A modern spin on traditional dance

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A modern spin on traditional dance


The National Dance Company will present “The Banquet” this weekend at the National Theater of Korea. Fashion designer Jung Kuho directed the costumes and staging to present the traditional performances with a modern touch. [NATIONAL THEATER OF KOREA]

Usually when Korean traditional dance is performed abroad, the dancers wear traditional costume or hanbok in the five major colors of Korean traditional dress: red, yellow, blue, black and white.

For example, the National Theater of Korea’s National Dance Company has been traveling across the globe to showcase its repertoire “Korea Fantasy,” which presents Korean dance and Korean costume.

But while the traditional beauty may appeal to older generations, the National Dance Company decided it’s time to try something different and to go a bit more modern with its new work, “The Banquet.”

In fact, the idea came from fashion designer Jung Kuho. Jung not only has a successful fashion brand, but he’s also been very active in directing dance companies like the Korea National Ballet and the National Dance Company to present more modernized staging and looks that can appeal to the modern global audience.

According to the National Dance Company, Jung happened to see “Korea Fantasy” and suggested the idea himself, saying that “although our beautiful traditional dance is embedded in this great work of ‘Korea Fantasy,’ It’s about time that traditional performances also evolve to suit the taste of modern audiences.”

Changing the staging formation, the costumes and the music, Jung came up with “The Banquet.”

“By changing some components of this great traditional performance such as the costumes, the composition of traditional instruments used in the music and the colors used in the staging, we can take this beautiful traditional dance of Korea to a broader global audience,” Jung said in a press statement. “It’s about time that we make effort to come up with a more sophisticated and polished traditional dance of Korea.”

Jung’s “The Banquet,” which premieres at the National Theater of Korea on Saturday for two days, follows his strict minimalist philosophy and features less color, fewer musical instruments and fewer props. He did away with the traditional five colors in the costumes of the dancers, but decided to use the five colors separately in the scenes. For example, he kept only red and blue in the costumes of one scene, while using the colors yellow and black for the props on the stage and so on.

“I especially wanted to take out the colorful costumes for the court dance scenes,” Jung explained. “I always thought the beauty of Korea’s traditional dance gets buried underneath such colorful costumes. So I decided to use achromatic colors instead for ‘The Banquet.’”

The traditional colors used on the instruments were also toned down or varnished with lacquer so that they look almost black to the audience.

It was a brave undertaking, but according to the National Theater of Korea, “like most of the other productions Jung has minimalized, there is no doubt that ‘The Banquet’ will also show a totally new side of Korean traditional dance and appeal to a more global audience when it gets taken broad.”

The performance starts at 7p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday at the National Theater of Korea in central Seoul. Tickets range from 20,000 won ($17.30) to 70,000 won. For more information, visit www.ntok.go.kr or call (02) 2280-4114.

BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [yim.seunghye@joongang.co.kr]
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