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Report: Culture

Korean Eun-Me Ahn strikes common beat with Dancing Grandmothers

South Korean choreographer Eun-Me Ahn with her troupe of dancers, after their performance at Théâtre de la Colline in Paris.
South Korean choreographer Eun-Me Ahn with her troupe of dancers, after their performance at Théâtre de la Colline in Paris. RFI

The Paris Quartiers d'été Festival in August brightened the arts scene during the French capital’s theoretically cultural off-season. Eun-Me Ahn dance company contributed to summer fun with their 'Dancing Grandmothers'. 

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As the audience settles down, Eun-Me Ahn's silent road movie shows rainy South Korean landscapes and road signs. It rolls across a stage-wide screen made of a pieces of stretched clothing in tones of white and grey and beige in jigsaw-style.

The hall falls quiet as Ahn enters the stage in a traditional red dress with hooped rainbow-coloured sleeves and begins a fluid dance with simple gestures emanating peace.

And then, the pace changes.

Her dancers appear on stage - women in trousers and men in brightly coloured dresses and lots of floral patterns, with a touch of sparkle.

Their movements are faster, stronger yet maintain her fluidity. They convey a sense of freedom inherent in many traditional dance gestures.

We learn later in a second film of the troupe's encounters on their cross-country journey that these movements are inspired by elderly ladies and a few gentlemen met randomly, pushing carts on the road, selling vegetables, or at the hairdresser, and whom Ahn asked for an impromptu demonstration.

“They have a deep history in their body and we can learn from their spiritual energy, deep inside. We learn freedom from the grandma dance. We can be really energetic and free.”

Eun-Me Ahn with her mother
Eun-Me Ahn with her mother

Some of the ladies in the film -- all of whom are amateurs, and whose ages range from something like 60 to 90, actually take centre stage during the piece, along with the younger and highly professional Eun-Me Ahn troupe members.

Ahn bridges the gap between generations.

“The young dancers watched the grandmothers dance, and they realised that dance isn’t just physical technical. We have to share their experience and the young peoples’ energy. If we mix this together something will happen and we can learn from the grandmas.”

In Dancing Grandmothers, musical numbers correspond to each generation of Grandmothers in the piece.

For the surprise grande finale, Ahn calls all the spectators to join her troupe and the grandmothers on the stage, under rows of overhead disco balls.

And the atmosphere in all that togetherness was quite electric.

For the space of a few evenings, the Theatre de la Colline became an up-beat box with playful and creative lighting, rhythm, images, choreography and of course, dancers. And all that is compounded by the obvious joy, and a sense of freedom, of life.

Proof that, contrary to popular belief there's life in Paris in August.

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