Jungwoong Kim’s SaltSoul

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Photo by Annie Seng

In the face of a constant stream of personal and global tragedy, what role can art play in mediating private and communal grief?

Dance and theater artist Jungwoong Kim explores that question in his newest work, SaltSoul. Supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, SaltSoul will debut at Asian Arts Initiative, located at 1219 Vine Street, with performances October 6, 7, and 8 at 8 p.m.

Part installation, part performance, SaltSoul delves into the meaning of sudden loss, allowing viewers to engage in the improvisational piece and bring their own personal experience to bear. “Disasters—both near and distant—change us in ways that escape words,” Kim says. “Loss reveals truths about ourselves and the ties that connect us. In creating SaltSoul and bringing it to public places, my goal is to conjure a shared sense of self-awareness and community in times of mourning.”

Born and raised in South Korea, Jungwoong Kim had extensive training in martial arts and Korean traditional dance and ritual, both of which strongly inform his artistic vision and aesthetic. After graduating from Korea National University of the Arts in Seoul with a BFA in choreography, he performed and toured throughout Korea and Asia with the award-winning dance/theater group Trust Dance, and with other ensembles. Jungwoong’s choreographic and collaborative works were presented at the National Theater of Korea and supported by the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture. In 2005 an award from the Arts Council of Korea brought him to New York City for advanced studies in Contact Improvisation and choreography. Since settling in Philadelphia in 2010, Jungwoong has maintained an active creative practice, collaborating with his dance and life partner Marion Ramirez. A 2014 artist in residence at Asian Arts Initiative (AAI), he received a grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage in support of his performance work, SaltSoul

Merging traditional and improvisational movement and music, SaltSoul investigates three tragedies that have had profound impacts on Kim —the sudden death of his father in a car accident in South Korea more than 30 years ago, the capsized ferry that killed nearly 300 high school students in Kim’s native South Korea in April 2014, and the 2013 Salvation Army building collapse in Philadelphia which killed 6 and seriously injured 13 others—an event that Kim personally witnessed.

SaltSoul will be performed by Kim and a multi-talented team of collaborators: Germaine Ingram, Marion Ramirez, Merian Soto, Bhob Rainey, and gamin, a renowned master of traditional Korean music. Filmmaker Fred Hatt collaborated with Kim on video projections.

The performance will begin outside Asian Arts Initiative in the Pearl Street Corridor with an invocation piece that is free and open to the public. From there, ticket-holding audience members will be invited inside to explore the center’s three floors and move, along with the performers, through imagined environments evoked by sound and light installations.

SaltSoul is supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and is part of a Performing Artist Residency Program of Asian Arts Initiative.