Postcard from Korea: Gloria McLean of LIFEDANCE shares her teaching adventures
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.
Life is a Dance! | LIFEDANCE 2010 | Love, Gloria