Sri Lanka’s traditional dance and my K-pop influenced lens 

Posted on May 20, 2017

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Sri Lanka’s top choreographer and percussionist Ravibandhu Vidyapathy introduces traditional Sri Lanka drums and dances, encompassing the country’s history, religious, myths and art (as per program notes)

Thanks to Korea Foundation,  I was able to watch Sri Lanka: A Treasure Island of Dance and Music (스리란가, 춤과 음악의 보물섬)  by one of the country’s best choreographers and percussionists Ravibandhu Vidyapathy.  

It felt refreshing to see and hear something other than Korean music, as I have been living and studying in Korea for the past 9 months or so.  

From Sri Lanka’s highlands to lowlands, from dances for the gods to dances for the common people, from traditional to something more experimental like putting a Sri Lanka music and dance spin to a Western classic like Macbeth,  I saw it all in awe last night. 

However, I couldn’t help but notice how I was looking for K-pop elements I’ve somehow gotten used to.

First of all, I found myself looking for synchronicity of dance moves.  They were moving together,  yes,  but unlike the K-pop groups I’ve gotten used to,  they were not moving exactly at the same time.  

Related to this,  I also found myself looking for symmetry of form in terms of physical appearance and the space they occupy on stage.  Unlike the K-pop groups I’ve gotten used to,  their physical bodies were not similar- some were a bit on the chubby side while some were on the stick-thin side.  Also,  unlike the K-pop groups I’ve gotten used to,  their stage presence seemed a bit strange to me as the spaces they occupied were not symmetrical.  K-pop groups would usually dance at a designated space that makes the overall state look symmetrically beautiful and pleasant to the eyes.  They would also move at exactly the same time.  But what I watched last night was not like that. 

Nevertheless, the Sri Lankan show last night was well-appreciated for the rich culture it showed and shared with the audience. I especially liked Krishna,  where in Hindu God Krishna was shown dancing with devotees.  I also liked Mayura, a dance from the Kandy region mimicking the movements of a beautiful peacock.  The adaptation of Macbeth, integrating Sri Lankan dance and music was also a refreshing take on the Western classic.  Last but not least,  the Bheri Nada reminded me of the Korean samulnori (사물놀이)  as last night’s performance also featured four traditional Sri Lankan drums. 

All in all,  last night’s experience was a great reminder of the world’s rich culture beyond K-pop and traditional Korean music,  and how much my appreciation of art forms has been influenced by Korea.  

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