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Postcard from Korea: Gloria McLean of LIFEDANCE shares her teaching adventures

Postcard from Korea: Gloria McLean of LIFEDANCE shares her teaching adventures

By Gloria McLean

Published on January 12, 2011

Gloria McLean is a dancer, choreographer and performance artist based in New York City and Andes, NY. From 1982-1993, she was a leading dancer with the Erick Hawkins Dance Company, performing and teaching internationally. She founded LIFEDANCE/Gloria McLean and Dancers in 1987 as a vehicle for her choreography and collaborative projects, and her vision of the unity of life and art.

Gloria McLean and students.


Greetings, Dance Enthusiasts! I am writing from Daegu, South Korea, where I am an Assistant Professor of Modern Dance at Keimyung University.

South Korea: The energy is definitely rising here, with a strong sense of overall optimism and national pride despite the tension and unpredictability of North Korea, a constant reminder to stay alert. Seoul is definitely THE capitol, a vibrant, huge, international city with lots of art and performance events. I am in Daegu, where the surrounding mountains keep it very hot in summer and cold in winter. It's much smaller and more manageable than Seoul, more conservative by all accounts, but with its own very active dance community that is increasingly reaching for an international profile.

Teaching here -- it's a barrage of cultural differences that one negotiates on a daily basis. First and foremost, of course, is the language. (kongbuheyo - I'm studying!) Along with professors in many fields, I was invited to each in English (Korea is really pushing it). Although the kids study it, the level of English comprehension among the students varies enormously. So communication is a constant challenge. Yes, we have the silent language of movement - thank God! But that, too, turns out to be very culturally conditioned, and let's face it, a lot of dancing has to do with ideas, images; and a lot of teaching has to do with verbal cues, encouragements and inspirational thoughts - the word is so important!

But bottom line -- dancers want to dance, so we find our way through the maze. My most recent project was to collaborate with Professor of Photography Bjorn Steinz, a great artist from Germany, to bring his class of emerging photographers to shoot the seniors who are preparing their graduation solos. Korean modern dancers seem to love moving fast and very dynamic. I jumped in at the end to demonstrate the possibility of also moving slowly.

These photos are by Bjorn Steinz, used by permission.
Hard to believe this is my second year here! Last semester, there was no official opportunity for performance, so I decided to use the University as Site. Here are some video stills of the material I developed with two classes, the freshmen and the sophomore modern dance majors. We took our dances outdoors on two occasions to two different locations on the campus. It seems it was a first for these dancers to use the university as a performance space, to abandon the safety of the fourth wall, and deal with sun, sky, different surfaces, and passersby.
Photos above are video stills.
The beginning of this project happened somewhat spontaneously last March when it snowed 5 inches in a spring day. The dancers explained that this was a 100-year record for Taegu where they say it rarely snows, and please, please could they go outside instead of class? So I said, okay, but we also dance. So our first dance was a SNOW SPIRAL JETTY.

Life is a Dance! | LIFEDANCE 2010 | Love, Gloria

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