Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | Korean dancers perform in Denver
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Korean dancers perform in Denver

Erin and I got to see a really interesting traditional Korean dance and music performance last week.

Think about it — you’ve seen taditional Japanese dancig in kimonos, and heard lots of traditional Japanese music, with the wood flute, koto and taiko drums. You’ve seen Chinese dance and heard Chinese music. And at events such as the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, audiences have been intorduced to the traditional dance and music of Bali, Vietnam, Philippines, India and more… but not that much from Korea.

During the early years of the CDBF, a troupe of Korean seniors used to perform, but their act was mostly 20 minutes of the large group in traditional dress, circling the stage to no particular rhythm and randomly beating on drums. The festival has also featured a solo Korean dancer who did a slow and meticulous mask dance. Abd last year during the Miss Asian American Colorado pageant, one contestant performed a Korean fan dance with a bunch of cute kids helping out.

I’m not sure why, but there hasn’t been much exposure, at least in my world, of a lot of traditional Korean performance. Maybe the noisy, sometimes chaotic nature of traditional Korean dance just doesn’t appeal to Americanized tastes.

Whatever the reason, though, we got plenty on Saturday, Sept. 6, when the Korean Consulate General in San Francisco sponsored a rare U.S. visit by a Korean dance troupe, Festive Lands, for a performance at the DCPA’s Temple Buell Theater titled “Colorado Forever.”

The title refers to a longtime bond between Koreans and Coloradans: a delegation of Koreans came to Colorado during the 1908 Democratic National Convention, the last time the DNC was held in Denver, to plead for aid in the wake of a Japanese invasion of the Korean peninsula. (Yes, we felt ever-so-slightly uncomfortable as probably the only Japanese Americans in the crowd, because we take on the blame for everything lousy the Japanese have ever done.)

This time, the dancers and musicians filled the stage with a blur of color and rhythm, with different groupings of the 21-member troupe taking turns with acrobatic moves and the mastery of unique elements such as a flower-like feather hat, and swirling ribbons controlled by the slightest nod of the head. The drumming was non-stop and sometimes chaotic and cacophonous, especially in the many numbers that featured the clattering of a brass cymbal/tambourine.

Emcee Jamie Kim posiing afterwards with her parents.

The history and culture behind the dances were explained by emcee Jamie Kim, the Korean American reporter from 9News, so that helped the audience learn a thing or two. There were over 2,500 people in the audience, mostly from the Korean community.

After the final dance, the entire troupe marched into the Buell lobby to continue dancing with audience members. It was the best part of the evening, and a wonderful, intimate way to end the performance.

Jon and Donna Wilkerson pose with some of the Festive Land dancers after the show.