The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Presenter Interview
Leading South Korea’s dance world  CID-UNESCO Korean Chapter and SIDance
Maurice Bejart Ballet for Life (2001)
Maurice Bejart
BALLET PRELJOCAJ The rite of spring (2003)
Akram Khan ma (The earth) (2004)
Akram Khan

International collaborative performance with young dancers from Asia and Africa
International collaborative performance
International collaborative performance
What are your criteria for selecting works for SIDance?
The dancers, companies and works a festival chooses to present are very important as elements that express the philosophy and directions of the festival and well as determining its identity.
 As artistic director, I make selections based on the fundamentals of dance, namely the elements of the body (physical presence) and movement. It is not that we don’t invite works that are extremely conceptual or theatrical, but we do tend to avoid those directions. Personally, I am stubborn about some things, and just as we speak of music in terms of sound and paintings are in terms of color and line, I believe that dance should be spoken of mainly in terms of the body and movement. Recently there are many works that mix the different genre, but successful mixing is only possible when the artists have a solid foundation in the fundamentals of their arts. In order for outstanding crossover works or fusion works to be born, the elements from each genre must be of the very highest level. But today we see productions being turned out too easily without a solid foundation in either theater or dance, and the results are like third-class musicals. It is terrible to see. That is why, at least in our SIDance program I want to show works that are based in the beauty that is unique to dance and exhibit the unique fundamental elements and skills of dance. So, we choose works that meet this standard. Of course, because we are a festival we offer a broad-based program including some works that are theatrical or conceptual in nature as well as some non-dance type works, but the main body of our programming is works that show us the essence of dance and makes us think about the meaning and potential of dance.
 The next element is the social relevance of dance. My perspective may be influenced partly by my personal background as a critic and journalist and the fact that I come to dance from the audience, but when I select works I think about the influence they have on society and the historical context from which it derives.
Lastly, because a festival is also an event, it is meaningless if it doesn’t attract a large number audience. That’s why it is also important to the program is made up of works that the audience wants to see and works that attract the curiosity of the audience.
 So, probably because our programming is done from a variety of perspectives in this way, SIDance presents a relatively wide range of dance works. That includes not only contemporary dance but traditional dance and invitations for artists from other genre such as tango and flamenco that also involve the essence of dance and add color and audience appeal to our festival.

Can you tell us about the financial aspect and scale of SIDance?
The overall budget is in the range of 100 million won (approx. 77 million yen at current exchange rate) each year, and 40 to 50% of that comes from public sector funding, while the rest comes from corporate sponsors and ticket sales. To operate on a budget of this size, funding from corporations is very important, but it is difficult to get that funding because dance is generally not one of more popular genre in the arts and culture. Unlike the festivals organized by the public sector, such as the Seoul Performing Arts Festival and Gwacheon Hanmadang Festival, we are a private sector festival and that makes public organizations reluctant to provide funding when we ask for it. However, among the various festivals eligible for national funding, we have been recognized for the scale and quality of our festival and the weight of its contribution to the dance world. In 2005 we were designated an “Outstanding Festival” and in 2006 we won the designation of “Most Outstanding Festival,” which has helped us gradually win larger grants of government money. In South Korea we have evaluation system for public funding, and with each improvement in the evaluation rank, the grants increase by 10%. We also get assistance from government agencies of the countries whose artists we invite that helps pay for transportation to and from Korea.
 The run of SIDance is around 20 days each year, during which we present a program of 10 to 20 works involving around 100 dancers. The total audience each year is about 12,000.

One of the big distinctions of the CID-UNESCO Korea Chapter is your international collaboration programs. What countries do you collaborate with on productions?
That may reflect my personal love of hybrid culture, such as the culture we see in towns on the Malacca Peninsula where Confucianism, Buddhism and Christianity coexist in a natural mix and towns where the bi-cultural descendents of Portuguese and Asian ethnics live, towns with architecture that shows a mixture of Spanish and native culture, the Black Christ sculptures of Brazil and Argentina, the Catholic Mass hymns sung in the indigenous languages, etc. I am interested in all of these hybrid products of culture born of native and foreign cultures, the traditional and the contemporary, East and West.
 I feel that Koreans have long been lacking in their understanding and interest in the cultures of other countries. It seems to me that the Japanese have much more interest in foreign culture. I began the international collaboration programs out of a desire to encourage a greater interest in the culture of others and the belief that this requires more platforms for direct encounter and exchange. Also, since the collaborative works we produce can be performed in Seoul and in the partner country, these programs have the additional merit of expanding the performance opportunities and venues for the dancers involved.
 Our first full-fledged collaborative projects were special commemorative performances to accompany the joint Korea-Japan holding of the football World Cup, which included a work titled Birds on Board choreographed by as the Hiroshi Koike for the Japanese dance Papa Tarahumara and Korean dancers and another titled Festival Day choreographed jointly by Kim Itoh and Ahn Song-Su. For the Korea-Japan Friendship Dance event in 2005 we not only invited the Japanese butoh company Dairakudakan but also produced Japan-Korea collaborative works including Caused by Economy choreographed by Kota Yamazaki a work titled Somewhere choreographed by Kim Young-Hee. I believe these projects achieved outstanding results. In addition to Japan, we have done collaborative projects with artists from some 20 countries, including the Netherlands, Singapore, Mexico, Canada, France and South Africa. These collaborations are done not only within the framework of SIDance but also as part of other projects organized by the CID-UNESCO Korea Chapter.
 Since I became an executive council member of the Association of Asian Performing Arts Festival in 2004, we have been able to produce works in partnerships with festivals in numerous countries, such as the Singapore Arts Festival, Mexico’s Festival International Cervantino, Japan’s Yokohama Dance Collection R and France’s Montpellier Dance Festival, and these projects have resulted in performances in both Korea and the partner countries.
 In 2007, we were chosen as the only private-sector organization to participate in the Cultural Partnership Initiative promoted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Korea, which enabled us to do collaborative productions with dancers from Asia and South America in 2007 and with dancers from Asia and Africa in 2008 and 2009.
 The way these collaborative projects are actually conducted differ depending on the work, but there are cases where we invite foreign dancers to come to Korea and other cases where Korean dancers are sent abroad to work on them. The duration of the projects also vary. For our projects with Canada, Mexico and Japan we had participants work on creating the pieces for about a month in those localities, then the Korean dancers returned to Korea for a while before going abroad again a couple of weeks before the actual scheduled performances in those countries. Then everyone came to Korea for the performances here. These were two-country collaborations, but we have also experimented with multi-country projects in the Little Asia Dance Exchange Network program.
 Even in the more active genre of theater and music, there are probably few organization that are undertaking such a variety of exchange projects with so many countries. These collaborations require a larger budget than simply inviting foreign works to Korea and they also involve more risk, because they are not works that have already won a reputation, but we still find them very rewarding to work on.
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