A nuanced flicker of raised hands flew high above a graceful dancer’s head as instrumental Korean Sanjo music built the tempo in the theater of Flushing Town Hall. The Saturday evening performance of Yusun and Hosun Kang’s Traditional Dance and Beyond by the Korean Traditional Music and Dance Institute had begun and would proceed to spellbind the audience.
“Dancing is my life,” said Hosun Kang, 32, who was dancing with her sister Yusun Kang for the first time in their joint U.S. premiere.
The music, according to Karen Kriegel, who works at KTMDI in educational outreach, is based on a tonal system not found in Western music. Gongs, drums, fans and a scarf were strongly featured.
“It has a different rhythmic pattern,” she said, adding that it’s comparable to Charlie Parker’s method — he had a theme on which he based his improvisation. “Traditional Korean music uses melody and improvisation.”
The evening began with both Yusun and Hosun dancing Hwa Sun Mu with white floral fans inspired by a famous Korean painting “PungRyuDo” from the 17th century Chosun period. Much of the dance was quite physical — a lot of use of their core muscles and it looked very ceremonial in its presentation.
The sisters and their mother — the director of KTMDI, Yoon-Sook Park — feel strongly about spreading Korean culture in New York City and beyond.
“I feel very responsible to preserve the root of traditional Korean dance and music for everyone,” said Yusun, 33. She has traveled back and forth to Korea, studying with many of the great Korean masters since she was 10 years old.
“I want to learn those dances,” said Adeededoyn Adesin, a student at Democracy Prep Charter High School in Harlem and one of the ushers for the evening. The school is based on the Korean educational system and part of the curriculum is to learn Korean.
A graduate of Queens College with a degree in theatre and dance, Yusun, a mother of three young children, studied at the Manhattan School of Music and received a Queens Council on the Arts artist grant in 2011. She is vice president and art director at KTMDI.
Not to be outdone, Hosun, who is five months pregnant, also traveled periodically to Korea to study dance. She has a business degree from Baruch College and has won many awards including a first place award at the 2008 Korean Performing Art Competition in New York. She has also performed in the 2010-2011 “Jacob’s Pillow Dance” Inside/Out Festival in Massachusetts, as well as performing “Salp’uri” (Scarf Dance) at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center.
Each sister had a solo during the evening. Yusun danced Salp’uri Ch’um, a dance that, according to the sisters, brings the dancer and audience through several emotional and psychological states of being. Hosun danced Jinju Gyobang Gutguhri, from a region in Korea called Jinju of Gyung Sang Namado province. It dates back 900 years to the Goryeo period of Korea. Its signature feature is small drum dance movements.
The evening ended with an ensemble piece called “The Heart Beat for World Peace.” It filled the historic Flushing Town Hall theater with full rythmic drum beats, gongs and a Sangmu (Ribbon Hat Dance) danced by Jihwan Choi, a 16-year-old dance student. His costume a Pungmulnori hanbok was full of color and his hat was swiriling with ribbon.
Yusun summed up the evening succinctly: “I’m here, but my blood is in Korea.”
©2012 Community News Group
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