Get to Know Camera Obscura Art Lab Studio Resident DaEun Jung

January 2, 2019 12:53 PM
by Naomi Okuyama

DaEun Jun, photo by Ella Gabrial

What drew you to study traditional Korean dance, and then contemporary dance?

I believe I have been a contemporary dance practitioner ever since I started dancing at age 12. Among all the dance trainings I have had, classical Korean dance was what most engaged my body and my cultural, educational, and vocational backgrounds in Korea. Now I am glad that I study Korean dance in a contemporary art frame. After relocating myself out of my native country, contemporary dance has been a medium through which I can communicate my traditional dance practice with contemporary viewers.

DaEun Jung in a traditional Janggu dance. 

Can anyone dance? 

Yep. Even the tree outside of the window can dance. Sometimes, actually in many occasions, the role of an artist (choreographer) is to put things in your daily life interestingly on a plate called art (dance). And I love doing that.  

What are some of the differences you see between professional dance and social dance? Between traditional and contemporary? Virtuosic and pedestrian modes? 

There are many differences that viewers can observe and performers realize between concert-oriented professional dances and dances in community settings. I would rather blur the boundaries of these binary concepts and challenge those misconceptions, such as "virtuosity comes from professionally trained dancers’ graceful techniques." I strive to find virtuosity in communal effort. Through the medium of group dance—which may consist of pedestrian moves—I invent methods to weave simple moves into a complex composition. 

I seek places where professional and community dances meet, "traditional" and "contemporary" meet, and "virtuosic" and "pedestrian" meet. This investigation was prompted by choreographic discovery while I was working on deconstructing classical Korean dance vocabulary with post-modern ideas. I realized that, after deconstruction, de-stylized moves from classical Korean dance idiom looked similar to everyday gestures in contemporary life. These movements can connect different times and spaces. 

DaEun Jung invites vegetables into her home in Invitation at Glorya Kaufman Theater, UCLA 2018, photo by Ella Gabrial.

The concept of an Earthian Folk Dance is very intriguing. Can there be such a thing as a universal vernacular? Isn’t that an oxymoron?  

Thank you for this thought-provoking question. Not an oxymoron. The word “folk” used in Earthian Folk Dance attaches more weight to the universal nature of the practice shared in the given group. The two words, “Earthian” and “Folk”, jointly support “universality” from the insiders’ perspectives, yet also can support particularity/singularity—again jointly—from any outsider perspective (e.g. Martians?) 

DaEun Jung and Wilfried Souly in 43152 at Glorya Kaufman Theater, UCLA 2018, photo by Ella Gabrial.

It seems as if folk dances are “for” something – they are connected to a communal meaning, whether it’s celebration of an equinox, propitiation of a deity, marking the crossover between youth and adulthood, etc. Whereas some contemporary dance, like contemporary art, has a contingent relationship to meaning, and allows for a variable and individual interpretation. What is the Earthian Folk Dance for and what does it mean? 

It has the “communal meaning” that most folk dances share. EFD is “for” participants’ connectedness. It celebrates not particular objects, places or times outside of the dance, but the subjects of the dance—the group of the participants as united bodies. It generates physical excitement, synergized in the group, and subsequently expanded to the spectators in space. What it challenges is adherence to the traditions amongst existing folk dances. EFD seeks innovation, so it transforms through contemporary bodies. I can say EFD is a “contemporary folk dance”. Oh, this can be an oxymoron! 

DaEun Jung teaching Sogo dance, 2018. 

What do you think the participants in your weekly public events will come away with? 

After each event, I hope the participants feel the sense of accomplishment shared with one another like after finishing a team project or winning a soccer game, therefore, the sense of belonging as Earthians. 

Who should come to your events?  

Anyone. Even the tree can come! 


DaEun Jung is a Studio Resident at the Camera Obscura Art Lab January 9 to April 17, 2019. During her tenure she is developing an “Earthian Folk Dance,” based on the concept of a group dance that reconciles folk, social, and virtuosic dance forms for all inhabitants of our planet. Her weekly events draw deeply from her Korean heritage and present opportunities to explore rhythm and movement, nurture communal and cultural awareness between neighbors, and foster a sense of kinesthetic excitement through participatory dancing. View a list of her workshops here.

DaEun Jung is a dance maker, dancer, and dance teacher. Rooted in her Korean dance/cultural background, DaEun’s work reveals her past and present body memories, and redefines the principles and movement vocabulary of Korean folk dance in inter/multi-cultural settings. Her works have been presented at art and community venues including Electric Lodge, Highways, REDCAT and the Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles. DaEun has been awarded artist-in-residencies from Dance Resource Center at KYCC Menlo Center, Show Box LA at We Live in Space, and Los Angeles Performance Practice at Automata. She has also worked as a guest choreographer at Santa Monica College. She received an MFA in Dance from the UCLA World Arts and Cultures/Dance Department and the Westfield Emerging Artist Award. DaEun has worked with Victoria Marks (LA), Milka Djordjevich (LA), Ros Warby (Australia), Wilfried Souly (Burkina Faso), Jeanine Durning (New York), Shahar Biniamini (Israel), Melinda Ring (New York), and Won Kim (France). 

Authored By

Naomi Okuyama
Cultural Affairs Supervisor