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Yusun & Hosun Kang performing Hwasunmu (Photo by Danny Jung) 


On Saturday, September 8, about 120 people gathered at the Flushing Town Hall for a magical evening of traditional Korean dance and music performed by members of the Korean Traditional Music and Dance Institute of New York (KTMDI) and led by sisters Yusun Kang and Hosun Kang.  Titled “Yusun and Hosun Kang’s Korean Traditional Dance and Beyond,” the show featured six unique performances that showcased the beauty, depth, and breadth of traditional Korean music and dance.


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Beginning of Hwasunmu (Photo by Regina Kim)


The program opened with an artistic performance of Hwasunmu (화선무), a dance created in 1978 by the Kang sisters’ dance teacher, Yi Jo Lim, who drew his inspiration for the piece from a 17th-century painting titled Pungryudo (풍류도). True to its name (“Hwa” meaning flower and “sun” meaning fan), the dance portrayed the beauty and elegance of Chosun-era Korea, with performers posing in colorful traditional Korean dresses (hanbok) as Yusun and Hosun Kang danced gracefully with floral fans.


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Yusun (left) and Hosun Kang in Hwasunmu (Photo by Danny Jung)


The next performance was a soulful haegeum solo piece performed by Hee Jung Han with Indang Kim accompanying her on the janggu. (Haegeum is a traditional Korean fiddle similar to the Chinese huqin.  Janggu is a Korean hourglass-shaped drum.)  


Then Yusun Kang, dressed in all-white, delivered an emotionally-charged performance of Salpuri Chum (살풀이 춤), a type of dance noted for its alternating contracting and releasing movements that serve to convey grace and intense emotion simultaneously.  


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Yusun Kang performing Salpuri Chum (Photo by Danny Jung) 


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Photo by Danny Jung


Hosun Kang, the younger sister of Yusun, took to the stage with her dazzling rendition of Jinju Gyobang Gutguri (진주교방 굿거리), a 900-year-old dance originating from the Jinju region of South Korea’s Gyungsang Province.  This was followed by another solo performance by Yusun, who this time did a lively drum dance called Jindo Buk Chum (진도 북춤), a piece that hails from a city named Jindo in South Korea’s Jeolla Province.  


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Hosun Kang performing Jinju Gyobang Gutguri (Photo by Regina Kim)


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Yusun Kang performing Jindo Buk Chum (Photo by Regina Kim)


But the highlight of the show came at the end, when all the participating performers from KTMDI appeared on stage for the grand finale:  an upbeat and literally heart-pounding performance of “Heartbeat for World Peace” (평화의 대북소리), a dynamic percussion piece composed by 71-year-old Ms. Jung Sook Moon.  For this last piece, the drummers used Korean drums of various sizes along with an intricate mix of drumming styles and rhythms to convey the “music of the skies”—specifically, the forces that the clouds, rain, wind, and thunder exert on our lives on earth.  


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Members of KTMDI performing "Heartbeat for World Peace" (Photo by Regina Kim)



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Yusun and Hosun Kang playing kwaenggari in

"Heartbeat for World Peace" (Photo by Danny Jung)


During the reception after the show, many members of the audience were raving about the performances.  “It was great—the dancing was great, the drums were much more than I expected.  The whole performance was very polished,” said Phil Robinson, who lives in the Whitestone neighborhood of Queens, NY.  His friend Jung Ho Hong echoed his sentiments, while adding, “It’s surreal to see a traditional Korean dance performance in New York.  It’s my first time seeing something like this in New York.  I especially liked the Salpuri Chum and the grand finale.” Franklin Bethea from the Bronx remarked, “It was good.  I really liked the last two pieces because they were livelier. I wish I could’ve done it with them!”  Cathy Radvansky, who lives in Bayside, seemed particularly happy to give her thoughts about the evening’s performers:  “They were really amazing.  They always had a nice smile and such good unison—they were so synchronized!  It’s amazing for all the drummers to do so well, and I thought the costumes were very pretty.”  


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KTMDI performer Jihwan Choi twirling a ribbon in the grand finale (Photo by Regina Kim)



I tried to interview the Kang sisters after their show, but they were constantly swarmed by their fans and friends throughout the reception, so I had to resort to asking them my questions via email.  Hosun Kang kindly wrote some interesting things about her and her sister and their work in the traditional Korean performing arts.  Here’s what she had to say:


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Sisters Hosun (left) & Yusun Kang

(Photo by Regina Kim)



Q:  How did it feel to hold a joint dance show with your sister in New York?


Hosun Kang:  I’ve performed on stage with my sister so many times for the past ten years, but this was the first time we held a show featuring both of our names in the show’s title.  We were able to do our very own show thanks to a grant we received from the Queens Council on the Arts.  I am just so very happy and pleased that we successfully completed our first show and that many people showed great interest in it and gave us positive feedback.



Q:  When did you and your sister start performing traditional Korean dances?  Why did you decide to pursue it as a profession?


HK:  My sister Yusun started doing traditional Korean dances when she was in middle school, and I started seriously doing it when I was 19 years old.  Our mother Yoon Sook Park, who is the president of KTMDI, learned the gayageum and traditional dance from some of Korea’s greatest masters of traditional Korean music and dance. She started performing on TV and radio and holding concerts abroad at an early age.  If she had chosen to stay in Korea, she would have been designated as a living national treasure in gayageum by now.  She has devoted her entire life to traditional Korean performing arts, and I can honestly say that she’s been our greatest influence.  She came to the U.S. thirty years ago and settled in New York, so we grew up traveling back and forth between New York and Korea and ended up working in New York.  


Now we feel that it is our mission to raise awareness of traditional Korean dance in America.  About ten years ago we met Mr. Yi Jo Lim, who is currently the art director of Seoul Metropolitan Dance Theatre.  We formally studied traditional Korean dance by learning his works, and we continue to perform and promote his elegant dance pieces, which show the beauty in subtle movements and in the use of empty space.  We also continue to perform other choreographers’ pieces as well.


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Yusun Kang in Jindo Buk Chum

(Photo by Danny Jung)


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Photo by Danny Jung



Q:  Do you have any other concerts scheduled in New York in the near future?  


HK:  Yi Jo Lim is currently ranked as the #1 living national treasure in Lee Mae Bang’s Salpuri Chum and in Korean Buddhist dance.  Mr. Lim gave us a lot of support and encouragement for our show.  He’s scheduled to come to the U.S. next year to hold a workshop.  We are planning to hold a show featuring his traditional dance pieces, though neither the date nor the venue has been set yet.  



Q:  Where can people watch more of your performances?


HK:  You can see clips of some of our past performances on YouTube by typing in “KTMDI.”  Also, you can obtain DVDs of our performances from KTMDI (www.ktmdi.org).  



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Hosun Kang in Jinju Gyobang Gutguri

(Photo by Danny Jung)



Q:  Is there anything you would like to add?


HK:  I think that by doing this show, we were able to further solidify our role as NY-based interpreters of traditional Korean dance and music, and as artists working in America.  We want to show that traditional Korean culture is not just something that belongs to Koreans, but something that can be shared with and enjoyed by people of all ethnicities who are living in America, so in order to do that we’re going to work harder and continue studying and experimenting to become more developed, mature artists.  And we want to become known as the “Kang Sisters” who are adding some traditional flavor to the Korean Wave that is being currently led by K-pop.  



*For more information about the Korean Traditional Music & Dance Institute of New York (KTMDI), you can check out their website at www.ktmdi.org 



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The Kang sisters and other KTMDI performers posing for a group photo

(Photo by Regina Kim)