The Korea Herald


[Herald Review] ‘Zzz’ lulls audience to sleep through onstage performance

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Nov. 1, 2023 - 16:59

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Performers rehearse a scene from Performers rehearse a scene from "Zzz." (SFAC)

A new contemporary performance taking place in Seoul gently lulls its audience to sleep.

The three-hour performance of "Zzz," which kicked off Tuesday at the Quad in Daehagno, allows the audience to lie down and take a nap at any time during the show.

Choreographer Hwang Soo-hyun, known for "Sense of Black" and "Cavae," has long strived to break the barriers between the stage and the audience, delving into unique sensory experiences during her performances.

In April, "Cavae" premiered with the National Contemporary Dance Company, revealing the enigmatic, stadium-like backstage of the Haeoreum Theater.

In "Zzz," Hwang takes her vision to the realm of sleep -- “an often-neglected aspect of human existence.”

Performers rehearse a scene from Performers rehearse a scene from "Zzz" during a rehearsal open to the press on Monday. (Yonhap)

Entering the theater, the audience is asked to remove their shoes and personal items, and can make themselves cozy on the floor. Mats, cushions and blankets were laid out in each corner of the space.

The atmosphere of the dimly lit hall was slightly chilly, even on a bright, sunny Monday afternoon when the rehearsal was open to the press. The light from outside had been completely blocked.

The dreamy music softly playing in the distance gently guides the audience into a somewhat uneasy nap.

About 30 minutes into the performance, six dancers enter the hall. They start from the second floor, seemingly floating or gliding weightlessly, their movements deliberate and unhurried. In fact, lying on your mat, there's no need to pay too much attention to the dancers’ movements.

The hushed, tentative footsteps of the dancers, the rustling of the restless audience members, and other sensory elements ebb and flow. At times, the performers faintly whistle and gently hum -- whether the purpose is to rouse the audience or provide a soothing auditory backdrop is unclear.

“I am interested in how the physical experience unfolds between performing and viewing,” said Hwang. “In ‘Zzz,’ specifically, the theme of shared sensory experiences is explored. Sleep is an extremely private activity. I wanted to expand and transform it into a communal one through the act of ‘sleeping together.’”

"While watching the performance, if drowsiness overtakes you, embrace it, ‘Ah, I am drifting into a slumber.’ If you hear the sound of someone else snoring, simply acknowledge that ‘Someone else is finding their rest.'” Hwang said.

"Zzz" runs until Nov. 12, except on Mondays, starting at 2 p.m. each day. The three-hour duration was chosen to allow the audience enough time to unwind and enjoy the experience in the theater.