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[Herald Review] Exemplifying poetry in motion, ‘Scent of Ink’ explores harmony, heritage

Inspired by the works of celebrated choreographer Choi Hyeon, “The Scent of Ink,” in which stunningly lavish Korean costuming clashes with chic and contemporary choreography in a modernized dance production, is a much-needed homage to time-honored traditions.

In an hour-long performance that is as aesthetically pleasing as is it moving, the National Dance Company of Korea’s latest rendition of “The Scent of Ink” attempts to approach the framework of Korean philosophy via nonverbal yet expressively interpretive dance moments. Featuring elegant hanbok by notable fashion designer Jung Kuho, the production was influenced by the history of traditional Korean ink painting.
A promotional image for the National Dance Company of Korea’s performance of “The Scent of Ink.” (National Theater of Korea)
A promotional image for the National Dance Company of Korea’s performance of “The Scent of Ink.” (National Theater of Korea)

“‘The Scent of Ink’ rather highlight(s) the sophisticated and unique aspects of tradition by expanding and expressing more traditional aesthetic elements,” according to a statement by Yun Sung-joo, artistic director of the National Dance Company of Korea. “Its concept and costume style are designed for traditional dance, however another form of dance language different from (our) existing one was needed.”

The six-scene dance production concentrates on the four plants said to epitomize the country’s Confucian philosophy: the plum blossom (spring), orchid (summer), chrysanthemum (autumn) and bamboo (winter). Each scene tells the story of a new movement, a different stroke of the brush, each representing a distinct scent.

With the sounds of sanjo (instrumental music) and jeonga (traditional opera) filling the air as the performers on stage move with poise and grace ― highlighting even the slightest movements of their hands ― “The Scent of Ink” has refined the sheer artistry of ancient customs through modern dance.

Running simultaneously with the NDCK’s production of “The Scent of Ink” is the show “Altar.” Also taking a contemporary approach to oriental philosophies through illustrative body movement, “Altar” delves into the human psyche and its never-ending struggle to maintain balance amidst chaos and inner spiritual conflicts.

“‘Altar’ and ‘The Scent of Ink’ shed new light on Korean traditional dance from diverse perspectives and angles to bring out a sense of visual and sensational freshness,” said director Jung Ku-ho. “The two works have similarities in the modern way of expressing tradition, but differences in their viewpoints about translating tradition.”

“The Scent of Ink” will hit the stage once again on Thursday and Saturday nights, while “Altar” will have its final showing on Friday. Both performances will be held at the National Theater of Korea in Jangchung-dong, Seoul. Tickets range from 20,000 won to 70,000 won. For more information, call (02) 2280-4114 or visit

By Julie Jackson (
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Korea Herald daum