10 NovComposer Interview: The Shamanic Side of Dohee Lee
Photo: Jason Lew
Also posted on Urban Modes
Photo: Jason Lew
Dohee Lee is a fascinating dancer, musician, and vocalist currently working in San Fransisco. She grew up on Jeju Island in South Korea, where shamanic traditions are very strong. Her current work fuses these ancient forms and traditions with contemporary elements.
Building new artistic relationships is one of the great joys of being in ETHEL. Our work with Dohee marks the beginning of a new relationship, and we are thrilled to bring her work to life. The performance will take place at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City on April 11 at 8 p.m.
Dohee has created a very beautifully written artistic statement. I particularly love the opening sentence:
“I passionately believe by practicing art we can commune with spirits to express and share our thoughts and ideas on vital issues such as identity, politics, nature, and spirituality.”
Here’s a recent interview I conducted with Dohee:
Dufallo: Can you name some of your artistic influences?
Lee: Anna Halprin (choreographer and dancer), Kronos Quartet, Korean Pansori singer Sohee Kim, Diamanda Galas, Meredith Monk, John Cage, Francis Wong, Tatsu Aoki, Larry Ochs, and many books, including Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching” and the Korean ancient book “Chunbukyung 81 Letters”.
Dufallo: How long have you been creating music/movement? How and why did you start?
Lee: I started studying dance when I was 16, full of desire and passion. Then naturally music became part of the movement. After that I could not deny how my heart was pounding for music, so I started studying Korean traditional percussion music after I finished dance in college.
However, the starting point for creating music and dance was when I moved to America in 2002. I was trying to focus more on what I wanted to do, and I realized that this is what I have to do in my life. Out of this contemplation came the PURI Project. Puri means “releasing suppressed spirits” in Korean. I wanted to release myself from suppressed stress and sprits. While doing this PURI Project and art, I started believing that audiences can also be healed and experience release by watching and participating in the performance. Although I started doing this to heal myself, I now do it with the belief that the everyone–audience and other performers–can be transformed. Performance to me is a form of ritual.
Dufallo: Can you talk a little bit about your creative process?
Lee: I read books, research, write, and draw a lot. Writing down and drawing all of my thoughts and ideas is one my biggest pleasures in the creative process. Sometimes it looks very abstract at first but it becomes clearer as time passes. And researching is the biggest adventure to discover something that connects to the work and myself. In addition to this fact, it really fulfills many different aspects of my work.
Dufallo: What is the role of the creative performer in society?
Lee: This is a hard question. I think performers are educators, magicians, and healers. They touch people’s hearts and souls in many different ways through different media like visuals, sound, and physical and spiritual forms. These are very necessary for society.
Dufallo: Any advice for younger artists?
Lee: [Laughs] This is the most difficult question so far because I am the one who needs to hear this advice from the artists. However, at this point even though I am still a young artist, I would like say “do not limit yourself.” That is a very important quality. As I mentioned before, I started dance first. I never thought that I was going to compose music but I really opened myself up to everything. I interpret unexpected events as gifts that always come to you but if you are not ready to receive them, you will miss the message. So I want to say, “Do not limit yourself, and love yourself because whatever you do is always connected to life and influences your art.” The arts can come from everywhere when you start opening up and recognizing it.