When the dance crew JabbaWockeez takes to the stage at the Monte Carlo Las Vegas Resort and Casino, it’s the MUS.I.C. Soundtrack by the Bangerz that audiences have come to expect and enjoy. The idea of also billing a group of musicians who are renowned for plucking the banjo and strumming the fiddle might seem a bit far-fetched.
But wait. Give the concept a chance.
What if, just what if, those traditional instruments were used to play traditional music, but a new twist was added, and then the world-renowned dance crew later electrified the stage. It could be a meeting of the minds, one in which a new appreciation for both means of artistic expression is born.
This rather novel idea is full-on in the “Rhythm and Passion of Korea”, a show premiering at the Ford Amphitheatre this Saturday. Presented by The Korean Cultural Center Los Angeles, whose mission is promote the rich traditions and history of Korea, the juxtaposition of the performers is one way to demonstrate how historical traditions can clearly influence modern-day culture.
Musician Kang Eun-il, along with her group Haegum Plus, take to the stage first, providing audiences with the sounds of centuries-old Korean court music. Playing her haegum, a traditional Korean stringed instrument akin to the fiddle, Kang has been entertaining audiences worldwide for the last several years. Whereas those who are familiar with the two-stringed instrument can truly appreciate its unique sound– one that has often been compared to a human voice–others in the audience are newly introduced to the haegum, which became a part of Korean tradition more than a thousand years ago.
Filling the stage with what is referred to as “new traditional music,” the musicians preserve the essence of the Korean musical heritage because the sound and instrumentation are maintained. Yet, with the addition of their own interpretations, the group brings a novel approach to the music.
Then, it’s time for the dance crew Last for One to join the show. The internationally renowned Korean dancers have received worldwide acclaim for their B-boy moves, which have won them top places in a variety of international B-boy dance competitions, including the Braun Battle of the Year, which this year will hold its finals on November 19, in Montpellier, France.
With their flamboyant performances that showcase their acrobatic expertise, Last for One is in some ways analogous to the acrobatic performers who, centuries ago, were so much a part of the Korean folk music tradition known as Pungmul. Especially popular in rural areas, troupes of performers would entertain outdoors with drumming, dancing and singing. The dancers, whose athleticism was highlighted by their feats of extreme strength and flexibility, were particularly popular with the farmers, whose mundane lives welcomed the exciting, and often humorous, performances.
So, in some ways, history once again repeats itself.
Yet despite its emphasis on Korean culture, “Rhythm and Passion of Korea” is not meant only for people of Korean descent. Rather, the Korean Cultural Center took the initiative to deliberately market the show to a wide range of people.
It’s been said: “Art knows no bounds”. If this is true, then “Rhythm and Passion of Korea” will surly be embraced for its daring approach to helping people from all backgrounds begin to know and appreciate the culture of Korea.
(“The Rhythm and Passion of Korean” will be performed on Saturday, September 10 at the Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Los Angeles 90068. Click here to buy tickets or call the box-office at (323) 461-3673.)