“On the road with American Dance Abroad: inkBoat in Seoul,” a report from Shinichi Iova-Koga

25 Jan

On October 6, 2015, inkBoat performed “Line Between” at Mary Hall in Segong University as part of the Seoul International Dance Festival (SIDdance) with strong support from American Dance Abroad (ADA). It only took 7 years to pull it together.inkBoat

The path to Seoul begins at Tanzmesse in Dusseldorf in 2008. It is here that I meet Andrea Snyder and Carolelinda Dickey, who are the life and blood of American Dance Abroad. I witness many performances at Tanzmesse, each with full production support. I meet fellow Bay Area residents KT Nelson and Brenda Way during post show discussions over beer (it takes leaving your country to meet your next door neighbors). This leads to KT and I co-directing a work (“Listening Last,” 2011) on the ODC Dance Company (and establishing a deep friendship).

Later in 2011, in the midst of developing “Line Between,” Carolelinda and Andrea invite me to attend Performing Arts Market Seoul (PAMS). I meet two pivotal folks at that time: Jong-Ho Lee of the Seoul International Dance Festival (SIDance) and Sukjin Lee, a traditional musician. I spend time with Sukjin over Makgeolli, a fermented rice drink. I pitch the work to Jong-Ho Lee at a PAMS speed dating session (see: video report below).

In 2012, I spend 3 months in Japan, supported by the US/Japan Friendship commission, studying Kagura (folk dance), Nihon Buyo, Aikido and Shakuhachi. I don’t make it to Seoul that year.

In 2013, supported by the MAP Creative Exploration Fund, I travel again to Japan to study Kagura, Butoh and Aikido. Then, travelling to Seoul, I reconnect with Sukjin, who organizes 12 musicians to join me in a collaborative improvisation. Jong-Ho Lee attends and joins us for dinner (and drinks) afterwards.

In 2014, Jong-Ho Lee travels to the Bay Area as part of an international contingent organized by Carolelinda and Andrea, and witnesses a work in progress of inkBoat’s “Without Us.”

In 2015, Jong-Ho Lee invites inkBoat to the Seoul International Dance Festival… a delightful and risky opportunity for us. SIDance can only cover a fraction of our costs. We must make significant reductions to bring the show to Seoul. We launch an Indiegogo campaign. ADA provides us with a “Rapid Response” grant. With these two funding sources we are able to cover our travel costs, but no artist fees. Most cannot make the journey without payment. For this trip, we lose our main performer Dohee Lee, musician Jason Ditzian, performer Peiling Kao and our lighting designer Allen Willner. At the deciding point of whether to bring a less involved show or continue on with “Line Between,” we invite Noh performer Jubilith Moore in to take over primary dancer/performer Dohee Lee’s role. Katherine MacDonald takes over musician Jason Ditzian’s role. Dana takes on Peiling’s role and both Dana and Amy Rathbone take on the lighting design, under Allen’s tutelage. Carolinda and Andrea are there at every critical point to help us pull it together.

Once in Seoul, SIDance takes good care of us. The crew and facilities at Mary Hall are excellent. Staff members of SIDance make themselves available for our needs. Difficulties arise in translating the set to the space, but Amy adjusts to the conditions and makes modifications.

In the end, the travelling company does extraordinarily well in pulling together the performance under Dana’s direction, finding solutions to the challenges. Could we have done better with more resources? A clear yes. I believe this question of resources is one that ALL American companies face when it comes to international touring. It is at the heart of what ADA struggles with. For me, though the road to Seoul was rocky, we now have the information and experience to do it better next time and we found in the process a solid team that travels well together.

Thank you ADA for all that you have done and continue to do to support American dance companies seeking to reach an international audience.

-Shinichi Iova-Koga

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