Hwalan is a scholar warrior. She is an actor, multi-media space artist, writer, director, martial artist, teacher, healer and visionary. The dialogue between opposing forces, traditional and contemporary, East and West, power and softness, earthly and heavenly, ultimately leading to greater harmony on all levels, is at the heart of her work. Hwalan believes the sacred is achieved through a transformation of, rather than in contradiction to, the deeply human.
Hwalan was born in Seoul, Korea and raised in upstate New York by a secular second generation Russian Jewish intellectual hippie couple; defining her cultural artistic identity early in life. Hwalan is certain that extending our compassion past the boundary of self-identity is essential to making the world a better place.
Hwalan is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Columbia University with a B.A. in Visual Art. Hwalan was the only student granted a private studio for 2 1/2 years, interacting with graduate students on an independent level as a sophomore. Representing Columbia in the National Arts Club competition, Hwalan won the Hans Hessel Award in sculpture.
After graduating, Hwalan felt the need to connect to the breath of her birth country. She lived in Korea for 2 1/2 years, studying traditional Korean performing arts: martial arts, drumming, dance, opera and yoga. During this time Hwalan also engaged in theater: writing, directing and performing traditional Korean music combined with contemporary dance and electric guitar. Soon after, Hwalan’s performance talent was spotted by the producer of a show at Chundong Theater. She was cast as the lead in a vast drumming extravaganza. While on the stage, summoning the rhythms of Korean drumming rooted in the indigenous practice of Shamanism, Hwalan’s passion for acting was lit.
At the end of her stay, Hwalan lived in the countryside in a temple with martial art monks, practicing the ancient Korean art of SunMuDo. When the sky fell on her head, her body was a vehicle that could transform human to sacred.
Returning to New York, Hwalan immediately became a member of the USA Shaolin Temple Demo Team. Hwalan currently trains in Wu Shu.
Perfecting her yoga practice as well, Hwalan is today one of New York City’s top yoga teachers. Hwalan is the creator of Hwalan Kung Fu Yoga™. Based upon yoga and martial arts, the expression is an embodiment of the dynamic between opposites: male/female, life/death, power/softness, speed/stillness, up/down, etc. Movement is based upon the perfect shape, the sphere, and the magical element, water. By coordinating the kinetic math of the body, levels of mind and emotional colors of the heart, a wholeness is achieved. The light grid of the nervous system is key, aligning the physical, mental, emotional and etheric bodies with the divine. This leads to greater peace with others and the way one lives with the cycles of the natural universe.
As an actor, Hwalan works across mediums in film, TV, video games, webisodes, theater, theatrical movement, community outreach and exploring new frontiers between mediums. Recent work includes the role of Detective Kate Summers in the feature Equal Standard, with Ice-T, Fredro Starr and Treach. Hwalan also worked as the stunt coordinator. As part of a theater for social change project, Hwalan loved playing the lead character Sgt. Chang, a suicidal combat veteran with PTS struggling to re-integrate into civilian society. Hwalan was requested by the director, Fay Simpson, who coached Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave. Hwalan co-created the arc, character, choreography and script through interviews and in collaboration with veterans, who were an integral part of the work. The second half of the piece involved improvisation with the audience, comprised of combat veterans from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans consistently thought Hwalan was a veteran herself, often asking when she served. Hwalan is a highly physical, powerful and sensitive actor.
As an immersive installation artist, Hwalan’s work navigates loci where science and spirituality converge, providing sensory cues that serve as bridges towards a more heightened, or opened, state; where the experiencer can settle or tap into anything. Or nothing. Hwalan’s focus is upon the experiencer as primary, active participant within the immersive environments. The sensate experience of Hwalan’s art incites a shift in perception, embodiment and presence. Hwalan recently created, directed, performed and co-produced Electra Project, a site specific video installation for the Armory Show. The work, based on Mourning Becomes Electra, by Eugene O’Neill, was installed in the library of a mansion in the Bronx, a time capsule of the roaring twenties.