Cultural Night Shines Brightly in Korea
By Kathy Rappleye, with photos by Lloyd and Kathy Rappleye

SEOUL, Korea – From the call of the Big Drum to the final singing of the beloved Korean song “Arirang,” the Cultural Night of the 2005 Area Conference was a festival of colorful costumes, beautiful dancing, heart-pounding drums and touching portrayals of the history of the Church in Korea.

A play by Young Adults poked a little light-hearted fun at the missionaries just before more than 200 or more former missionaries walked onto the floor singing “Called to Serve.” A full LDS orchestra, a choir of more than 500 voices, a Primary Choir of children ages 7 to 13 and professional LDS singers round out the program with superb music.

The participants are Korean Saints in age from tiny toddlers to grandmothers.  The only disappointment of the evening was President Hinckley’s absence.  He was unable to be there because an accident in Anchorage, Alaska, delayed his group by a day. The performances were carefully recorded and will be presented to him so he can view them later.

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These three Young Women were among hundreds of dancers who wore colorful and authentic Korean costumes.

The program included the following traditional dances, done by dancers wearing traditional costumes:

Hwa-Gwan-Mu (Flower-Crown-Dance). The history of this dance spans 2000 years – from the Shilla Dynasty through the Koryo and Lee Dynasties. The dancers are elegantly dressed in full court attire and wear crowns ornamented with beads of five colors. It is a graceful dance with slow rhythms portraying the nobility and beauty of the court life of past dynasties. Young Women from the Gangseo, Seoul South, Seoul East, Seoul North, Seoul, Dongdaemun, and Yeongdong stakes were the talented dancers in this performance.

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The Flower-Crown Dance has a 2000-year history.

Kang-Gang-Sullae (Hand-in-Hand-Circle Dance). Women of the southwestern coastal region have long performed this dance at the Harvest Moon Festival under a full moon. The basic movement of this dance consists of holding hands and circling around. A variety of traditional dance movements related to domestic activities are inserted, these are; the tortoise game, picking wild bracken, stringing dried fish, cutting fish tails, rolling up straw mats, and so on.  A leader instructs the dancers at the top of her voice. This lively dance was performed by 75 Relief Society sisters from the Suwon, Ahnyang and Youngdong stakes.

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The Fan Dance presented the dancers as flowers that opened and closed with the movement of the fans.

The Traditional Korean Fan Dance. The dancers wear traditional Korean clothes or sugar coats and hold fans decorated with flower drawings and feathers. All the physical movements of the dance are led from folding, turning and unfolding the fans. It is an intricate and beautiful dance, the fans often enclosing the faces of the dancers and then opening to reveal them, much like flowers. The Relief Society and Young Women of the Daejeon stake performed this beautiful mother and daughter dance.

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The Fan Dance participants took pleasure in the synchronization of their movements.

Taekwonmu (Taekwon Dance). The Primary children of the Seoul Gangseo and South stakes performed this energetic dance based on the sport of Taekwondo.  The whole floor was filled with these beautiful children, in age from the youngest to the oldest moving in unity in this lively dance.

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These two young dancers wait for their Primary group to begin the dance tribute to the martial art of Taekwondo.

Instrumental Music of Peasants. This colorful cacophony of young and old, men and women portrays a “folk music party in a yard” called poongmulgood.  It uses five different instruments – a small and large gong, a single and a double-headed drum, and a tabor. It was a village party with folk music so loud and exciting it could wake the dead. It was great fun to watch all the joyful celebration.  Babies on Dad’s shoulders, the old grandparents, and even the little beggar girl collecting coins from the audience members – all had a part. Jeonju Stake provided this great production.

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These “peasant” dancers carried a message that was guaranteed to warm President Hinckley’s heart.

Buk Choom (Drum Dance). More than 120 Young Men from the Gangseo, South, East, Dongdaemun, North, Seoul and Yeongdong stakes performed this heart-pounding dance. The drum is primarily used to express victory, new beginnings, and going forward.  It is Korea’s traditional instrument. This creative and vigorous performance suggests hope for the future.

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These Young Men enjoyed the thunder of the drums even more than they enjoyed the dancing itself.

Dance Sport. This is a modern piece with a Spanish flair. Performed by the Young Adults of Korea, it portrays their desire to be in the world, but not of the world. Graceful and dynamic, the dance shows the character and faith of the Korean Young Adults who have never been willing to submit to worldliness.

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“Dance Sport,” a production by Korea‘s young adults, portrayed their desire to stay away from the trappings of the world.