Interpreting anguish of sudden loss, dance set at Center City site of fatal collapse

Jungwoong Kim rehearses a pop-up dance to be performed Thursday night in the now-vacant lot where a Salvation Army thrift store collapsed in 2013

Jungwoong Kim rehearses a pop-up dance to be performed Thursday night in the now-vacant lot where a Salvation Army thrift store collapsed in 2013

A Philadelphia dance company will perform an original work Thursday evening at the place where a Salvation Army thrift store collapsed two years ago. Six people died in that disaster.

At the time, Jungwoong Kim, a Korean choreographer living in Philadelphia, was teaching at the Science Leadership Academy charter school near 22nd and Market. He had just started home on his bicycle when a brick wall undergoing demolition fell on top of the neighboring Salvation Army store.

“I saw sirens and then the collapsed building, smoke,” said Kim “I was standing there with my bicycle for a half hour looking at that tragedy. I couldn’t say anything. I went home. My heart was beating hard.”

kimChoreographer Jungwoong Kim works with his dance troupe at the Asian Arts Initiative. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

He had had the same feeling 30 years before, when he was told his father was suddenly killed in a car accident. He was 10 years old at the time. Now, he is better able to explore feelings of grief.

As an artist in residence at the Philadelphia Asian Arts Initiative, he is creating a series of dances in different locations about the sudden loss of loved ones — including his father’s accident; the collapse of the Salvation Army building; and the sinking of a Korean passenger ferry in 2014, which killed 304 people, most of them children.

The performance will feature four dancers, two musicians, and a video projectionist. The movements were developed both through ensemble improvisation and Kim’s study of traditional Korean dance, containing elements of religious shamanism.

“We’re using shamanism as an aesthetic influence,” said Jermaine Ingram, one of Kim’s collaborators. “The way the foot touches the ground, the use of objects, the relationship of one person to another, the relationship to space and time. It isn’t an attempt to replicate shamanic ceremony.”

Thursday night’s performance will be followed on Sunday by a different performance in Dilworth Park, focused on the 2014 Korean Sewol ferry disaster. Both will inform a longer piece, SaltSoul, to be performed in October at the Asian Arts Initiative.

Thursday’s performance will feature video projection. It will begin after sundown, at 9 p.m., on the sidewalk adjacent to the vacant lot.

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