Bongsu Park/Jin-Yeob Cha: Dream Ritual

She sleeps, she dreams, she sleepwalks…

She is dressed in diaphanous white. She lies, curled, on a glossy black floor that’s as reflective as a mirror. The low-key soundtrack hinting at a heartbeat, a ticking clock. The electronic drones and pulses are augmented by bells and bowls.

She is lit beautifully, her graceful form illuminated by intense copper and cobalt beams. As she moves and spreads her limbs, she becomes two – a symmetrical imprint from a Rorschach blot test.

She stands, in a dream trance. She walks, she pulls a voile curtain across the front of the performance space, and this becomes a screen. Graphs of REM read-outs are projected onto it, the lines peaking and dipping – the parallel with musical waves apparent as the pulsing electronic soundtrack follows the patterns.

Words dance on the screen: ‘Munhui buys a dream from her sister Bohui… “What will you give me for it?’ Bohui asked. “I will give you my skirt of embroidered brocade.” Munhui spread her skirt and said, “I am ready to catch your dream.”’

Now she is not one but many, as sleeping spirits are awakened, her ghost-selves escaping from her to leap and dance. She leaps and dances, too. The projected words have broken down into letters that also dance across the space, reforming themselves into words that then quickly dissolve. I see ‘soil’ and ‘tree’ and ‘corridor’ and ‘fireplace’. Now there are sentences, and spoken word to accompany the projections. We hear and see fragments of dream stories that have been donated to Dream Ritual via a website, creating an interesting element of interactivity between audience and artists. In a further element, these dreams will be auctioned online, as part of the broader project, Dream Auction (with the profits going to charity) – a modern take on the Korean tradition of buying and selling dreams to bring good fortune.

But back to the stage: performer Jin-Yeob Cha works through a thrilling succession of scenes, a one-woman powerhouse commanding the stage with elegance, energy and a gentle but determined presence. There’s a pattern. She takes a movement motif – running on the spot, pirrouetting in big circles, spinning slowly and carefully in Sufi style  – and pushes the possibilities of each motif, creating a shamanistic performance ritual that ebbs and flows but never flags. As, for example, when the meditative sufi-like spin becomes a wild and joyous gyration, like a samba dancer at carnival time. The live physical action, projections and soundscape work together in close harmony. The lighting design and execution, by Connor Sullivan and Oliver Curtis, is always immaculate.

Lead artist on the project, and responsible for its conception and delivery, is London based Korean artist Bongsu Park – visual artist, director, dance-video maker and more. Performer Jin-Yeob Cha is also the choreographer – an acclaimed artist in Korea, director of Seoul’s Collective A, and choreographer for the opening and closing ceremonies of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games 2018. The third key player is composer haihm, a classical pianist turned renowned electronic musician, producer and DJ. This three-woman core team (augmented by a strong behind-the-scenes posse of designers, photographers, voice-over artists etc) have created an elegant, inventive, and thought-provoking work. Dream Ritual has, appropriately, a dreamlike, almost soporific quality – as we sit and watch and listen, we are lulled into another world. One in which dream and reality, conscious thought and unconscious feelings, merge so effectively that it is hard to tell where the boundaries begin and end.

The artists’ aim is to ‘immerse the audience in the traditional concept of sharing dreams’ – and in this they have succeeded admirably, creating a kind of modern day Midsummer’s Night Dream in which our collective desires and fantasies play out before us, in a delightful dance of spoken word, moving image, movement and music.

The show is accompanied by a video installation showing three earlier works by Bongsu Park: Cube (2011), Lethe (2015), and Internal Library (2017); and the gloriously eccentric and shabby chic Coronet Theatre bar hosts an exhibition of her artwork.

Featured image (top): Dream Rituals. Photo by Quan Van Truong.

The Dream Ritual London premiere at The Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill Gate, 3 July 2019 was hosted by The Korean Cultural Centre UK.


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Dorothy Max Prior

About Dorothy Max Prior

Dorothy Max Prior is the editor of Total Theatre Magazine, and is also a performer, writer, dramaturg and choreographer/director working in theatre, dance, installation and outdoor arts. Much of her work is sited in public spaces or in venues other than regular theatres. She also writes essays and stories, some of which are published and some of which languish in bottom drawers – and she teaches drama, dance and creative non-fiction writing.