Review: Dancing Grandmothers, OzAsia Festival

Diana Carroll

A curious cultural melange of grannies, glitterballs, and modern dance.
Review: Dancing Grandmothers, OzAsia Festival

Dancing Grandmothers at OzAsia Festival. Photo by Young Mo Choe.

South Korean choreographer Eun-Me Ahn seems to have hit on a winning formula with Dancing Grandmothers, billed as an 'ode to the women who have been the backbone of her country' and 'a touching celebration of life.' 

The show was created in 2010 when Ahn took some of her dance company and three cameras on a road trip around Korea.  They met and filmed older women sharing their dance moves in the street, in shops, at home, and on the beach. These were real people, not professional dancers, all aged 60-90 years old. Your granny and my granny shaking it for the camera.

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These films are projected onto the stage and accompanied by Ahn’s company of nine dancers and ten grandmothers. The professional dancers are superb and Ahn’s choreography is both exciting and insightful. These are colourful, intense displays of precision and exuberance. I wanted these passages to go on and on. 

It’s a little different when they are joined on stage by the grandmothers. The grandmothers smile and display considerable ease and grace as they move with the dancers. These passages do feel like any grandmother indulging the whims of her children and grandchildren. They look happy but seem a little bemused to be there. 

There is no doubt that the audience love and respect them. And the more outgoing members of the audience didn’t need to be asked twice to join the company on stage for the glittering finale.

My reservations about this show relate to the projections of those original films. The audience laugh as these grannies show their moves. But are we laughing with them or at them?  And if it was your granny and my granny, would it still be funny?  Is it funny because they are ‘the other’, Korean grannies being used as a cultural curiosity for our amusement? For me, this raised some discomfiting questions that overshadowed the artistic excellence of the dancers.

3 stars ★★★

Dancing Grandmothers

Creative Cast

Eun-Me Ahn: Choreographer/Director/Dancer    

Eun-Me Ahn is an associated artist to Théâtre de la Ville

Dancing Grandmothers played at the Dunstan Playhouse for 3 performances only

October 25 – 27, 2018

OzAsia Festival

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Dr Diana Carroll is a writer, speaker, and reviewer based in Adelaide. Her work has been published in newspapers and magazines including the SMH, the Oz, Woman's Day, and B&T. Writing about the arts is one of her great passions.