Young Soon Kim with The Village Green

By Theresa Johnson

On Friday, July 13, I was treated to a dance/musical extravaganza when the Louisville-based ensemble, The Village Green, teamed up with Young Soon Kim, an acclaimed Korean modern dancer who was a recipient of the Nureyev Scholarship from the Martha Graham school. The performance took place at the Kentucky Center for the Arts' Mex Theater. (I'll never consider Friday the 13th unlucky again!)

Perhaps extravaganza may not be the right word because it felt intimate enough to have been performed in my backyard. This intimacy with the audience was due in part to the structure of the Mex, which is an unassuming room with flat, black walls contrasted with brightly covered red and green director's chairs. Because the audience was part of the stage, the traditional separateness between audience and performer – associated with a proscenium stage – did not exist. At times I felt I could reach out and touch Young Soon Kim while she danced.

Enough said about stages. Ms. Kim performed four very provocative and varied dances titled: "Ride a Whale," "Duet with the New Moon," "White Wave Rising" and the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood." I especially enjoyed "White Wave Rising" because this piece combined the elements of music, dance and poetry — all under one auspicious umbrella. A poem, spoken by Steven Ratiner, describes a wave rising and he invites each of us to "dance along the crest of its becoming." (The wave being a fill-in-the blank" metaphor for each listener to attach his or her own interpretation.) This wave motif is then skillfully tossed back and forth between The Village Green, who interpreted the motif musically, to Ms. Kim, whose whirling white figure became the visual representation of a frothy wave. While watching Ms. Kim I could actually feel the waters turbulent motion!

Ms. Kim's performance concluded with "Norwegian Wood." Dressed in a flowing peach negligee, she danced the role – to perfection – of a slightly naughty mistress who wouldn't think twice about making her lover "sleep in the bath." Being a former dancer and ballet buff myself, I think it is with some authority that I can say that Young Soon Kim is a vert animated dancer. She uses every limb and muscle, every gesture and facial feature to the fullest extent in expressing her art.

As I mentioned earlier, The Village Green provided the musical accompaniment for two of Ms. Kim's dances: "White Wave Rising" and "Norwegian Wood." "White Wave Rising" is a New-Age influenced piece that uses harmony in a non-traditional way to give the listener a feeling of space and openness. The rhythms are simple and repetitive – but not in at negative sense. Jahn's meandering saxophone is as sensual and hypnotic to the ears a snake charmer's flute. The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood," was performed in the same New Age, Windham Hillish vein by elongating the song on the harmony.

In between dances the ensemble performed a ten-minute instrumental called "The Village Green." This piece was well-rehearsed and appropriate intermission music that showcased both Reid Jahn on saxophone and Pat Lentz on guitar.

In my program notes it states that The Village Green performs with a fusion of styles, moods and ethnic influences." This I can believe! I also believe that band is strongly New-Age oriented as well in that they use simple, stretched-out melodies, repetitive rhythms and non-conventional harmonies to create a free-flowing, open, airy feeling, which is typical of this genre of music.

The Village Green consists of Reid Jahn on tenor and soprano sax, flutes and keyboards; Pat Lentz on electric and acoustic guitar; Courtney Culligan on drums; and Doug Erwin on bass. Following the program I had the opportunity to chat with Jahn, the ensemble's multi-faceted, slightly mystic leader who a sported a day-glo, lemon- meringue-colored shirt. I think the shirt was foreshadowing for the interesting and colorful interview that followed!

Jahn started playing piano and various. other instruments at age five, advancing to the guitar at fifteen. I asked him about his musical schooling and he said: "Schooling to me is anything that helps me get out what I musically feel." He confided that he is still "in school" because he is always learning. Jahn's philosophy about music is that "it is the basic vibration and harmony of all things." (I. told you he was mystic!) Music to him is the backbone of cultural expression, from tribal African cultures to the Celtic culture. I concluded our interview by asking him how working with Young Soon Kim influenced the ensermble's performance, Reid stated that "we are both playing off of one another with her body . . . her movements of her are our notes." To Reid Jahn, working with Ms. Kim was the same as working with his guitarist, Pat, except he was not as familiar with her motifs.

I left the Mex Theater feeling a little bit more spiritually enlightened than when I entered. Watching the give-and-take of Young Soon Kim and The Village Green, the artistic "playing off of one of another," made me realize that although dance and music are different art forms, both strive to speak to our hearts. Music and dance both search for creative and fresh ways of commenting upon the human condition. In the program notes Reid Jahn states that The Village Green is a group "dedicated to expressing our life-understanding through the color and movement of sound." In my estimation, both this ensemble and Young Soon Kim are well on their way to achievingthis end.