August 21, 2009
Dark night of the SeoulIt's a dark night in Seoul. The sun won't be up for hours. I'm in the airport on a five hour layover and there's no one around.
The airport is a ghost town. There's even the odd bit of trash strewn across the main halls. A small group of people by the duty free collection windows offered the only activity I saw. They were tossing clear plastic bags into piles. They could have been organizing or they could have been taking out the trash.
The flight was long but the seats were relatively spacious. A Korean school group was on the flight and as they boarded they screamed to each other across the aisles. The petulant girl sandwiched between a poor Korean woman and I was all elbows. I was always barely asleep when she'd start writing notes with her heart-shaped pen to pass across me to her friends, or would readjust her position in her chair. When we arrived she was oddly silent and still.
A line formed just off the plane. Attendants were collecting health forms that asked if we had had any symptoms of H1N1. After asking as to our final destinations they applied an oblong plastic device behind our ear to take our temperature. The device beeped. The attendant thanked us and welcomed us to Korea.
Before leaving for Seoul I attended a concert by the Mark Morris Dance Group. He spoke before the performance, taking command of a question and answer session with Joan Accocella, dance critic for the New Yorker. She could barely keep up. Morris was erudite and charming when he wasn't withering when fielding half-formed questions. He told us he made dances so he could watch something beautiful that he loved. He talked of his love of music and demand for live music in performance. Someone asked if the latter proved expensive. Morris returned, "Tonight it is!" (Emmanuel Ax and Yo Yo Ma were two of the featured musicians.) He spoke of his love of Merce Cunningham and a new work he is re-choreographing. Although he began work on the dance before Cunningham's death, his presence is felt all over the work.
The performance began with two New York premieres, both of which were commissioned this year. The first harkened to the Morris with which I was familiar from his Mozart dances. Throughout, Ma seemed to have his eyes on the dancers, barely glancing at his music. The latter was reminiscent of work I had seen by Cunningham. A slip of paper in the program dedicated the evening to Merce.
After an intermission the company performed V, an amazingly choreographed dance. As I watched the first act unfold I understood Morris' description of perfect music and perfect motifs. The first movement was a genius formalist display. As the work unfolded I was enraptures and seeing that earlier work helped me gain eben greater appreciation for the new works that had come bofore.
All too soon it was over. The dancers took their bows. The musicians took their bows. Mark Morris took his bows. I gathered my bags from the checkroom and hailed a cab. My friend joined me for the ride as the cab made its way east, out of Manhattan and over the 59th Street Bridge with its amazing views of the city and to the airport. Then, unbounded by oceans and continents I bid adieu to the cab and farewell to my friend. I boarded a plane to continue my way to the east, with hours to go before it I shall reach.Posted by eku at August 21, 2009 3:57 PM