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Korean Contemporary Dance

After the Korean War, many changes took place in all fields of Korean society, and dance was no exception. From the mid- 1960s, a new trend came into the fore to create original dances on the basis of traditional pieces. Centering around university campuses, there was increasing interest in modern reproductions of traditional pieces during the 1970s. At that time, academic studies of Korean dance were undertaken. These efforts contributed to the emergence of Korean contemporary dance which combined both Korean traditional and Western dance. The Original Dance Society, established by Ewha Womans University in 1976, and the Korean National Dance Festival, hosted by the Korean Culture and Arts Foundation which was initiated in 1979, employed traditional materials in experimental, creative modern pieces.

Since the 1980s, Korean contemporary dance has become liberalized in expression and style, broadening the boundaries of the genre. The modernist style of the 1960s became the rave, a new aesthetic that inspired many dancers to explore new and original styles. This trend, led by the Korea Contemporary Dance Company, was enriched by Yuk Wan-sun, Hong Shin-ja, Kim Pok-hCui, Yi Chong-hui, Kim Hwa-suk, Pak Myong-suk, and Pak Oe-son. In line with this, dancers like Kim Mae-ja, Pae Chong-hye, Kim Hyon-ja, Mun Il-chi, Kuk Su-ho, and Kim Yong-hui began to recreate contemporary performances on the basis of traditional styles. Yuk Wan-sun introduced the techniques of Martha Graham(1894-1991) and achieved remarkable success with the modern dance drama, Jesus Christ Superstar. Hong Shin-ja studied avant-garde dance in the United states in 1963. She attempted to express Korean spiritualism through contemporary Western dance techniques. Kim Mae-ja who led the Ch'ang Mu Dance Company, sought to rediscover the value of Korea's indigenous dance culture and translate it into modern dance expressions.

Since the 1990s, open-air classical ensembles and full-score p'ansori (narrative solo opera) began to be offered to the public in the amphitheater of the National Theater. The Friday Ballet performed by the National Ballet Company, the traditional dance programs performed at the Chongdong Theater in downtown Seoul, and many contemporary dance performances throughout the country continue to enrich people's everyday lives. The Traditional Dance Institute of the Korean National University of Arts, established in 1998, also aims to educate future generations in Korea's traditional dance heritage. Together with other dance institutions, the institute will continue to exert influence in the field of Korean dance.

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