The Palace: Tale of Jang Nok-Su, Learning Korean Traditional Dance Pt. 2

Hello, this is Jeongdong Theater. Today, we are bring you the second act of our dance in <The Palace: Tale of Jang Nok-Su>! In the first story, Nok-su introduced Janggo Dance, Fan Dance, Hanryang Dance, and Kyobang Salpuri Dance. Today’s dance story starts with when Nok-Su becomes a member of the palace. 

For reference, palace dance in Joseon Dynasty is called ‘정재 (呈 才)’. Jeongjae means “to offer talent”, it is a comprehensive art of the palace, which is a combination of song, instrument, and dance, but usually refers to as court dance. 



After capturing Yeonsan’s heart as a giseng, Nok-Su was brought to the palace, a vertical rise from giseng to concubine! The dance performed when Nok-su enters the palace is the Gainjeondan. In Gainjeonmokdan, ‘목단/mokdan’ refers to a peony flower. In Korea, since the peony flower is colorful and symbolizes wealth and abundance, it is called the king of flowers. Gainjeonmokdan is a dance with a bouquet of peonies in the center and dancers side-by-side in a row dancing with the flowers to accompaniment music. The dancers dance with colorful vases in their hands, dancing back to the vase, returning to their place, moving forward with their backs, and then returning back to their place. However, this dance for various dance events has various dance formations. In <The Palace: Tale of Jang Nok Su>, five dancers with peony flowers float around the center with Nok-Su in the center and dance around.

This dance was created by Crown Prince Hyo-Myeong during the Joseon Dynasty. For reference, the role of Park Bo-gum in the drama <Moonlight Drawn By Clouds> was Prince Hyo-Myeong. He was one of the greatest artistic talents of the Joseon Dynasty. Born in 1809 and served as a Regent from the age of 18 at the order of his father Sunjo in 1827. He hired talented people and implemented good policies. This dance was initiated and arranged in 1829 to please his father, King Sunjo. Since then, it has been danced at various courts and is still passed down to this day.


Drum Dance

Although she was received by Yeonsan’s favor, the subordinates who don’t like Nok-Su confront her. The dance that the servants show when they threaten Jang Nok-Su is called the drum dance. Eight masked servants move around with drums to surround Nok-Su and dance. However, Nok-Su also holds drumsticks in both hands and violently faces the threatening drums.

The drum dance is literally a dance using a drum. In this dance, the drum dance was called “Mugo” and was presented throughout the palace. The name of the dance changes depending on the number of drums. Mugo is considered to be the finest dance of the palace, as it moves like two butterflies fluttering, and two dragons are fighting over each other.

The drum dance in <The Palace: Tale of Jang Nok-Su> shows charismatic fireworks in the background while dancing with the drums making it one of the famous scenes of the show.



When the tyranny reaches its peak, the people are ignited and Nok-Su feels that the end is over. She and Yeonsan go on a boat ride and the dance here is called Seonyurak/선유락. The life of Noksu, which was like a midnight summer’s dream, is portrayed in this beautiful and tragic scene.

Seon Yu Rak is a group dance where dancers pull out colorfully dressed boats, grab ropes, and sing fisherman’s songs. It originated as a boat song used while transporting people leaving the Silla Era. Originally a dance of provincial denominations, it entered the palace during King Jeongjo’s period. The first performance of Seon Yu Rak in the court was held at Hwaseong Bongsu-dang in 1795 (Jeong 19). Since then, whenever a big feast in the palace was presented, it was a dance with a gorgeous composition and dignity.

The boat of Seonyurak in <The Palace: Tale of Jang Nok-su> is not gorgeous. It is painted white, implying the tragic ending of Yeonsan and Nok-Su. Is it a ship that crosses Samdocheon (a river that is said to be the boundary line between the two worlds)? After enjoying a fun play, Nok-Su presents a drink, which is a tribute to showcase the arts that captivated him.


Reference: Korean Folk Culture Encyclopedia, Korean Folklore Encyclopedia


Did you enjoy getting to know about our traditional dance with <The Palace: Tale of Jang Nok-Su>? <The Palace: Tale of Jang Nok-Su> shows us various dances in the traditional play through the dramatic life of Jang Nok-Su. How about reflecting on the beauty and value of our dance while watching <The Palace: Tale of Jang Nok-Su>? From the start of the performance to the final stage of the finale, our dances, our melodies, our culture, our play, etc. are exhilarating and vibrant with various emotions.

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