As part of the Festival of Korean Dance 2023 – produced in partnership with The Lowry and several other UK venues – the Korea National Contemporary Dance Company bring a double bill to the Quays Theatre.
Rows of the theatre’s seats are removed to allow the stage to be expanded into a huge white square, which seems to glow of its own accord.
In the aptly-titled first work, Mechanism, six dancers seem like parts in a well-oiled machine. Their sharp, articulated movements appear dictated by the relentless tick of a metronome; their intricate hand gestures and isolated steps interlock, repeat and build in a fascinating display of precision and momentum. Lee Jaeyong’s choreography eventually breaks this defined pattern to become more exuberant and rave-like, with the dancers jumping on the spot to the beat (albeit in perfect unison), uplit by a golden ring of light.
Everything Falls Dramatic – another work for six dancers – is more enigmatic and less immediately accessible. It begins with choreographer Her Sungim skipping and leaping across the stage with childlike freedom, before she is joined by the remaining dancers. Their slow, tranquil section of floorwork is performed with no music and facing away from the audience; they roll fluidly across the stage and fall in sequence into beautifully arched back bends from kneeling, creating the illusion of waves breaking the surface.
This calm suddenly dissipates as the electro-acoustic score kicks in; the dancers run, stamp, convulse and swing their arms to the infectious beat with a primal energy, bringing the drama promised by the work’s title. Gradually, this pace eases and the music subsides, allowing the audience to notice the power of the dancers’ breathing. They sink to the floor and fold into a heap of bodies, as scarlet petals rain down on them from above.
The profound discipline, dynamism and musicality of this company is on clear display in both works and makes for a truly electric performance. Kontemporary Korea continues with a triple bill at The Lowry on 6 May.