Whether it has been artists looking forward or looking back, the year 2000 has always held fascination as a turning point in our psyche. Eun-Me Ahn Dragons emerged from an idea to capture the experience of young dancers from across the Asian continent, born at the start of the new millennium. In the Chinese Zodiac this was the year of the Dragon.
But just as these dragons were about to spread their wings, global lockdowns restricted their flight. From that constriction grew a new creativity that Korean choreographer, Eun-Me Ahn calls a ‘pandemic miracle’.
Dragons was developed across borders via webcam, and an element of that technology remains in the show, with live dancers interacting with holographic images of young dancers. This mixed media sees dancers in a range of fantasy settings from exotic gardens to floating under-water worlds. Dancers become immersed in floating bubbles, survive crashing waves, and become enmeshed with a growing array of what look like giant slinkies.
The slinkies, in their various sizes, are the one constant throughout the 75 minutes and create a sense of fluidity with a sci-fi twist. The set is enclosed on three sides with a moving wall of slinkies which dancers emerge from and disappear into. There is a fluidity too in the costumes, with both male and female dancers wearing swirling skirts, sparkling sequins, and vibrant stockings.
The dance, with an eclectic soundtrack from Jang Young-Gyu, presents a mash-up of the traditional and the modern, with no clear distinction of where one ends and another begins. There is also no clear narrative. Rather it is the pure energy of dance that takes centre stage here. In one section we hear, as voice-overs with surtitles, from Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian dancers about what drew them to a career in dance as well as their hopes for the future.
It is interesting to glimpse the dancers as individuals in what is overwhelmingly a collective work. Eun-Me Ahn says the message of the piece is ‘We can only do it together’, and this comes across strongest towards the finale where dancers rhythmically beat their chests and reflect a series of collective movements that you could imagine becoming the next TikTok dance craze.
Eun-Me Ahn joins the dancers on stage at the start and end of the show. She is a charismatic presence, radiating the joy of dance. In Dragons she has created a spectacle akin to watching a haute couture runway – it’s hard to relate to real life but at the same time there is a sense this inspired focus on Gen-Z will influence what’s to come.
Eun-Me Ahn Dragons is at The Lowry on 26 and 27 September 2023. The show arrives at The Lowry direct from The Barbican and is on tour with the support of Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Korean Foundation for International Cultural Exchange, Korean Cultural Centre UK.