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Flash Review, 3-23: Pick up the Pieces
DKK's 'Happiness' Collection at the Y

By Peggy H. Cheng
Copyright 2000 Peggy H. Cheng

Last night, at Playhouse 91, the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Project presented Koosil-ja Hwang/Dance KUMIKOKIMOTO (DKK) as one of five companies in its sixth annual festival. (DKK runs through Sunday.) Koosil-ja Hwang's "The Anatomy of Happiness: The First Segment" (and the third part of a trilogy) is a collection of images, words, and movement--a piece made up of pieces. Although many specific moments of movement, sound, and video images are striking, I find the most compelling ones emerge as moments of simplicity: Love, possible and impossible, between a young Moroccan man and an older German woman is summarized as they dance "together" yet separated by a pole which presses into their abdomens; three women appear in front of a video projection (I believe of actress Fay Wong as the character Blondie from a Wong Kar Wai film) speaking, in a simpering unison, of happiness and love, and of the thrill of running through the rain. The physicalization and text performed live in front of the film segment comes together: We are presented with a cross-cultural moment, multiple layers of identity and concepts of happiness and love represented in sound (the three performers speak, Chinese pop music plays in the background), the projected image, and the physicalization of a persona through the choreography. Although many mediums are at work here, each choice of content seems connected and uncomplicated.

The second half of the program is the 1998 "Memoryscan." "Memoryscan" is the second part of what Hwang calls her "trilogy on ethnicity, identity and culture," and is a string of memories, apparently made up of the personal cultural histories of the company members. Unlike "The Anatomy of Happiness," this piece has much less live spoken text. It opens with a dinner table scene, Japanese/Korean style, at a low table with metal bowls and "chopsticks" made of long wire looping up into swirls at one end. One person continues to pester another by fixing her hair, buttoning her shirt; the dinner scene leads into an inventive duet, between the fixer and the fix-resister, in which the shirt comes on and off, and the two grapple with each other on and around the low table. One grabs the ankles of the other aggressively, but is pulled across the table as she clings to the ankles and becomes powerless. The physicality and meaning that comes across here is quite satisfying. Towards the end of the dance, another dinner table scene emerges; presumably this time it is a Euro/American family: Father in white tank top, mother in house dress, two girls in dresses (actually with little dresses attached to their fronts), and a markedly different way of eating, or being, at the table: I saw them "Saying Grace" and reaching for or passing the potatoes. The distinction of cultures is made clear by the contrast of the two dinner tables.

Ms. Hwang's use of technology (sound, video), text, and, finally, choreography is often engaging and even surprising. Certainly, her knowledge of all these forms is impressive. Yet in these dance pieces, I desire more moments of simplicity in terms of the multiple mediums, and therefore more chances to soak in the many fragments of image, sound, and text which make up the memories and identities which Ms. Hwang has so consistently and carefully explored in her work.

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