[ON STAGE]Inviting Back the Bygone Muses

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[ON STAGE]Inviting Back the Bygone Muses

Koreans of old had a knack for entertaining people through the arts. When times were good, they used those skills to amuse; when times were bad, they used them to express their emotional anguish or resistance to oppression. Those Korean artists, mostly dancers, had an innate understanding of the true meaning and purpose of art. A new dance piece, "Stray, Fall and Rise: The Millennial Korean Dance History of Regrets," organized by the Seoul Metropolitan Theater Troupe, both reflects the rich history of Korean dance and continues the tradition.

The collection of traditional dance pieces, choreographed by the noted Korean dancer Lee Mae-bang, illustrates how Koreans have dealt with pain and pleasure through dance over the course of their turbulent history. There are glimpses of everyday life in the dances, as well as ritualistic images. Music and dance were always essential parts of the lives of Koreans, regardless of their class.

The first half of the show features various folk dances, such as the farmer's dance, shaman's dance and sword dance. The themes, based on the agriculture-based life of rural Koreans, are steeped with supernatural beliefs. The second half takes the audience to the upper rungs of society. The troupe presents a series of royal dances based on the aesthetic style favored by the aristocratic classes. In both the peasant and royal styles of dance, however, the gestures carry a great sense of optimism.

The dances, while portrayals of beauty and grace, are also quite dramatic. In one, a lead shaman clad in an outlandish outfit, charges violently through a white bedsheet and proceeds to viciously tear the fabric apart. In another, the sword dance, a group of men armed with samurai daggers present a dazzling, remarkable spectacle.

While the works are rooted in traditions, many of the dances include contemporary dance styles as well. But the keynote is the origins of Korean dance: such local masters as the aforementioned Lee and Kang Sun-young created their works to reauthenticate the definition of Korean dances, some of which have strayed from their origins over the centuries. The "Stray, Fall and Rise" is a great primer for someone new to Korean dance, and a wonderful refresher for those familiar with it. For information, contact 02-3991-639.

by Park Soo-mee

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