A New Interpretation Of a Tragic Korean Love Story in Dance

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A New Interpretation Of a Tragic Korean Love Story in Dance

"Chunhyangjeon," Korea's most-loved romantic epic will be staged by the National Dance Company of Korea (NDCK), starting April 20. Originally performed as pansori, traditional Korean folk opera, the work has been presented through various mediums, including a Western-style opera, a play and a feature film. Depicting the story of forbidden love between Mongryong, the son of a prestigious governor in the town of Namwon, and Chunhyang, the daughter of a working class family, "Chunhyangjeon," or "The Story of Chunhyang," is one of the earliest examples of Korean popular literature. It challenged the strict social hierarchy and spoke about transcending the boundaries of class and social position.

To avoid a linear presentation of the story and reiteration of the widely known text, NDCK added unique elements to this interpretation. The title of this production, "Chundang Chunsaek Kogeumdong," meaning "The Color of Spring Is Still the Same," occurs in the original text as a question in Mongryong's civil service examination. In this performance, it is used to refer to the protagonists' love, which transcends space and time.

There are three sets of couples who appear in the dance, representing the couple's peak of romance, the frustrated lovers and finally, their despair. The story allows the audience to see the different stages of the characters' development in a subtle way.

Incorporating creative ideas, such as "Basket Dance," "Fan Dance," "Autumn Leaves Dance" and "Ice Storm Dance," which carry both traditional and contemporary elements, the performance makes poetic references to seasonal changes and the characters' emotional development. The dramatic lighting effects by the Japanese lighting artist, Ikawa Masahaki, add other dimensions to the show.

"We were concerned with the idea of reinterpreting this known story into a contemporary context," said Yang So-yeun, the spokesperson from the organizing team of the dance project. She added that the program was created under the assumption that everyone knew the contents of the classic story already.

"The producers, instead, focused on episodes that are hidden in the original text," says Ms. Yang. The revisions turn the classic love story into a psychological drama.

The project carries plenty of room for experimental elements, and the story traces the classic form of Korean eroticism that requires an elaborate balance in the performer's suggestive gestures.

"Chunhyangjeon: Chundang Chunsaek Kogeumdong" will be presented between April 20 and 25 at the National Theater of Korea. For more information, call 02-2266-0201-2 (English service available).

by Park Soo-mee

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