LPD/Laboratory Dance Project
WHEN: 8 p.m. today; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, 358 George Carter Road, Becket, Mass.
HOW MUCH: $63-$42
MORE INFO: 413-243-0745, www.jacobspillow.org
One of the best things about the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival is its distinctive offering — one that showcases dance ensembles from corners of the globe that have never set foot in America. Each year, one of those newly discovered companies makes its mark. And this year, it’s LDP/Laboratory Dance Project from South Korea.
Now on stage at the Ted Shawn Theatre, this contemporary dance ensemble metes out a rush of testosterone. All male (though women do make up LDP, they stayed back in Seoul), the group combines contemporary dance with martial arts and hip-hop in a seamless, and often understated manner. But the artistry, kinetic surge and drama of the work is emphatic. It was undeniable in two of the pieces, “Modern Feeling,” choreographed by Insoo Lee, and “No Comment,” created by Chang Ho Shin.
LDP’s choreographers are also its dancers. Even its artistic director, Chang Ho Shin, is a dancer. That means everyone involved is invested in its success.
Certainly, the ensemble’s performance was a success at the Pillow. But it started slowly with the opening work, “Are You Happy to See Me?” Composed by Mi Sook Jeon, the dark piece elicited thoughts of imprisonment and torture. It begins with Dongkyu Kim laid out flat — just his lower body illuminated. His isolation was accented by the dark stage on which only a chicken wire stretched across a wooden frame could be seen.
Dongkyu Kim looked around, stood, fell and stumbled. As he melted into darkness, four others appeared, lined up along the wings. They sliced their arms with their flattened hands and appeared to shake and roll invisible dice. The mood swung from frantic to calm as the men either slashed at each other or supported each other’s falls. This culminated in the ensemble jointly convulsing as if undergoing electrocution.
After what seemed an eternity of suffering, Sung Hoon Kim stepped forth, to the very edge of the stage, and raised his arms to release something to the heavens — a signal that his mind, body and soul took flight. It could have ended there, but it didn’t. The men reached out to each other and tumbled away.
While it was a fascinating piece, the second half, with “Modern Feeling” and “No Comment,” was breathtaking. “Modern Feeling” was a duet with Lee and Jinyook Ryu. And while duets can often feel overwrought, this one was absorbing. With interlocking arms, the pair at first bonded, spooning each other’s poses. This unity was shattered as they crashed into each other. Facing off on opposite ends of the stage, they charged, combining contact improvisation with martial art skills and fluid hip-hop moves.
“No Comment” was equally dazzling. This ensemble piece, with the men in jackets and sneakers, affirmed their facility as extraordinary hip-hopsters. As the dancers flipped, flailed, stomped and then rushed through the aisles, one could feel their taut energy. It was both frightening and thrilling.