▲ Whirring dance at opening ceremonies. Photo by Jenna Houts
Hong Sin Cha, Korea’s most famous performance artist, hosted and directed Jeju’s first International Dance-Meditation Festival. The festival took place at the Jeju Museum of Contemporary Art in Hallim, a fitting location for the modern performances and workshops that took place over the course of three days, Oct. 1 to Oct. 3. The festival had two main goals. First, it promoted Jeju in its campaign to become one of the New7Wonders of Nature.
“I am an ambassador of Jeju as a seventh wonder,” Ms. Hong said.
Second, the festival introduced the international community to a new practice in meditation through the medium of dance. People from Japan, China, and different parts of Korea came to learn from the renowned choreographer and meditation leader.
The three-day festival was filled with a variety of innovative performance art, receptions, and dance and meditation workshops. Accompanying Ms. Hong in the festival was seven of her long-time colleagues. These seven dancers and teachers taught new meditation techniques in a variety of workshops focused in prayer, whirring (a Sufi style twirling dance), dynamic dance, Mandata dance meditation, pray dance, yoga dance, and circle dance.
When I asked Ms. Hong to describe the festival she said, “Many people think meditation is quite and calm, through dance one can reach a state of enlightenment.”
▲ Juwon Rosa Chon performs a modern dance at opening ceremonies. Photo by Jenna Houts
▲ Photo by Jenna Houts
Ms. Hong suggested that dance is a medium to meditate and to become freer. Ms. Hong said in this modern age people do not know how to be still, they are constantly moving, which is why traditional meditation may not be appropriate.
Meditation through dance is a way to “learn how to be free from this bondage,” because, “we are bound by our ideas.”
Ms. Hong believes dance and meditation are almost one in the same. Her described the art of dance as “freedom and happiness, you reach another state of awareness and enlightenment.” Her personal definition of meditation is”similar.” She said dance and meditation are important to practice together because meditation occurs “through the movement.”
Ms. Hong said this experience up to now “was the most overwhelming experience of body, soul, and mind” for the participants. She added the participants learned the importance of the dance-meditation practice and now want to continue.
▲ Performance artist and organizer Hong Sin Cha. Photo by Jenna Houts
The headlining event of the festival was a performance by Ms. Hong and Kim Kumhwa, a celebrated Korean shaman. The performance took place at the entrance to the beautiful Mt. Songaksan, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, on Oct. 2. The performance included dance, music, and praying to honor Jeju’s quest to become a New7Wonder of Nature. Ms. Hong said this performance was “a big event.”
Ms. Hong and her husband now call Jeju their home. They live in Hallim, on the west side of the island. They have been here for one year and are very happy. Ms. Hong is still considering if she will make Jeju her permanent home. After a year on the island she adamantly believes Jeju is worthy of the special title “wonder” because Jeju people believe in its beauty. Jeju is unique for its mountains, ocean, and oreum.
“I think oreum are very special on Jeju.”
“I want to do something for the Jeju people,” she said. “All the festivals on Jeju are similar and I like to do something universal.”
Ms. Hong hoped this festival would teach the people of Jeju and the international community something new. The festival was open to the people of the world. Ms. Hong welcomed anybody who was interested to come participate.
“It is something special you can’t find elsewhere,” Ms. Hong said.
Ms. Hong cleared up a long-standing rumor since she came to Jeju that she is retired. She said she is not retired and “just relaxing.” She is still very busy in her work and just returned from a performance in Germany. She said she will never retire.
Ms. Hong is very humble about the first festival saying “it is very experimental.” She hopes to make it an annual event on Jeju.
▲ Arisika Razak, dancer/choreographer, performs at opening ceremonies, Oct. 1. Photo by Jenna Houts
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