“I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.”-President John F. Kennedy
One of the biggest ways societies and cultures contribute to the human spirit is through artwork. In order to help make this contribution accessible to everyone, FREE performing arts productions are offered at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage every day, no ticket required. Here you can see “performing artists and groups from all 50 states and an Artist-in-Residence program featuring artists performing several evenings in a month”(www.kennedy-center.org/). Be sure to arrive early, as seats fill quickly. If you arrive late, or do not reside in the D.C. area, don’t fret! All of the performances are recorded live and are viewable in the Millennium Stage’s archives.
I was fortunate enough to grab a seat at one of these top-notch performances last night. Sounds of Korea — a Korean Traditional Performance Group — consists of a dance troupe, an instrumental chamber ensemble and a percussion ensemble, and is part of the New York-based Korean Performing Arts Center (KPAC). They performed 6 musical pieces that were not only amazing musical productions, but were also visually stunning and beautiful:
Samul-nori is a traditional percussion genre performed with 4 different instruments.
Pan-sori is a genre of Korean Traditional Storytelling Music performed by a vocalist and a drummer. This particular story is about soldiers. The piece was introduced to the audience as “Korean opera”. I soon realized that opera in Korea is absolutely nothing like opera in Europe! I was expecting a delicate aria, and was instead greeted with beautiful and heartening battle cries.
Buchae-chum is a Fan Dance, and is probably the most recognizable piece in the performance. With pink dresses and feather adorned fans…it is no surprise that this is my 9 year old daughter’s favorite performance of the night.
A more soothing, peaceful song was needed after the excitement of going to war and coming home to pretty girls with feathers. The Daegeum Solo, which is performed with a Transverse Bamboo Flute, provided tranquility and serenity. The tone of the flute has an almost eerie quality.
Ip-chum is an Improvisational Folk Dance, performed here by three women. It may not have been as exciting as the Buchae-chum, but it was just as enchantingly beautiful.
And the pièce de résistance: Samgo-moo, a Three Drums Dance. These 4 women each played 3 drums while spinning, jumping, and swooshing more gracefully than I could ever hope to walk!
This is such a talented band of individuals! If you ever have the opportunity to see Sounds of Korea, please take advantage of it!
The Millennium Stage was created and underwritten by James A. Johnson and Maxine Isaacs to make the performing arts accessible to everyone in fulfillment of the Kennedy Center’s mission to its community and the nation.