Sunday, February 26, 2012

Stylized Korean Theatrical Dance

Korea has a long history of dance traditions - royal court dances, fertility dances (very similar to the May Pole dances of Europe), shamanic dances, fan dances, and many more. A few select dances can even be traced back hundreds of years. The anciently documented dances are ritualized in theaters now throughout Korea; they are no longer for the pleasures of kings and queens or for harvest ceremonies but are now for entertainment of the common paying public masses. Theaters and art centers are eagerly performing interpretive dances too, and each performer has develops his or her own dance repertoire. Sangmyung Art Center held a performance with well-known Suh Yong Suk as the interpretive lead dancer. Unfortunately, I've somehow deleted 2 months of pictures (as well as the dance performance) and so I cannot give a picture example of each of the dances performed. The pictures here are from the complimentary brochure.

The performance began with the 사랑가, Love Dance, with dancers attired in the wedding colors to evoke emotions of romance - the male dancer wore blue while the female dancer wore red. These symbolic wedding colors for Korea have always somewhat perplexed me as blue is the color representing yin or the female while red is the color for yang or the male, and so I puzzle why there seems to be a cultural switch here.

The 한국의 인상 or Korean Expression performance, the 선비춤 or Literati Dance followed, and then the beautiful display of womanly femininity performing the 부채춤 or Fan Dance followed (pictured).

Most of the dances were interpretive rather than traditional according to their description logged in court texts. The lead performer gave his interpretation of 굴레, Destiny/Fate Dance, and then a large group of women performed the very stylized 검무, Sword Dance, which is perhaps one of the performances recorded in the Chosun Dynasty. Below is featured the lead dancer performing the 승무, Monk's Dance, with low lighting and fans blowing to plume out his 3 or 4 meter long sleeves.

The program closed with a phenomenal performance of more than 20 women simulataneously pounding on various small drums amongst other percussion instruments. It was a curtain-raising performance, but sorry, no pictures :(

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