An intriguing snapshot into a world of performance that is often closed to us.
The festival that we witness is split into two “banquets” – the first is a succession of choreographed pieces to recorded music; the second involves live drumming, a hugely important element of Korea’s musical history. The fourteen performers are obviously hugely talented: moving in perfect unison, they master the highly formal dance patterns and percussion rhythms required of them and it is wonderful to see such sequences – even if the smiles seem a little too fixed.
The narrative is very loose. Ostensibly an expression of Hongik Ingan, the Korean national philosophy, and the struggle for a world of peace and light, in practise PAN never reaches these lofty heights. Although often a feast for the eyes, the first ‘banquet’ is never as intellectual as it thinks it is and the rigidity of the choreography, whilst formally necessary, means that the piece is often frustratingly slow. The over-loud PA at the Assembly Hall does it no favours and things improve markedly once the performers take control of the musical accompaniment. The intricate percussion instantly grabs our attention and lends a much-needed visual energy to proceedings.
Ultimately, PAN is an intriguing snapshot into a world of performance that is often closed to us. For that reason alone it’s a worthwhile experience if not an overly entertaining one. The performers are wonderful although the style of the dancing, especially in the first half, won’t be to everyone’s tastes