A ‘Fantasy’of traditional Korean dance

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A ‘Fantasy’of traditional Korean dance

After a successful run in Australia and Hong Kong, the National Dance Company returns to Korea to grace the newly renovated National Theater of Korea. The company will be staging “Korean Fantasy” next Thursday through Saturday on the Haeoreum stage.
The dance company was created in 1962 with two objectives in mind: to preserve traditional dance, and to use traditional dance to develop a contemporary repertoire. In a sense, “Korean Fantasy” is a culmination of that vision. This 90-minute performance encompasses both court and folk dances.
The first dance is “The Dawning Light,” a prologue to the performance that draws on gainjeonmokdan, a dance whose name means “a beautiful woman picks the peonies,” and taepyeongmu, a dance that seeks a good harvest and a peaceful reign for the king.
Gainjeongmokdan was created by the crown prince Hyomeyong (1809-1830), who set dancers around a large vase of red peonies. In taepyeongmu, which has been traced back to Han Seong-jun (1874-1941), founder of the Joseon Dance Institute, a lone woman dances to shamanistic music. Taepyeongmu has been designated an intangible cultural asset by the government.
“The Dawning Light” is followed by “Lone Song,” which tells the story of Chunhyang, the daughter of a courtesan who falls in love with a young scholar. When he leaves her to take the examinations in Seoul, the governor demands that Chunhyang become his courtesan.
The third dance is “Women’s Circle Dance,” traditionally performed under the harvest moon in South Jeolla province. The fourth is the “Crane Dance” from Dongnae, a town near Busan; this one is famous for its imitation of animal movements. The artistic director of the National Dance Company, Kim Hyun-ja, choreographed this dance.
The “Hourglass Drum Dance,” one of the most famous folk dances, comes fifth. It’s traditionally performed by nongak, farmers’ percussion bands, at seasonal festivals all over Korea. The janggo, or hourglass drum, is often strapped to the body of the dancer.
The sixth piece is “Flower Frolic,” a solo dance. For this performance, the dancer wears white feathers on his hat, which bloom and fade like a flower according to the dancer’s movements.
The seventh dance is the “Fan Dance,” created in 1940 by Choe Seung-hui, one of Korea’s most celebrated dancers. The Fan Dance had its world debut at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968.
Eighth is the “Sword Dance,” a new piece that depicts a hwarang, a cadet in the Silla Dynasty, learning martial arts.
As the performance nears its end, salpuri is danced. This is an expressive solo dance that harks back to gut, a religious ceremony. The dancer uses a scarf to express pain and joy.
The performance ends with the “Mass Drum Dance.” This is another new work, one that draws upon drums used in religious rituals and folk games.

by Joe Yonghee

For more information, visit the Web site www.ntok.go.kr or call (02) 2280-4114. Tickets are 10,000 won to 70,000 won. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday.
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