2014 K-Arts Dance Company Performance at the Ailey Citigroup Theater

Article by Joy Chiang Ling

The K-Arts Dance Company was established in 1997 in order to promote Korean culture across the world. It has shared its talent with many institutions, including the State University of New York (SUNY) Purchase College, Beijing Dance Academy, Paris Conservatory and California Institute of the Arts. This June, they performed in New York City at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. Led by director Young-il Hur, the dancers of the K-Arts Dance Company were divided into three categories: Traditional Korean dance, ballet and contemporary dance.

The Traditional Korean dance consisted of three subcategories: Taepyeoungmu, Seungmu, “Soar Up” and Geommu.

Taepyeoungmu is a dance performed by a group of women wishing for prosperity and peace for the country. The dancers wore colorful traditional dresses called Hanbok – they had flowing skirts, long sleeves and decorative flowers and symbols. The outfits helped add elegance to the dance, which consisted of fluid, synchronized movements. The music also added an atmosphere of mysticism to the performance.

Seungmu is a dance performed by a man dressed in monk’s clothing. A single drum was placed on one side of the stage as the man danced to the traditional music. His outfit was pure white, and consisted of a red sash, white hood and long, flowing sleeves. What was most stunning about the dance were the sleeves, that flowed like ribbons as the dancer moved his arms. About three-quarters into the performance, the man finally revealed two drumsticks and began to play a song on his drums. It was both haunting and beautiful.

“Soar Up” is an original solo performance featuring a man mimicking the movement of a crane flying in the sky. Like the performer before him, the dancer in “Soar Up” is garbed in white clothing with long sleeves, but instead of a red sash and a hood he wears a black cap. The choreography is meant to express both tension and relief, as apparent by the dance’s mix of fluid and rigid movements.

The female dancers return in Geommu – a traditional sword dance. In this performance, their outfits have changed. Though the women are still wearing Hanbok, they have changed their accessories and colors. They are also equipped with two knives that move and make sounds as they dance. The performers are skillful – showing both grace and fierceness in their movements.

Following the traditional Korean dances was a ballet, titled “The Inner Of…” which is inspired by western styles. It makes use of a variety of operatic and classical songs. According to the choreographer, the dance was meant to explore truth and identity. The cast comprised several male and several female dancers. They are dressed in brown tights, which accentuate their body shape. They begin clustered together, with their arms waving as if they were one entity. They eventually disperse, and perform in solos and duets. One segment of the ballet was particularly impressive – it featured a single female dancer who synchronizes her movements perfectly to the music.

The last dance, “Nothing to Say”, features dancers dressed in plain, modern-styled clothing. Their outfits are colorful and mainly consist of jeans, a plain t-shirt, a turtleneck or a dress shirt. These performers are meant to represent the “NEET” (Not in Education, Employment or Training). The NEET are young, unemployed individuals whose numbers have been increasing rapidly for the past 7 years. The performance highlights their nihilistic attitude towards life through simple movements and dark lighting. Some of the songs, which contain lyrics about mundane activities like watching TV, further reinforce their message. This contemporary dance is unique for both its subject matter and Taekwondo-like stunts.

The K-Arts Dance Company has succeeded in exposing its audience to various facets of Korean culture through different time periods: traditional, classical and modern. Those interested in Korean culture would definitely be impressed by these series of performances.

Hur Young-II, Dean of the Korean National University of Arts School of Dance

Avatar photo

About AsianInNY

AsianInNY.com is New York’s leader in Asian networking and a multi-cultural entertainment site. AsianInNY has established itself as the premier social and cultural authority for Asians in New York City. AsianInNY maintains the highest standards in providing reliable online content and producing live offline events. AsianInNY seeks to inspire, educate, and connect our community, using a versatile platform that engages our audience via a multi-layered digital presence that showcases the best of New York City. Our pages are updated daily with a rich cultural mix of news, events, interviews, and more. AsianInNY: Connect with Everything Asian!