Director Herman Into Thin Air Speaks On Filmed Theatre’s Capacity To Address Vanishing Cultures

Director Herman Into Thin Air Speaks On Filmed Theatre’s Capacity To Address Vanishing Cultures

At the Seoul Arts On Screen 2024, director of the Korean contemporary dance drama Into Thin Air, Idit Herman addressed Nigerian theatre professionals and enthusiasts on theatre’s capacity to address eroding cultures.

Held annually as a means of promoting global access to Korean performing arts, SAC On Screen, a Seoul Arts Center project, provides recorded live performances for global audiences.

This year, Korea Culture Center Nigeria (KCCN) screened Herman’s 2014 production Into Thin Air for Nigerian theatre professionals and stakeholders, followed by a live zoom interview with the director, who expanded on the production’s background and inspiration.

Featuring nine characters such as the hero, the magician, the fortunate one, the lover, the wife and the prophet, the contemporary dance production is an abstract outlook at South Korea’s culture which though on the rise owing to the global appeal of K-Pop music, its traditional/old culture is endangered by the influence of Western and Asian cultures.

Herman’s production pieces together life stories and conditions that represent the situation of young Koreans, their thoughts and fears regarding their culture.

“At the time of the production, I learnt that the Korean which was growing at a fast pace is said to be destroying its culture owing to influence from other cultures, like the Japanese and American, which had many Koreans worried. I conducted research interviewing the dancers and inquiring their opinions on this, and how do they see Korea in the future. Their stories about their lives and their hopes for their country was the inspiration for this piece.

Nominated by Korean National Dance Theatre, Herman strived for a performance “that is a gift from a stranger to Korea”, but also a means for her to understand happenings in Korea. “It took a lot of studying to do this,” she said.

Impressive details of the production, besides the usual high quality camera work, lighting and sound quality of SAC On Screen performances, is its ability to weave in Manhwa (web comic) into the play. The play beginning in web comic style outlining the characters viewers eventually gets to know as the performance unfolds, and closed with a Manhwa introduction of the character as a form curtain call.

There is also its infusion of western classical music and popular music, abstract instrumental to depict mood, atmosphere and climactic events. Interestingly, Herman’s choice to individually spotlight the experiences of each character before their self-introductions towards the end of the plot – brings the audience full circle on all the characters’ fate.

Although Into Thin Air speaks of Korea’s vanishing culture (which the Nigerian audience can relate to), it also highlights elements of contemporary culture – like K-Pop, as well as the revitalization and modernization of Manhwa (comics).

“I invested a lot of time and research in K-Pop, and hired K-Pop star costumier who found the costumes for the dancers. Hence, you see a lot of Korean pop style influence in the production design.”
Speaking of the production a participant expressed relief that the issue of eroding cultures is not specific to Nigeria but to other nations.

“I like the synergy between the performance, Visual and lighting techniques. I have watched lots of stage performances, and this went beyond stage performance.

That is commendable. I also enjoyed the stage performance,” he said.

Audio Producer and Sound Energy, Ehiremi Austin Oremosele commended the visual and sound quality of the production.

Responding to participants questions, Herman spoke on the use of non-harmful props like plaster sculptures used in the play to ensure performers safety, while noting that though the filmed version of the performance lasts an hour and 3 minutes, initial live stage production had a 50 minutes running time.

“Every dance piece can be viewed metaphysical; but what connects (Into Thin Air) is not the plot/stories rather abstract ideas about what is going on with the Korean culture in the eyes of people, which is like different ideas connected together.

“Same as in other dance pieces, the connection is mostly the music, rhythm, dynamic etc. These are the many inspirations of how I connect one piece to the other,” said Herman.
SAC On Screen 2024 event, closed with a virtual-physical photo session of the participants with the director.

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