A short from BOOKANIMA: Dance directed by Sean Kim

 BOOKANIMA: Dance is a short dance animated film by Sean Kim. Because of its original approach – ‘bringing to life’ dozens of book pages – and also as an unforgettable resource of energy, joy and curious information about the world of movement and dance, BOOKANIMA: Dance naturally finds its place in the Translation on Air rubric.

Sean Kim’s work is an experimental locomotive of dance with its own intriguing flow: Ballet-Korean Dance-Contemporary Dance-Jazz-Aerial Silk-Step-Aerobics-Disco-Break Dance-Hip Hop-Social Dance. It’s also something of a textbook, dissecting the movement and then reassembling the fragments into a coherent whirlwind. Last but not least, it is a video archiving, a memorization of the possibilities of the human body in the form of illustrated dance steps, and of a range of human imaginations influenced by the surrounding cultures and movement genres and methods.

We wanted to know more about the artist behind BOOKANIMA, so we invite Sean Kim for a short interview. The conversation, starting after just a few lines, four rhythmic foot taps and two spins on its own axis, is about: the current situation in the world, the starting points of creativity, the potentials of animation, the personal movement preferences and the most important lesson: Never stop moving.

So, 5-6-7-8:

Where in the world are you based at the moment and what is currently exciting for you in terms of your artistic practices?
I am moving to New York soon for a new work. It seems that new environment and people I will meet make me most exciting recently.

You have traveled to a lot of intriguing places around the globe – how does that affect your creative processes?
Traveling to a certain place, experiencing new things there, and then expressing it in the way of art. There was organic process in my work: Travel-Place-Experience-Express. This process is basically for living my life, not just for art creation. I like the result that reflects my place and remain as a record of real life.

How has your year been in connection to the Covid-19 pandemic (we cannot not ask this question? What have you dedicated this past year to?
Just like anyone else, my life has continued to require a safe stay in a small scope. It was frustrating because daily life and work all were paused, and social communication with other people was blocked. In doing so, it naturally became an opportunity to look back on the deeds of mankind, including myself. The social issues such as hate and division were exposed to the surface through the pandemic and the wound we got does not seem to be light. Pandemic makes me think more seriously about artistic healing and publicity.

How did you first start working with video, film and animation?
Originally I started with fine art based on painting. Since I first encountered great experimental animation films, I started to dig in the art of movement. From the beginning, I was very interested in abstract art, and the animated films that inspired me at the time were also abstract ones made in the 1930s-1940s, so I naturally tried abstract animations for my first film.

What is the potential of the intertwining of screendance and animated film?
Animation allows to create movement that is impossible to do in real life. I believe that combination of dance and animation should create unlimited synergy.

In your film BOOKANIMA: Dance you mix together literature, dance and animation. What was the starting point in the making of this film?
Dance was starting point. I thought it would be interesting to collect the dances representing the times and tried to make animation that condenses a dance history through the time flow.

When we watch your film, we are reminded of and informed about different dance genres coming from diverse cultures and at the same time excited by the combination of quick cuts, musically rhythmic soundscape, animation techniques and overall positive vibes that BOOKANIMA spreads out to the audience. What important messages or feelings would you like for the viewer to perceive when experiencing your creation?

There was no intention to leave a special message. I think it would be good if the audience enjoy film with their own simple body reaction, movement, and even more hopefully dance, for example wiggling finger, waving hands, shaking shoulders, or shaking legs. If there was only one message to convey, it was Never stop moving mentioned in film by the master of jazz dance, Luigi. I was deeply moved by Luigi‘s dance spirit for dedication to heal people, and I wanted to convey his beautiful message to the audience.

Did you have collaborators on this project or is it completely yours?
It was a one-man independent work. Oh, it could be said that I collaborated with books.

Animation and your film in particular let us see the dancing body in a somewhat new way – drawn or photographed, still, yet in motion because of the animation techniques applied. Do you agree? And do you think choreography can be created through animation?
The basic choreography is made according to the contents of books. I play with ready-made images of books using animation techniques such as animating, key frame, timing and so on. The physical choreography is done by a real dancer, but in the other hand, the cinematic choreography is done by a film director.Ти самия танцуваш ли/движиш ли се? Ако да, какъв е предпочитаният от теб жанр или начин да го правиш?

Do you yourself dance/move? If yes, what is your preferred genre or way of doing it?
The reason why I am interested in dance is that I love to dance, but I'm not good at dance. Inside of me, longing and respect for dance coexist. I am not particularly good at dancing, but when I was younger, I used to copy break dance with friends. If I was born to be a dancer, I would like to be a cool male ballerina.

What new projects are you focused on now? Can we find you and your work in the digital Internet realm and if yes – where?
I am trying a few things for my next project. It also seems to be a work related to movement. It is still in beginning step, so I don't have a sample of new project yet. I am uploading my works on my website and vimeo, so please follow the update of them. I hope to make some good new stuff and to share it soon as it comes out. Thank you so much.


Sean Kim holds a BA in Law from Hanyang University, as well as a BFA in Film and Video from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; an MFA in Experimental Animation from California Institute of the Arts; and a PhD in Animation Theory from Chung-Ang University. Sean Kim works in the field of experimental animation.

This material was created within the project Translation on Air – a section dedicated to dance for the screen or screendance. Every month we invite the professional and amateur audience, tempted by this intriguing symbiosis between cinema and dance, to join our readings, conversations, and discussions with active practitioners and choreographers in this field from the country and abroad.

The project “Translation on Air” is implemented with the financial support of the National Fund “Culture” under the program “Audiences” 2020.

Ana-Maria Sotirova has a degree in Film from the University of Reading and a Master’s degree in Film Studies from the University of Amsterdam. She is part of the team of the Moving Body Festival in Varna with the main organizers – Svetlozara Hristova and Iskra Ivanova.

Svetlozara Hristova is a culturologist, art manager, artistic collaborator, author of articles in the field of contemporary dance and theater, and co-organizer of the Moving Body Festival and RADAR Festival Beyond Music.