Review: Laboratory Dance Project at The Place

Performance: 23 November 2010
Reviewed by Libby Costello - Wednesday 24 November 2010

Laboratory Dance Project

As tensions between North and South Korea hit the headlines once again, a very different image of South Korea was unveiled on the stage at The Place. Part of the Kore-A-moves festival, promoting Korean Dance in Europe, Laboratory Dance Project is one of four companies touring Europe. With only one London date for this festival, the opportunity to glimpse a peak of South Korean contemporary dance was fleeting. But for all who obtained a ticket this was a performance worth seeing – possibly the best programme at the Place in 2010.

Despite a somewhat subdued opening, with Mi Sook Jeon’s Will you promise? the solo (with four male dancers acting as props in some parts) was a contemporary piece very much in line with the Eastern aesthetic – including many dramatic walking patterns up and down a constructed platform. Moments of humour came through male heads popping up from behind the platform and like a fairground game ‘Hit it!’ the men’s’ heads disappeared like gophers. Mi Sook also used the men to drag her around the platform, perhaps to ignite the ideas of freedom.

In Soo Lee’s prize winning choreography Modern Feeling used contemporary and hip hop in an action packed duet of conflict and compromise. With an unassuming opening, showing two men sitting on chairs, the dance begins from an unintended touch and develops into a frenzy of lifts, martial art inspired fights and tight unison hip hop phrases. It was easy to see why Modern Feeling won the Grand Prix Award at the Seoul International Choreographer Festival in 2008.

*No Comment, by *Chang Ho Shin was pure testosterone on stage. With music and movements similar to Bhangra, nine men filled the stage accompanied by a pulsing beat. With a sinister opening, two men thumping their chests in time with a heartbeat, this choreography once again had dark undertones, a theme throughout Laboratory Dance Project’s work. There was no denying that No Comment was hard hitting; at times it packed a punch like Hofesh Shechter’s *Political Mother* _due to its intensity and clever use of building walls of movements. Intimidating too, as the men darted in a row towards the audience leaving us in doubt as to whether they would slam into the front row. Unfortunately _No Comment broke down into a demonstration of the company’s gymnastic tricks, although a little more variety show than the serious contemporary feel they’d set up, this can be forgiven!

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