Korean dance

Korean dance is a type of dance, historically derived in Korea. This article looks at the history of Korean dance, from shamanistic early rituals three thousand years ago, through folk dance to newly created or adapted contemporary dance.


Korean traditional dance originated in ancient shamanistic rituals thousands of years ago. By the time of the later Korean kingdoms, Goryeo and Joseon, in the 2nd millennium CE, Korean traditional dance benefited from regular support of the royal court, numerous academies, and even an official ministry of the government.

A number of different dances gained permanent high status, including the Hermit dance, the Ghost dance, the Monk dance, the Oudong (Entertainer) dance and others, despite the fact that many had humble origins. For example, the Fan dance is believed to have originated with shamans performing nature rites with leaves but evolved into one of the most highly refined Korean dances.

Other Korean dances remained and remain to this day under the ambit of farmers and folk dance groups. Props used in the dances include the long billowing silk scarf of pure white used in the Salpuri dance, drums, hats, swords and others. The props may be peripheral or central to the story of the dance. In the Ghost dance, the entertainer has a joyous reunion with a deceased spouse, only to endure the heartbreak of reseparation, and there may few or no props. On the other hand, the Great Drum dance (one of several forms of drum dances) features a gaudy drum which may be taller than the performer. The drum tempts a monk until finally he succumbs to it and performs a rolling drum "orgy."

Due to the cultural suppression by Japan during the Japanese occupation, most of the dance academies died out and some dances were lost. However, few pioneering Korean dancers such as Choi Seunghui (최승희 崔承喜) created new forms of Korean dances based on the traditional dances and kept many of the traditions alive in secret and abroad, and today Korean traditional dance is enjoying a vibrant resurgence. Numerous universities in Korea teach Korean traditional dance, and even some universities abroad now provide instruction in the forms. Top dancers are recognized as "Living National Treasures" and are charged to pass their dances down to their students. The lineages of dance and dancers may be traced back several generations through such connections.


Korean traditional dance does not necessarily follow the forms of Western dance. Moves follow a curvilinear path with little short term repetition. The dancer's legs and feet are often entirely concealed by billowing Hanbok. Emotional attributes of the dances include both somberness and joy.

Court dance

Korean court dances is called "jeongjae" (hangul:정재, hanja:呈才) which originally referred to "display of all talent" including not only dance but also other performing arts such as jultagi (줄타기 tightrope walking), gong deonjigi (공던지기), and mokmatagi (목마타기) but gradually only denoted "court dance". The term has been used since the early period of Joseon dynasty.

Jeongjae were used to perform for the royal family, court officials, and foreign envoys or for festive occasions sponsored by the state. Jeongjae is divided into the two categories, "Dangak jeongjae" (당악정재) and "Hyangak jeongjae" (향악정재). Dangak jeongjae are dances derived from court dances of Tang China during the Goryeo dynasty, whereas the other consist of newer court dances originated in Korea.

Hyangak jeongjae

  • Ahbakmu (아박무), Ivory clappers dance
  • Bakjeopmu (박접무), fluttering butterfly wings dance
  • Bonglaeui (봉래의), phoenix dance
  • Cheoyongmu (처용무), dance of Cheoyong, Dragon King's son which is the oldest jeongjae originaed in the Silla period
  • Chunaengjeon (춘앵전) dance of the spring nightingaler
  • Gainjeonmokdan (가인전목단), dance depicting beautiful women picking peonies
  • Geommu (검무), sword dance
    • Jinju geomu
  • Hakyeon hwadaemu (학연화대무), Crane and lotus pedestal dance
  • Goguryeomu (고구려무), Goguryeo dance
  • Muaemu (무애무)
  • Musanhyang (무산향), fragrance of dancing mountain dance
  • Mugo (무고), drum dance
    • Gyobang mugo (교방무고)
  • Sajamu (사자무), lion dance
  • Seonyurak (선유락), boating party dance

Dangak jeongjae

  • Monggeumcheok (몽금척), dream of golden ruler dance
  • Pogurak (포구락) ball game dance
  • Heonseondo (헌선도), peach-offering dance

Folk dance

  • Seungmu (승무), monk dance
  • Seungjeonmu (승전무), literally victory dance
  • Salpuli (살풀이), literally spirit-cleansing dance
  • Hallyangmu (한량무), dance of prodigal man in yangban class
  • Ipchum (입춤), also called "ipmu" or "gibonchum", literally basic dance
  • Taepyeongmu (태평무), dance to wish great peace
  • Ganggang sullae (강강술래), maidens' circle dance
  • Nongak (농악), farmers' performance
  • Talchum (탈춤), mask dance
  • Miyalhalmi chum (미얄할미춤), old woman's dance
  • Palmeokjung chum (팔먹중), dance of the eight unworthy monks
  • Dongrae hakchum (동래학춤), crane dance performed in Dongrae, Busan
  • Buponorichum (부포놀리춤), feather tassel dance
  • Chaesang sogochum (채상 소고춤), tambour Dance
  • Deotbaegichum (덧배기춤), thrust dance
  • Gaksichum (각시춤), maiden's dance

Ritual dance

Ritual dance in Korea designates Confucian ritual ceremonies, Buddhist dance and shamanism.

  • Ilmu (일무), literally line Dance
  • Jakbeop (작법)
    • Beopgochum (법고춤), Dharma drum dance
    • Nabichum (나비춤), literally butterfly dance
    • Barachum (바라춤), bara dance (바라, cymbals)
  • Musokchum, or mumu (무속춤, or 무무), dance by mudang (무당, shaman)

New traditional dance

  • Buchaechum (부채춤), fan dance created by Kim Baek-bong (김백봉 金白峰) and first presented in public in 1954
  • Hwagwanmu (화관무), floral coronet dance
  • Jangguchum (장구춤), dance with janggu, hourglass-shaped drum
  • Samgomu Ogomu (삼고무 오고무), a drum dance
  • Grand Drum Ensemble (북의 대합주), a drum dance composed by Guk Su-ho (국수호) in 1981. The instruments comprise of all Korean drums.

Modern dance

See also


External links

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