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Edinburgh Festival Fringe

MyoSung - 'Streetdance'

by Lea Marshall

August 7, 2006 -- Assembly @ George Street, Edinburgh

The Korean company MyoSung (literally translated as “drawing sound”) has brought to the Fringe one of the more remarkable exercises in fusion that I have ever seen: an exuberant mix of backgrounds, genres, and cultures. Their self-titled show opens with a group in a slow series of floor combinations involving the headspins and mind-boggling, spinning inversions of street dance, performed in dim greenish light to a recording of Amazing Grace rendered on bagpipes.

MyoSung’s style derives from a combination of street (the dominant influence), classical Korean, and contemporary dance. Their skill as performers and their evident passion both for dancing and for bridging cross-cultural divides saturates the show and carries the audience along with them, despite our occasional bewilderment at just how much material – not all of it coherently connected – has been packed into the performance.

To name only a few disparate parts, MyoSung: Streetdance contains a hip-hop story of love gone wrong, a respectful and compassionate celebration of handicapped dancers and athletes, a PowerPoint projection of child war victims and protests against the Iraq war, and a traditional scarf dance. Moments of bad-ass brilliance or of luminous appeal, generated more by the dancers themselves than the settings in which they operate, punctuate the entire show.

Still, the inclusion of war footage and a call for peace, for example, is puzzling since no other section of the dance makes reference to the images projected. We honor the sentiment, but cannot place it properly within the context of this performance. A similar series of projections of handicapped athletes makes more sense, as it follows a series of solos performed as if mentally or physically handicapped. The dancer who performed an excellent floor-based street sequence with one leg fully braced, as if broken, should be given a medal.

Music choices (all recorded) for Streetdance were particularly effective. The piece used plenty of Western music, but when performed in an Asian style – such as a slow, plucked-string version of Pachelbel’s Canon – the music took on a new rhythmic resonance as reflected in the undulations, in the melting and instant re-forming of the dancers’ bodies.

MyoSung has much to teach Western audiences about how different cultures can perceive and assimilate each others’ influences while still preserving their integrity. And although the show could use some streamlining to make its messages more powerfully felt, when the dancers carried on a banner partway through the show that read, “Are you having fun yet?” the answer was an undeniable, “Yes!”

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