Kisaeng becomes you (2008)

A multimedia performance collaboration conceived by Dean Moss with acclaimed Korean modern and traditional dance choreographer Yoon Jin Kim. The work is based on a chance encounter with 500 year old “love” poetry written by kisaeng: artist/courtesans of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty [1400-1900]. It lead to a recognition of the enduring relevance of traditional expressions of emotion and how, given the appropriate translation, cultural otherness, and distance, both geographic and chronologic, disappear. The project incorporates music by experimental composer and Korean ex-patriot, Okkyung Lee.   Commissioned by Dance Theater Workshop and produced in partnership with the Seoul International Dance Festival, the work was developed both in Korea and at the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography in Tallahassee, Florida. 

Complete performance: (here)  Memoirs of a Kisaeng... by Christine Mok (here)

Cast and Credits

Kisaeng becomes you  is a co-presentation of the Seoul International Dance Festival (SIDance) and Dance Theater Workshop (DTW) with Gametophyte Inc. and Yoon Jin Kim Dance Co.

Concept & Construction: Dean Moss and Yoon Jin Kim

Cast: Yu Ri Bae, Ji Sun Kwen, Mi Hyun Lee, So Yeoun Lim and Jeong Eun Yang

Original Music: Okkyung Lee

Audio and Visual Design: Dean Moss

Costumes: Joomin Kim with Dean Moss and Yoon Jin Kim

Poem Translation: Wolhee Choe and Constantine Contogenis

Kisaeng becomes you  was commissioned by Dance Theater Workshop and received production support from the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography.  It is honored to be the first project to benefit from the new institutional partnership between DTW and MANCC.  The project is also being supported by a Multi-Arts Production Fund grant  (supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation) and an Asian Cultural Council Fellowship.

Kisaeng becomes you  received residency and development support from Kookmin University and is generously sponsored by Korea Foundation Arts Council Korea and the Korean Cultural Service NY.

Special Thanks to Young Moon for her early and continuous support of this work; to Seo Young Park for her work as an understudy; to Eunhee Lee for her assistance developing  movement material; to Carla Peterson, Jong-Ho Lee and Shinah Kim for taking on the production; to Katie Lee for her translation, and to Nick Shearer and Stefan Jacobs for their technical assistance.

“kisaeng - made me weep.

The entry point for the audience into the work through the vessels of the audience participant members was so wrought with “real” energy and vulnerability - both for the work (will this work?) and for the participants (will they survive this? are they okay?) - that I was buzzing in my chair. They made the experience of the “Other” so alive for me. This could be the experience of the courtesan, the contemporary artist, the traveller, the immigrant. “I’m new here” - “What are the rules” The care and detail taken with those moments was so effective as a work that allowed the audience member to experience a work from the inside...”

-Maura Donohue, WNYC Performance Club

"Characteristically, silent about historical events, institutions, and ideologies, she [the kisaeng] projects, instead, an image of a woman who is disciplined against the values of sentimentality but also disciplined to recognize and cherish authentic sentiment within herself."         -Wolhee Choe


Everything you do

by Songi

Everything you do, everything

you don't do, deceives.

When I love I make you

my enemy.

But the words you spoke

keep themselves within me.

So, What Is This Love?


So, what is this love?

Is it round or flat;

is it long or short enough to be

paced off or laid beside a ruler?

Some say it lasts as long as it lessens;

mine breaks to a sharp edge within me.

Were There Two


Were there two lives for us,

you would become me, and I you.

Becoming me, you would still desire

me and so tear yourself as I for you.

Only turn yourself around to see all

my life, to know all my pain.

gametophyte inc.home.html