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REVIEW: Startling, Exciting A Man’s Requiem by SEOP Dance Company (Ordway)

Saturday night saw the South Korean dance ensemble SEOP Dance Company descend on Rice Park to perform at the Ordway. Stated simply, lovers of classical and modern dance should both make it a life goal to see the SEOP Dance Company perform. The show seen on Saturday, A Man’s Requiem, has been in nine countries and extensively in South Korea; its Midwest premiere at the Ordway was an astonishing theatrical experience. It’s easy to see why the piece by choreographer Kim Yong Chul has won several awards and general acclaim; it is a fitting entry to the Ordway’s World Music and Dance series and a show not to miss.

A scene from "A Man's Requiem" by SEOP Dance Company.
A scene from A Man’s Requiem by SEOP Dance Company.
A Man’s Requiem combines both traditional and contemporary Korean dance. The show develops over four parts and explores themes related to death, judgment, and what follows. To call it delightful would belie the deep and complex elements in the piece, and to call it exhilarating would contradict the moments of meditative calm throughout as well. It is both of those things, though, and more.

In addition to physical movement, the production relies on sound (music by Kim Young-Dong and Eiji Matsumoto), facial expressions, color, light, flowing fabrics, and yes, even crinkling paper to create a delicately paced and evocative experience. The whole piece, lasting a little over an hour, builds gradually toward the moment of death and release, offering a visually stunning, richly textured, and wholly immersive experience for the audience.

I hesitate to give more details, as the elements of inventiveness and surprise in the production are part of its power, too. There are moments of solemnity, of playfulness, of the uncanny and the sacred, and moments of real pathos, too. A Man’s Requiem is an innovative, vibrant, and moving dance experience, and the choreography by Kim Yong Chul shows a talent not to be missed.

Lydia Lunning