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SPAF kicks off with boundary-breaking performances

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Oct. 6, 2023 - 21:50

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"Corps Extremes" by Chaillot National Theatre of Dance (SPAF)

The Seoul Performing Arts Festival, celebrating its 23rd year, kicks off Friday and runs until Oct. 29 in various venues across Seoul, including the National Theater of Korea, the National Jeongdong Theater of Korea, the ARKO & Daehakro Arts Theater and Yohangza Theater.

Nineteen Korean and international productions are set to deliver messages that transcend the boundaries of art and technology, as well as those between nations and regions.

"We will introduce works that challenge conventional notions and systems,” said SPAF’s artistic director, Choi Kyu, at Thursday’s press conference.

"These works explore the relationship between art and technology in the age of technology and reflect narratives not typically seen, such as those of women and sexual minorities.”

Choreographer Rachid Ouramdane (center), SPAF artistic director Choi Kyu (second from right) and director Jeon In-cheol (first to right) pose for a group photo during a press conference held on Thursday. (SPAF) Choreographer Rachid Ouramdane (center), SPAF artistic director Choi Kyu (second from right) and director Jeon In-cheol (first to right) pose for a group photo during a press conference held on Thursday. (SPAF)

The festival's opening performance, "Corps Extremes," presented by the Chaillot National Theatre of Dance from France on Friday and Saturday, breaks away from traditional dance, incorporating tightrope walking and rock climbing.

Choreographer Rachid Ouramdane drew inspiration from his encounters with extreme sports enthusiasts and acrobats. The production does not feature professional dancers; instead, the eight performers are acrobats and athletes.

"People usually think that those who enjoy extreme sports are not afraid of death. However, they demonstrate incredible concentration to control their bodies and avoid injury. The work showcases how they communicate with their environment through their bodies,” said the choreographer.

Theatre Practice Project’s “Playwriting Practice: To Die as a Fish” delves into the life of transgender novelist Kim Bi, bringing it to the stage and raising questions about gender.

Theatre Company Dolpagu's production, directed by Jeon In-cheol, explores conflicts in Korean society through a feminist sci-fi play, “Women on Earth.”

"The work addresses not only issues between men and women but also various conflicts. It explores class divisions among women, conflicts between humanity and nature, and shows that anyone, regardless of gender, can become a perpetrator of violence," said Jeon.

In an effort to promote cultural inclusivity, the 2023 SPAF offers barrier-free programs, providing both Korean and English subtitles, according to the organizers.