|Dancer/choreographer Sin Cha
Hong is recognized as one of the most influential contemporary artists in Asia.
"The Woman Laughing," her newest dance-theater work, will be presented
by La MaMa E.T.C., June 21 to July 1. The evening-length solo work traces a mature
woman's life journey through contemplation, conflict, acceptance and, ultimately,
Sin Cha Hong has created numerous critically acclaimed productions at La MaMa
and other venues in New York and abroad. Age may seem somewhat irrelevant in
speaking of the artist who caused a sensation at age 41 (eight months pregnant),
performing in "Mouth to Tail" (La MaMa, 1981). Ms. Hong is now 60 and
that is a significant age in Eastern numerology --12 signs of the zodiac x 5
elements -- and the number means one has experienced the full circle of life.
After more than 30 years of performing and choreographing, at a time when others
are thinking of retirement, Sin Cha Hong continues her nonstop schedule of creating
and exploring, mainly through artistic pilgrimages around the world, from the
Tibetan Himalayas to the jungles of Hawaii.
"The Woman Laughing" is presented in six parts, each reflecting a stage
in the journey of a woman's life. In the first section, a woman takes her first
step onto the path of the journey. In the second, holding a lotus root, she encounters
the world of expectations, illusions and anxieties. In the third section, Hong
circumambulates a pile of human skulls, evocative of a stupa. In the fourth section,
seated on a swing, she observes the world as it alternately comes closer and recedes,
occasionally speaking or singing brief phrases. In the fifth part, Ms. Hong addresses
the subject of maturity more directly than she has ever done before in her work.
In this section, she is alone in a mountain village reminiscent of Juksan, where
she lives now. Fixing a fearless gaze on her reflection in a hand mirror, she
looks into herself, contemplating middle-age and loneliness. She tries to accept
the undeniable marks of age. Restless in sleep, she similarly encounters her dreams
and memories. In the final section, she becomes "The Woman Laughing"
because, "after all this life experience, there is nothing left to do but
The first five segments are accompanied by a tape collage of ethnic vocal and
instrumental music, and the last part features live music performed on the waterphone.
The waterphone is a relatively new instrument made of metal bars of varied lengths
protruding from a chamber containing water. It is bowed like a stringed instrument
and is struck with mallets or a bare hand, like a percussion instrument. Listening
to a waterphone is like being a scuba diver in an echo chamber, surrounded by
deep underwater sounds, echoes and whale calls. The waterphone will be played
by Young Ah Choi. Lighting is designed by Masaru Soga.
Sin Cha Hong was born and educated in Korea. She plunged into New York City in
1966, gaining a Masters degree in Dance from Columbia University. In the early
1970s, she began to create a stir in the dance community with her bold new choreography.
Ms. Hong returned to Seoul in 1975, where she shocked and inspired audiences
"Labyrinth," an experimental dance and vocal collaboration with Korean
composer Byung Ki Hwang. Following this and other initial successes in dance
and music, she embarked on a private spiritual journey, studying with religious
masters in India and traveling extensively to holy places in Israel, Tibet, South
America and East Asia.
When Sin Cha Hong was living in New York during 1970-80s, she presented new dance-theater
works nearly every year. Her La MaMa productions included "Laughing Stone"
(1980), "Mouth to Tail" (1981), "Isle" (1986), "Matter
of Fact" (1987) and "Pluto" (1992, 1994). As a soloist and with
her Laughing Stone Dance Theater Company, Hong has performed throughout the United
States, Europe and Asia to critical and audience acclaim. Hong brought her creative
focus back to Asia in 1990, returning to Korea to live and work.
In his "History of World Dance," Jian Ping Ou, China's leading authority
on dance, cites Sin Cha Hong as one of the world's 18 most important dancers,
along with Isadora Duncan and Nijinsky. In America, Hong has received numerous
prestigious awards, including four NEA choreography fellowships, grants from
NYSCA, NYFA, and the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, the Asian
Cultural Council, and a visiting scholar grant from the Fulbright Commission.
In 1989, her troupe gave the first paying public performances in the People's
Republic of China; two years later, the Beijing Dance Academy invited Hong to
give China's first national dance workshop. Currently, she serves as Distinguished
Visiting Professor at the Central Dance Academy in Beijing and at the Korean
National University of Arts.