Two National Treasures of Korea, Byung Ki Hwang and Myung Sook Kim, combined creative forces and visions in a performance at the Asia Society on Saturday that was an extraordinary expression of beauty and control. Both come from deep traditions of Korean artistry that are deeply embedded in cultural practices centuries old. Byung Ki Hwang's composition for the Gayageum is based on sanjo, a Korean practice that is never scored, while Myung Sook Kim's choreography and dance is grounded in Korean traditional dance which she infuses with contemporary overtones. Consequently each artist, firmly rooted in their traditions, create a work, Taintless Spring, that seems uniquely 21st century.
Central to the music and the dance is the extreme control present that allows the work to gradually emerge as a masterwork for these artists. Supported by Hyun Sook Park at the Gayageum (Byung Ki Hwang controlled the whole with the jang gu) and additional dancers Kyung Eun Park, Jin Il Bae, Jung Lee, Jung Rae Kim, and Ji Hye Chung, Taintless Spring explores the subtle depths of the four seasons, beginning with Spring which unfolds as slowly as ice melting on an early spring day, the shade of bamboo in the stillness of a summer day, the autumnal change that brings a sense of joy, and the winds of winter subdued by the descending snow.
The work seems predicated on the control of the dancers which mirror the finesse and control of the Gayageum with its exacting structure and subtle "after-tone" ornaments that which seem even more exquisitely varied than the human voice. Movement reflects stasis, where movement slowly sculpts space as though each moment is sublimely rich with meaning and meant to be savored.