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Sungmu (Monk Dance)


The Sungmu is a solo dance that is a mixture of flowing movements and tense, sudden stillness. The flutter of white sleeves soaring in the air, the serenity hidden in the shades of a white hood, a breathtaking pause, and then a soul-stirring movement contribute to the singular uniqueness of the Sungmu. Yi Mae-bang's solo monk dance is a showcase of the core techniques required in all traditional dances. His style is full of vitality. Each movement is broad and powerful, and none is repeated.

The Sungmu integrates the eight rhythmic cycles: yombul, toduri (6/4), t'aryong, chajin t'aryong, kut kori (12/8), twit kut kori, kujong nori, and saesanjo. Every now and then, when one rhythm shifts to another, the dancer changes the mood by changing his steps.

The visual aesthetic of the Sungmu centers on the extended white sleeves of the dancer which gently undulate while he holds his breath and bobs his head.

Because of its refined style, the Sungmu was designated as Intangible Cultural Property No. 27. After branching off from Buddhist ceremonial dances, it became widespread, together with the Kommu. It was an indispensable subject of study in the professional dance training centers during ancient times. These centers include kyobang, dance schools which trained female entertainers, and kwonbon, a more comprehensive school for female entertainers. A dancer who did not know the Sungmu was not considered a real dancer. While everyone interprets the dance according to his or her own tastes and experiences, when all is said and done, it is vividly remembered for the expressive flow of the dancer's long sleeves against the hollow space of the stage.


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