the dancers stand plucking at their skirts in time to the pulsating music. Again and again revealing the ridiculous white underpants. It’s oddly beautiful, quirky and satisfying. There’s a particular brand of humour that perhaps stems from Ahn’s time working with Pina Bausch.

Afterwards, I speak to a woman in the bar. She feels she’s seen Ahn’s style of choreography before in the 70s and 80s. There are definitely clear influences. Ideas always come back around, but I wonder if that’s because they’re good ideas.

Ahn says she prefers not to discuss meaning too much with her dancers. To her, dance is about feeling not words and the best ideas are instinctive not overwrought. It’s clear that in Let Me Change Your Eun-Me Ahn’s dance-making instincts have done her proud.

Let Me Change Your Name, part of London’s Dance Umbrella Festival, is choreographed by Eun-Me Ahn. It runs at The Place 24-25 October 2017.

Ruby Embley is a professional dancer and dance teacher. She studied at the London Contemporary Dance School and is a reviewer for LondonDance.

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