Sounds of Korea

Since her arrival in the United States in 1982, Sue Yeon Park has been a major force in perpetuating traditional Korean performing arts in her adopted country. Shortly after settling in New York, Park founded Sounds of Korea, a performance troupe dedicated to preserving Korea’s traditional performing arts.

  • Korean dance, drumming and music
  • New York, New York

From The Brothers Burton

Scott says: Folk in a pretty raw form. Ancient drumming combined with classic dance. A show that strives to pack in as much Korean culture as possible.

Taylor says: Not quite “folk” music per se, but quite elaborate and amazing court drumming and dance. Super heavy hitting rhythms combined with elegant dance to form an all around incredible experience.

Professional Bio

Since her arrival in the United States in 1982, Sue Yeon Park has been a major force in perpetuating traditional Korean performing arts in her adopted country. Shortly after settling in New York, Park founded Sounds of Korea, a performance troupe dedicated to preserving Korea’s traditional performing arts. The group remains a vital link between the centuries old traditions of Korea and the growing Korean-American population, often performing at cultural events within the Korean community throughout the region. Through the artistic vision of Sue Yeon Park, this performance group has become one of the most highly regarded traditional Korean dance and music groups in the U.S. and the world.

Traditional Korean dance has its roots in Buddhist shaman rituals thousands of years old and incorporates both court and folk pieces. With its exquisite traditional attire, ensemble dance numbers, powerful choreographed drumming, and plaintive, solo dance pieces, watching Sounds of Korea is a highly visual experience and powerful journey into the deep and dynamic Korean artistic expression.

Sounds of Korea’s broad repertoire includes the s’am-g’o-m’oo (Buddhist drum dance). In Korea, the puk (drum) is traditionally thought to be an earthly symbol of heaven. The Korean creation story tells that the puk was brought to earth by the gods of wind, cloud, and rain. The s’am-g’o-m’oo dancers’ beating of the drum is meant to instruct the evil-minded on the ways of heaven and to save creatures from suffering. Another exciting dance is the buchae-ch’um (fan dance), which developed in the 18th century. The graceful music and the shifting geometric designs created by the dancers and their fans represent flower gardens. Apart from their everyday function, fans are an important element in Korean shamanistic rituals as they are believed to expel evil and encourage prosperity.

Sounds of Korea is part of the larger Korean Traditional Performing Arts Association (KTPAA), a New York-based community organization that works to preserve, cultivate, and disseminate Korean culture. They offer weekly classes in folk singing, dance and instruments including kayagum (12 stringed zither) and poongmul (percussion ensemble,) daegum (transverse bamboo flute) and danso (small flute). Its members consist of individuals from the New York Korean-American community who are dedicated to promoting intercultural understanding and appreciation of Korea’s artistic heritage and history.

Beloved by her community, Sue Yeon Park has received many awards for her dedication to her art. In 2004 she received the New York Governor’s “Award of Excellence” for her outstanding achievements and community service to the Empire State. She has also received the “Best Artist of the Year” Award from the Foundation for Korean Arts and Culture in Korea, and the “Award of Recognition and Appreciation” from the Asian American Cultural Center at Rutgers University for her dedication to Korean art and music. In 2008, Sue Yeon Park was awarded the prestigious NEA National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor this country bestows on traditional artists. As an elegant performer, a passionate teacher and a tireless advocate, Sue Yeon Park has played a critical role in preserving and disseminating traditional Korean music and dance, both within the Korean community and to the public at large.

(Photo by Tom Pich)

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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