Sin Cha Hong

Article Bio Works Merits Projects
Performing Arts (dance)
Asia, Eastern
Korea, South (Republic of Korea)
created on:
July 10, 2003
last changed on:
Please note: This page has not been updated since October 17, 2003. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
information provided by:
Sin Cha Hong
Sin Cha Hong is a choreographer, dancer, vocalist and author. © Nan Melville


Korean avant-garde dancer

Sin Cha Hong is one of Korea´s most influential artists of the 20th century. She is the first avantgarde modern dancer in Korea, she is famous as a meditation master, and also a best-seller writer. Her works are dealing with themes like life and death, human and nature.
Dancer, choreographer, and vocalist Sin Cha Hong is one of Korea´s most influential contemporary performing artists.

Hong creates strikingly bold, minimalist short pieces and evening-length works that consistently has won press and audience accolades.

After 20 years in the US, Hong brought her creative focus back to Asia in 1990, moving to a small mountain village in Korea where she founded the Juksan Arts Center.

Born and educated in Korea, she came to New York City to study dance in the late 1960s, at a time when postmodern dance was still very experimental. Her work is informed by the minimalism of Western avant-garde modern dance as well as the dramatic intensity of Eastern spiritual and cultural traditions.

Sin Cha Hong founded the Laughing Stone Dance Company in New York in 1981. Her dance-theater productions of strikingly bold, minimalist short pieces and evening-length works with specially composed, live musical accompaniments won critical and popular acclaim. After returning to Korea in 1990, Ms. Hong has continued to perform and tour as a soloist and with her company.

Sin Cha Hong´s newest production, Labyrinth: In the Moon-Night, includes old and new pieces based on the universal theme of the phases of the moon. The performance is accompanied by the master Korean musician Byung-ki Hwang on kayageum (twelve-string plucked zither), and extraordinary vocalist Kang Kwon Soon.

Her works frequently criticize civilization. For example, one dance includes a military parade of blindfolded soldiers-an expression of unseeing participation in reality. Another depicts dancers shaking hands-bringing to mind politicians-while going through violent fighting motions, hinting at the absurdity of politics.

Hong has an unusual philosophy about her body. She says she feels the presence of God within her w hen she dances. The god she refers to is not the sacred being we usually imagine but a state of self transformation, a state of great ecstasy, of immense freedom

She explains her dance to Alexis Menten, 24.7.2002 in an Asia Source interview:

"This production is very much about Korea. I am actually an avant-garde modern dancer, but for this particular event, I decided to work with very traditional Korean concepts. So my movements may not be traditional, but the mood is very much Korean.

In Korean culture, the moon´s cycle is very important, because it is very distinct: new moon, half moon, full moon, crescent moon. People go by the moon; the phase of the moon determines which day you move, have a celebration, get married, or make a big decision. It´s very special in Korea, and I think in all of Asia, China and Japan also.

It is interesting to me because the life cycle and a woman´s cycle are the moon´s cycle. The cycle of the moon is also part of the phases of the day, daybreak, sunrise, sunset, moonrise and with that, the whole cycle of life. So I decided the production would be divided into four different pieces based on the moon´s cycle".

Modern dance, especially minimalist and experimental modern dance, often rejects tradition. But according to Hong they can be integrated

"I wasn´t always as appreciative of Korean traditional music and dance as I am now. But a few years ago, after I returned to Korea, I became interested in it, and I learned about it. I came to appreciate how important traditional Korean dance is to my understanding, how it can be worked into modern dance, and how both can use each other. Now I very much appreciate traditional Korean music and dance and movement. In the past, I completely, deliberately tried to choreograph things that did not look like Korean dance. It was deliberate. Now, it is something I try to use in my movement. Maybe I am still growing and maturing".

"I think my movement comes from deep inside me, very deep inside. And my timing is very important. My movement takes a lot of time, it´s very slow, rather than hurried and rushed. I don´t do many things in one moment. For me, dance is a mood that takes a long time to express, even through one gesture. I create my own timing, and it´s not influenced or dominated by outside things. I have to be one with my timing, to have patience with my own personal timing. I cannot do something fast. Even when thinking, or doing anything, I have to take my time and move slowly. When one needs, at a certain time, to do something fast, I cannot, I give up--even eating! But I enjoy my timing, so it doesn´t matter to me how the world feels about it.

Eastern culture has influenced Hong´s work, especially meditation, which she studied for 30 years.

"I was traveling a lot and went to many remote areas and stayed there for some time, and while I was there, time seemed to stop. I think meditation, being in remote areas, and solitude were all important experiences that strongly influenced me".

"Many people ask why I named my company Laughing Stone. When I was in India, I realized that all the beauty of the spirit is in everything in existence. While meditating, I would see sometimes that a table would move, or that other things would change shapes. It was a major revelation for me. And since then, I have often thought that everything has a spirit. Even a stone has a spirit, it can be laughing or crying. All the shapes you see and experience depend on your consciousness, and so you can come to see things in a different way. So I named my company Laughing Stone. It became a very popular name in Korea. Now in Korea many things are named laughing: Laughing Man, Laughing Family, Laughing Mountain, even a Laughing Day! So I thought, that´s good".

After more than 30 years of performing and choreographing, at a time when others are thinking of retirement, Sin Cha Hong continues her nonstop schedule of creating and exploring, mainly through artistic pilgrimages around the world, from the Tibetan Himalayas to the jungles of Hawaii.
Author: Karin Bergquist


Born in 1943 and educated in Korea.
Sin Cha Hong graduated from Sookmyung Women´s University with a degree in English literature.

In 1966 she went to the United States, where she studied dance and made a career of dancing.

In 1973, she returned home to give a shocking dance performance, and then went to India. After 3 years there, she went back to the United States, received a Ph.D in philosophy, married Yi Sang-nam, an abstract painter, and gave birth to a daughter, now 14 years old.

1981: She established the Laughing Stone Dance Theater Company for the purpose of presenting her original dance theatre work.

At the Asia Society in 1984, she performed her own new choreography for the New York premiere of John Cage´s 1944 piano work, "Four Walls."

She lived and worked in New York for 20 years. 8 years ago she brought her crative focus back to Asia.

Hong serves as Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Bejing Dance Academy.
She teaches at KNUA (Korea National University of Arts).


In the Moon-Night

Production / Performance,
In collaboration with Byung-Ki Whang and Kwon Soon Kang at Asia Society, New York

The Garden of Fantasy

Production / Performance,
In collaboration with Nam June Paik at LG Arts Center, Seoul.

The Woman Laughing

Production / Performance,


Her bestselling autobigraphical book "Excuse for freedom" has been translated into Japanese and Chinese.

Hong has received numerous prestigious American awards and many of Korea´s highest artistic honors, including being named one of Korea´s ten most important creative artists of the 20th century. She has also been recognized as one of the most influential contemporary artists in Asia.


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

Images of Asia

(08 August 03 - 26 September 03)