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The Palace: Tale of Jang Nok-Su, Learning Korean Traditional Dance Pt 1

Hello, this is Jeongdong Theater. It is Autumn in Korea and watching the seasons change slowly and the trees change colors seems to fill the heart with joy. But if you add culture and dance to this rich emotion, will the rest of October not be a little happier?

Jeongdong Theater, located on Jeongdong-gil, filled with ambiance and romance, is a traditional performing art and performance center representing Korea. We present high-quality performances that reinterpret our traditional culture and art.

In particular, Jeongdong Theater’s permanent performance is a creative dance-drama that shows the story of Jang Nok-Soo, who lived a dramatic life from an innocent, tomboy-like slave, to one of the best dancers and singer of her time, to becoming a woman of the royal power, this show unfolds her life as an art piece.

According to Nok-su’s identity, Korean people’s culture, giseng culture, and palace culture are shown through the play and dance. In particular, The Palace: Tale of Jang Nok Su is a performance that pays attention to Jang Nok Su as an outstanding artist.

So be prepared!

We have divided this series into two. Today, let’s take a look at the dances that Nok-su performed in her early days.

Janggo Dance

Nok-su became a courtesan after her skills and talents were recognized by Je-an Daegun . Devoted to a full-fledged giseng training, she dances with her Janggu strapped on her shoulders. Janggu Dance is also called Janggo-mo or Janggo Dance.

Janggu dance is divided according to whether it is mainly dancing or playing the drum. Janggu dances performed in Gibangs are dances, and Janggu dances in Pungmulnori are mainly playing the drums.

Of course, the courtesan Nok-su was dance-oriented. Thus, this is a Janggu dance show with fun and flirty behavior. It is not known when the instrument called Janggu was incorporated into this particular dance. However, it is said that the style of hanging the rope at an angle with a string attached to the Janggu and tapping the Janggu was mainly performed by the private artists of the Joseon Dynasty.

Hanryang Dance

Under the teachings of Je-an Daegun, Noksu blossoms artistically and becomes the best courtesan of Joseon. And Nok-su as an entertainer was to entice the men.

Hanyang Dance is a dance that expresses elegance and excitement. In this scene, Nok-su dances with a fan. However, the dance form is not constant and there are no rules. The dancer can freely improvise according to the situation. However, in this situation, she was dancing for the scholars(Seonbi) so Seonbi’s elegance was infused with the dance. In particular, the figure of a crane symbolizing scholars is shaped and danced.

Kyobang Salpuri Dance

Kyobang is an institution that presided over teaching gisengs dances and songs around the Joseon Dynasty. There are various types of dance like sword dances, bridge dances, etc

The dances featured in are Salpuri dance and Fan dance. First of all, the Salpuri dance is a word from shamanism that means to loosen the flesh. Therefore, it can be called ‘dance to lose weight’. Originally, it started as a shamanic dance with a strong ritual attached to it, but it was later reestablished as an art. Flirting is required in this dance so it’s famous among the gisengs and it’s also a very delicate dance.

For more check out the video
https://youtu.be/4yprzvwhva8

Fan dance

The fan dance is probably the most famous traditional dance. In fact, the fan dance is not a traditional dance of Korea. This dance was created by dancer Kim Baek-bong in 1954.

Of course, there are many dances with fans in the national dances of the world, including shaman dances. But most of those dances are not fan centered. However, Nok-su’s fan dance shows the best technique to open, fold, wind, and spread.

This technique-oriented fan dance was first presented at the Kimbaekbong Dance Presentation at the Seoul Construction Center on November 1954.

Then in the 1968 Mexico Olympics, the fan dance was reconstructed and developed into a group of dances. The Korean Folk Arts Group played a fan dance at the World Excellent Art Festival and World Folklore Festival held together with the Olympics. Since then, fan dance has become one of the most representative dances in the world.

For more check out the video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T6Jck510Lw

This concludes the first series, in the next part, we would continue with Nok-su’s dancing in the palace.

To be continued…..

Good bye Lotus!

The performance “Lotus, A Flower Comes Out Once More” which started on April 6 2017 finished on October 29.

“Lotus..” is a fiction which is set in the court of Joseon Dynasty
and it is story about the love and parting between Seoryon, the best dancer in the court, and Dodam, the best worrier in the court.

The story is described by the colorful dance of Korean tradition.

As it has the dignity of Korean traditional description and traditional dance, beautiful spectacle and wonderful music,
it has been well-received by the audience from April to October.

On the day of the last performance, October 29 | Jeongdong Theater

The scene where Soryeon dances playing a Korean traditional instrument, ‘Haeguem’, was the best impressive. The melody played by protagonist, Seoryeon, made a beautiful atmosphere and sensation of immersion. 

On the day of the last performance, October 29 | Jeongdong Theater

At 8pm, on Sunday, October 29.
It was very touching to see the last scene of the last performance. 

<Lotus, A Flower Comes Out Once More> had totally 381 times of performances during 6 months.

I can not imagine how was the feeling of the actors preparing the last performance today.

The last photo time, on October 29 | Jeongdong Theater

After the last performance was finished, the ‘photo time’ service of Jeongdong Theater was offered as usual.
It was very interesting for the foreign audiences so there were many foreign audiences including Japanese on the last day.
Even though the story was based on the Korean traditional tale, the performance was very interpretable for the foreign audiences.
Also, it was a performance to feel the colorful dance of the Korean tradition
from the smooth motion of female dancers to the powerful group dance of male dancers.  

The last photo time, on October 29 | Jeongdong Theater

The actors showed big smile for the last photo time.
It seems like that they keep comforting their sorrow of parting with laughing.

On the stage after finishing the performance on October 29 | Jeongdong Theater

After finishing the performance and the photo time, all of the actors gathered on the stage.
And for the last performance, Chunghan Kim, the director and choreographer  of the performance came and join.
 The actors and dancers embraced each other with the sorrow of  parting.

On the stage after finishing the performance on October 29 | Jeongdong Theater

I feel very sad to think that I can not see the performance which had has been staged from April to October any more.
However, I can keep the memories in my mind and I think it is the merit of the performance.

For the memory, the actors took pictures on the stage.


The long journey of “Lotus, A Flower Comes Out Once More” from April 6 to October 29 was finished.
 “Lotus, A Flower Comes Out Once More” may blossom in the heart of the audiences and the actors as a beautiful memory.

Thanks to the actors and staffs who involved in the performance! And Thanks to the audiences!
Good bye Lotus!

On the stage after finishing the performance on October 29 | Jeongdong Theater

[Lotus, A Flower Comes Out Once More] Two folktales in the performance.

[Jeongdong Press : <Lotus, A Flower Comes Out Once More>_’The tale of Mrs Domi’ and  ‘Igongbonpuri’]

<Lotus, A Flower Comes Out Once More>

Where you can meet the essence of Korean Dance.

Jeongdong Theater, which is located in Jeongdong-gil; the beautiful street in flower-blooming pring,

has a meaning of succession of ‘Wongaksa’, the first modern theater in Korea.

Jeongdong has presented performances which retells Korean folktales
and has help the audiences to understand it with qualified stage.

Especially, <Lotus, A Flower Comes Out Once More>, which has its premier on last April. 6,
is a well-made Korean traditional dance drama on which Korean folktales and traditional dance are combined.

 ​ 

This performance sends us a message about the true love,
combining Korean folktales and newly recreating them as a Korean traditional dance drama.

At the first, ‘The tale of Mrs Domi’ is a folktale of the period of three states in Korea.

The king of Baekje has Mrs Domi, a humble woman, in his mind and he put her in danger to make her parting with her husband.

However, with her wise courage, she overcomes from the trick of the king confirming the love with her husband.

Igongbonpuri, another folktale in the performance, is a narrative shamanic myth in Jeju.

The story is about a woman called Wongangam who died after her slave life in difficulties.

She finally comes to life again as a flower called Wongangami
thanks to her husband and son who buried her body in a flower garden.

These two stories were combined and the performance <Lotus, A Flower Comes Out Once More> came out.

This story which came from the two folktales contains the theme of ‘overcoming’ and ‘reviving’
which feature frequently in Korean traditional ideology
so the meanings are coming heavily to the audiences who live in modern society.

The image of strong woman from Mrs Domi and Wongangami is described
into Seoryeon’s character, the protagonist of the performance.

In the background of imaginary Joseon Dynasty, this performance presents
the image of wise and strong woman who keeps her ideals in the difficulties
and the path of achieving her wishes from her revive
into traditional dance drama.

The lyrics from <A song of floral tribute> and <A love song> cite words from folktales which are very familiar to Korean people
and it raises bond of sympathy.

Also, you can see various Korean traditional dance
such as
parilmu, a dance performed by 64 female dancers in ritual ceremony,

Taepyeongmu, a dance praying for the peaceful reign and prosperity of the royal family,

Geommu, a traditional sword dance which became powerful in the performance as man’s dance.

I would love to strongly recommend this performance
to whom love Korean traditional dance and look forward beautiful dance performance!