The New Zealand Dance Company’s premiere of Kiss The Sky, opening at this month’s end, orbits about the themes of the seasons, the southern sky, and ideas of death and rebirth. This triple bill performance features the company’s first-ever commissioned piece from Korean choreographer Kim Jae Duk.

Kim’s work Sigan (time), inspired by the vibrant blue of the sky, explores the extremes of serenity and chaos. For him, the seasons, sky, and time are important elements of the natural world to which he is secondary.

Dancer Carl Tolentino describes being a part of Kim’s creative process as being a type of surrender. “Like a player in chess and [the dancers] are pawns… we are swayed, moved, sacrificed, to orchestrate this beautiful work and in the end it belongs to each dancer entirely.” For this dancer, the meaning of the sky has become one to do with the lack of limits: “…Never ending, something to look out at and engulfs the self, making you feel small, insignificant but also strong, solid where you can reach out in hope and ambition.”

The score of Sigan melds modernity with tradition; it is a contemporary composition starring traditional Korean instruments. The choreographer’s interpretation of this music will be interesting to witness – in his previous work Bolero, Kim had wanted to “conquer [the music’s] logic with [his] movement and choreography.”

Choreographer and universal thinker Kim Jae Duk.

Though Kim’s background choreographing for South Korea’s booming entertainment industry means he has a profound understanding of what makes art popular, mass appeal isn’t what he strives for in his work – “A great choreographer to me is someone who can separate the notions of being universal and popular.”

Universality in a work, “a work that speaks further beyond [the choreographer] or the dancers involved” is something Tolentino also believes makes great dance. A great choreographer can make a work that “connects the viewer to challenge them emotionally and leaves a mental scar of their experience,” he says.


Kiss the Sky runs from Thursday 29 June 2017 until Saturday 1st July at the Bruce Mason Centre, Auckland. Tickets are available here.

Dancer extraordinaire Carl Tolentino. Photo by John McDermott.