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Unexpected Innovation: New Dance in Colonial Korea

Posted By admin On May 30, 2013 @ 2:08 pm In Abstracts for 2013, Literature and the Arts | Comments Disabled

Min Kim, Assistant Professor

University of Texas-Pan American

The emergence and development of Western concert dance in Korea during the Japanese colonial period illustrate the complex interplay of power, politics, and identity. Originated in Europe and further developed throughout Europe and America, Western concert dance such as ballet and modern dance has been a major influence on all dance genres and has spread to other parts of the world since the early twentieth century. In many non-Western countries, Western dance was introduced by Europeans and their form of colonization. In the case of Korea, just as many elements of Western cultures were introduced to Korea during the colonial period, Western dance was introduced by modern Japan during this period, raising such complex issues as performing bodies and colonized Asian bodies. The introduction of new style of dance brought significant changes to Korean dance, not only making changes on traditional Korean dance but also creating a new dance genre, New Dance. New Dance (Shinmuyong in Korean) was an attempt to adapt to these changes. Blending traditional Korean dance with Western dance movement, it was a new style of dance that differentiate from older traditional dances, which had been performed for a long period of time as a main genre of dance in Korea. The term New Dance was originally coined by a Japanese dancer Baku Ishii to describe his new style of dance, which was a fusion of Western dance and traditional Japanese dance. Ishii’s philosophy about New Dance had a great influence on the pioneers of New Dance in Korea as Ishii invited them to study his dance on Japanese soil. New Dance became a crucial part of the Korean dance scene during the colonial period as opposed to old traditional dances. Although some of the pioneers of New Dance made an effort to express their nationalism by incorporating more Korean dance traditions into their dance toward the end of the colonial period, it was clear that they made a great success as innovators of tradition in both Japan and Korea during the Japanese occupation. It has been sixty seven years since the liberation of Korea from Japan, but the idea of New Dance is still affecting Korean dancers today. The philosophy of New Dance on fusing traditional movement and Western dance has become a mainstream in the Korean dance scene and has also influenced creating another term for dance, Korean Creative Dance. Sharing the same idea of New Dance, Creative Dance is currently practiced by many Korean dancers in an effort to express their artistic views on creativity and innovation.

This paper aims to examine how Korean dance was reshaped by the Japanese imperial power and how this unexpected new dance form, New Dance, of the colonial period has been affecting the discipline of Korean dance since the liberation. Looking at dance as a phase of the imperial process, this paper argues that the pioneers of New Dance intentionally and unintentionally participated in this process to codify the corporealities of imperial power.


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