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Salp'uri (Spirit-Cleansing Dance)

Salp'uri means literally to wash away evil spirits. Usually a mudang(shaman) presided over the process. Shamanism is a long-held tradition which emerged around the Three Kingdoms era. Salp'uri was the climax of shaman rituals. Its representative by-product is the unique salp'uri rhythmic cycle that has been adapted in other performing arts. Salp'uri is prevalent in the Honam region, the southwestern part of Korea, in the form of ssitkimgut, the soul cleansing shaman rite. This is regarded as the archetype of the present Salp'urich'um which uses a white silk scarf as a key prop.

The salp'urich'um dance has been polished over the centuries to add artistic value, and so it is hard today to trace it back to a mere exorcism rite. It was performed in shaman rites accompanied by the rhythms of shinawi (featuring an extensively improvised ensemble with wind and percussion instruments) to attract the interest of spectators. As it was refined into an artistic artform, salp'uri's name changed to ipch'um, chukhungch'um, or sugonch'um.

Although it derived from shaman rites, salp'uri does not carry out any religious function. The dancer, attuning herself to the sorrowful shinawi music, portrays sadness and anxiety in her every step. During this process, the dancer's movement reveals striking energy and movement as she performs in a trance- like state.

The salp'uri's rhythmic normal font cycle starts out with slow-paced shinawi rhythms and gradually builds up speed which conveys the dancer's excitement.

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The sanjo dance is akin to the salp'uri ch'um but the dancer does not carry a scarf. Its usually solo instrumental music was adopted from shinawi and shaman music. Kim Chin-gol, Song Pom, Ch'oe Hyon, Kim Paek-pong, and other trailblazers of traditional dance favored it in the 1970s.

The basic rhythmic cycles of sanjo dance blend the slow rhythmic mood of chinyangjo (18/8), the walking-paced rhythm of chungjungmori (12/8), and the quick and violent rhythm of chajinmori (12/8). The music combines the sorrowful mood of kyemyonjo and the lyrical mood of ujo. The dance also mixes sorrowful and lyrical moods. The word chongjungdong, a term meaning "motion amidst repose" was first used to describe this dance.

The salp'urich'um is largely divided into three styles that of Han Yong-suk, Kim Suk-ja, and Yi Mae-bang. They share the same basic structure, but differ in fundamental respects. Han Yong-suk's style, which was handed down in the capital area, is an upper-class female style of graceful simplicity. Yi Mae-bang's style is vivacious and reflects the tastes of the southwestern region, even though the original music is from Kyonggi-do province. The scarf is the key prop which enriches the spatial layout of the dance. Kim Suk-ja's line is based on shaman rites performed as open-air entertainment. It shares the same serene character of the Kyonggi-do shaman dance, with its lavish use of hand, foot, and neck gestures.

Kut, or shaman rites, and Nong-ak or farmers' percussion music, both combine ritualistic and entertainment features. There are three major dance styles related to the kut. One is the ogugut, also called ssitkimgut, performed for spiritual cleansing. Another is chaesugut, performed to invoke good fortune and peace of the family; the other is sonanggut, a kut performed by the community to invoke its well-being.

Ogugut, as it is called in Kangwon-do and Kyongsang-do provinces, is a shaman rite for the dead. It is called chinogwigut in the capital area. The process of the chinogwigut in Seoul is as follows.

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It begins with 1) pujong kori, which purifies the site by exorcising malicious spirits, and 2) ch'angbu kori, the ritual singing by a male mudang, this is followed by 3) ttun taewang, 4) chungdi ch'longbae, chungdi karak, the conveying of messages from the dead by a shaman in a trance and the glorifying of the divine power of the ten kings, 5) mori malmyong, the first incantation song, 6) sajaesamsong kori, the entertaining of the messenger who takes the soul of the deceased to the afterworld, 7) malmi, Pari Kongju, the incantation song to the legendary Princess Pari by the chief mudang in the attire of the departed soul, 8) nok ch' ong, the invoking of the deceased, 9) twit yongshil, the second rite before the altar of the dead, 10) nok ponaem, the sending off the deceased, and 12) twitchon, chinogwi twitchon, the epilogue that offers prayers first to the guardian spirit of the house and then to the spirit of the house site.

Chaesugut is a shaman rite praying for the well-being of a family. This process also can vary. Chaesugut of Seoul region is composed of 12 parts: 1) pujong kori, the purification of the site 2) kamang kori, the conveying of messages from the dead by a shaman, 3) sangsan kori, the exorcism of sammanura, 4) pyolsang kori, the entertaining of the ancestral spirits, 5) taegam kori, the celebration of the spirit of the house site, 6) chesok kori, the prayer to the Harvest God for the family fertility and prosperity, 7) taegam kori, 8) hogu kori, the entertaining of the spirit of smallpox, 9) kunung kori, a duet by the sorcerer and sorceress, 10) songju kori, the celebration of the guardian spirit of the house, 11) ch'angbu kori, and 12) twitchon, an epilogue that offers prayers first to the guardian spirit of the house and then to the spirit of the house site.

Pyolshin-gut, a communal shaman rite, varies by region and time of year and thus is called by many different names. Tanogut or tanoje is the spring festival held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

Shaman ritual dances have a look quite distinct from those of court and folk dances. The shaman, holding a hand bell in his/her right hand and a fan painted with the Buddhist triad in his left, repeatedly jumps on both feet in one spot. In particular, the unique hoeshinmu step, where the dancer spins only to the left, is believed to be an invocation of spirits.

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Korea was primarily an agrarian society until recently. The Nong-ak, or the farmers' percussion band music and dance, was therefore a popular performing art that could be seen across the nation, with slightly varying traditions according to each region.

The origin of Nong-ak, according to one theory, come from the sowing and harvesting of fields. A percussion band visited every house in a community to drive away evil spirits around lunar new year's. Another theory traces it back to military music. It claims that, in order to prepare farmers for war, they were drilled in military tactics to the accompaniment of music and dance, which developed into Nong-ak. A third theory is that a group of mendicant Buddhist monks who went from house-to-house to collect money wearing hoods and playing an ensemble of taegum, a large transverse flute, sogum, a small flute, saenap, a conical wooden oboe, puk, a barrel drum, and cho, a small flute, inspired Nong-ak. Villagers modeled their entertainment after these mendicant monks, which then spread nationwide.

There are three regional styles of music and dance of the farmers' percussion band divided by geographical area: the urban style of the capital region, the Udo Nong-ak of the southwestern rice plain, and the Chwado Nong-ak of the central and southeastern hills.

In the southwestern region, performers wear felt hats and simple garments, and are nimble in movement. Performers of the southeastern region wear floral hoods and colorful garments and show off their skills in groups. Performers of the capital region wear both felt hats and floral coronets and are dressed in plain garments. Their dance seems to be a reenactment of the farm labor they used to perform in the fields.

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Information provided by the Korean Embassy


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