Dance as a Protest Medium
Professor Jang Soon-hyang (Department of Dance, Ph.D. '05)
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Professor Jang Soon-hyang is committed to combining dancing and protesting to build a proper relationship between society and manifestations of art. She received a doctorate degree from the Department of Dance and is currently a professor at the Social Education Center at Hanyang University. Often referred to as the “dancer of life, peace, and unification who always agonizes with the social roles of dancing”, Jang has been participating in numerous demonstrations and protests in attempts to bring societal reform.
Dancing and the society
When asked to interpret the societal role of dancing in terms of her experiences, Jang’s answer was equivocal. “I’m still looking for the significance and the specific role of dancing as a form of art in our society. One thing I can say is, if the dancing conveys a message that the audience could sympathize with, it will naturally attract more audiences. As for me, dancers do not always need to gain spotlight on a fancy stage, but rather, where their dancing is really needed is their appropriate stage,” remarked Jang. She added that as long as the dancer can express the connotations of their movements, the minimal objective is fulfilled.
In 2005, Jang received an invitation from the Geumgangsan opera troupe, North Korea’s one and only performance group that travels abroad to perform, to learn South Korea’s traditional dance. Gladly accepting the request, Jang made contacts with the group and was surprised to find out that some of the members of the performance group were originally from South Korea. If dancing, along with other forms of art, could be the methods to communicate with people from different places, then the societal role of art would be to connect the subjects of social issues and the society. Jang noted that active participation in the society through artwork such as dancing could prevent them from being isolated and alienated from the national community, reiterating her point on the relationship between art and the society.
A socially conscious dancer
Jang has been playing a vital role in resolving social issues in Korea, giving performances that implicate problematic aspects. One of the most recent activities she took part in was the 'Remember the 4.16 Sewol Shipwreck campaign', in which citizens infuriated with the Sewol ferry accident gathered at Gwanghwamun Gate to manifest their rage. Jang joined the group by expressing the people's fury by dancing on their behalf. In addition, she appeared at Gwanghwamun Gate again for the fierce demonstration for current president’s resignation. Since this affair continues to overwhelm the country these days, more people came to join the protest and appreciated Jang's efforts. “After my performance, one of the protesters gave me encouraging hug, expressing her melancholy about the situation of Korea. It was a very worthy moment, because from this, I was able to unite people with my dancing and they showed compassion in return,” recalled Jang.
Jang’s ultimate goal is to play a role in achieving the unification of North and South Korea. She hopes to see artworks, including dancing, acting as the constructive force that helps to build an interactive relationship between the two Koreas by reaching out and communicating bilaterally. “I want future dancers to be aware of social issues and try to think about what their role is as dancers within the society. Dancing is not only about being famous for one's beauty and elegance but also about carrying out necessary societal functions as a message conveyer,” expressed Jang.
Jeon Chae-yun firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Kim Youn-soo
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