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Pivot Pointe
August 24, 2023

In Conversation With Movement Momm’s Founder Sae Hyun Kwon

Founder of Movement Momm & Artist at Universal Ballet

Movement Momm is a project-based company, striving to explore the beauty and relationships of traditional and modern Art, through physical movement. 

Combined the company name evokes our company concept. The means of communication and expression through the movement of the body.
Movement -Not only limited to dance but other forms of expressing one’s self with the body. Momm means “body” in Korean. The instrument we use to express ourselves is our body. The use of both English and Korean embodies the company idea of East and West. We want to explore both cultural ideas and values and combine them to create and discover new works.

About Sae Hyun Kwon
Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, Sae Hyun Kwon attended The Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington D.C. before returning to Korea to continue her education at the Korea National University of Arts. Upon graduation, she joined Dutch National Ballet where she performed a wide range of repertoire including Christopher Wheeldon’s production of Cinderella. She then joined Norwegian National Ballet and after Polish National Ballet performing roles including Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort, and John Neumeier’s La Dame aux camélias, to name just a few. In 2019 she returned to Korea with a wealth of experience and knowledge from dancing in Europe and joined Universal Ballet Company as a Demi Soloist. Since returning to Korea she has gained a Master of Arts Degree in Ballet and is currently pursuing a PhD at Sejong University. 

After choreographing for her Master's Degree graduation performance in 2022, she founded Movement Momm at the beginning of 2023.

Q: You have had an extensive career, having danced in the Dutch National Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet, Polish National Ballet, and now back on home turf in Korea for Universal Ballet. How have these companies shaped your career?

Sae Hyun Kwon: All of these companies have given me a wealth of performance experience, including both corps de ballet and solo roles. Being on stage and dancing in these roles has allowed me to accumulate a vast amount of experience. In addition, working with different choreographers and performing various types of repertoire, including classical, neoclassical, modern, and contemporary pieces, has had a huge impact on my career.

While I initially thought I hated choreography, I discovered my interest in it while preparing for my graduation performance for my master's degree. I found that I enjoyed discovering diverse movements with our bodies, moving in ways that were outside of the traditional classical repertoire. Working with dancers from foreign countries and different backgrounds made this exploration even more enjoyable.

I started a project called Movement Momm, which combines English and Korean words to create a unique name. This project focuses on neoclassical choreography, which is not as popular in Korea as contemporary pieces. However, my experience with neoclassical repertoire in Europe has made it easier for me to choreograph in this style.

While many dancers in Korea prefer contemporary ballet because it is easier and more accessible, I hope to continue exploring neoclassical choreography through my work with Movement Momm.

Photo by YoonSik Kim

Q: What inspired the creation of Movement Momm, and what is the vision behind the collective?

Sae Hyun: In the world of ballet, most companies are a mixture of different nationalities and cultures, and Movement Momm is no exception. However, we are unique in that we have seven or eight dancers from four different countries.

Working with these dancers is a collaborative process, and their diverse experiences and cultures help shape the choreography. By integrating Eastern and Western influences, we hope to create works that appeal to a wide range of audiences.

For example, while many Asians appreciate classical ballet, they may find contemporary or neoclassical styles challenging to understand. By finding a middle ground that incorporates elements of both Eastern and Western cultures, we aim to make our performances accessible to everyone and convey our message effectively.

Q: How do you hope your performances will impact audience understanding?

Sae Hyun: I hope to impact audiences in two ways. Firstly, I want to promote dance to Asian audiences and expand their knowledge. Secondly, I want to expand Western culture's understanding that there is much to offer from an Eastern perspective.

I also want Movement Momm's choreography to be seen as an art form in its entirety. When we perform on stage, everything from the sets to the background music to the costumes is an art form. I want to show people that we are all parts of one art form, not just separate entities.

I aim to create an immersive experience for audiences, taking dance beyond the stage and into beautifully designed architectural buildings with interior landscapes. The dance pieces will blend in with the location, creating a synergy that becomes streamlined.

Photo by YoonSik Kim

Q: How does Movement Momm engage with the larger dance community, and what role do you see yourselves playing in the industry as a whole?

Sae Hyun: Although we have just started this project, we hope to connect more with the larger dance community, especially overseas. Korea has a strong performance industry, and we are excited to be a part of the growing community. We would also love to share our works internationally and collaborate with like-minded artists. Recently, we performed at a Korean improvisation festival with various other Korean group artists. It was interesting and inspiring to see other groups perform and learn from them.

We have a YouTube channel and plan to release works, especially made for the platform, over the next year. Our first work, "Shapes", has already been released and received a good reaction. We have many projects lined up and are currently working on individual projects where each artist has the opportunity to create something that speaks to them. They will all be available to watch on YouTube.

Q: What exciting projects or performances can audiences look forward to from Movement Momm in the near future?

Sae Hyun: Movement Momm is excited to announce a collaboration with famous Korean photographer Kang YoungHo. Together we are working to find each individual’s character and create an interesting multi-disciplinary piece. While we are exploring and creating this work, he is photographing us and capturing the development of our characters, which will later be used as part of the performance. Through this process, we hope to discover aspects of our performance that we have never noticed before. Once we have developed our characters a little more, we will begin the choreographic creative process.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring dancers and creatives who are interested in exploring cross-cultural influences in their work?

Sae Hyun: My advice is to just go for it. It's better to try and not succeed than to never know what could have been. When I asked seven or eight dancers if they were interested in exploring cross-cultural influences in our work, I was pleasantly surprised by their support and eagerness.

Of course, taking risks comes with great responsibility, but I believe it's important to push ourselves beyond what we think we're capable of. For example, I never thought I could create a graduation choreography, but I drew upon my experiences and found that it came naturally to me.

Trying new things can be scary, but it's worth it. In our ballet company, we don't create many new works, so being a part of something where we can be creative and have a say in our ideas and culture is exciting and has helped us grow as artists and individuals.

In such a short career, it's not even worth thinking about what happens if you don't try. If you're always too scared to try, then you'll run out of time. I wish I had learned this earlier in my career, but it's never too late to take risks and explore new possibilities.

Q: How can individuals and communities support Movement Momm?

Sae Hyun: Of course, the best way to support us is to follow us on Instagram and YouTube! By liking, commenting, and sharing our photos and videos more people are able to discover us and enjoy our work! We are also always looking for collaborators, such as artists, musicians, designers, architects, and art galleries. Any sponsorship or funding would be greatly appreciated, as we are a startup. We are seeking like-minded individuals who want to be a part of our journey and help us support others. We are committed to creating performance-based work, whether that is for live theatre performances or film performances, but our creations can also be used as advertisements for companies looking to collaborate with us. We would also appreciate the support from non-art related sources, as we believe we can be quite useful for their advertisements.

Photo by YoonSik Kim

Top Image: Photo by YoungHo Kang

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