Special Korean Dance Performance to Celebrate 60 Years of Diplomatic Relations

It has been a busy year at Ottawa’s Korean Cultural Centre, which has been celebrating the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and The Republic of Korea. The centre has been marking the milestone between our two countries by hosting art exhibitions, workshops, films, K-Pop performances, and demonstrations, but the most awe-inspiring and sensational event is yet to come.

On Tuesday, October 10th, the Korean National Dance Company will present a performance of The Scent of Ink. The evening will highlight the elegance, tradition, and beauty of Korean Culture. The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Canada and the Korean Cultural Centre will co-host the event at the National Art Centre’s at Southam Hall.

Ottawa Life Magazine spoke to Director Kim Kim Jong-Deok about the performance, what makes it unique, and the history of the National Dance Company of Korea and Canada and Korea’s continuing friendship.

The National Dance Company of Korea was founded to promote Korean culture around the globe through traditional mediums. Artistic director Kim Jong-Deok explained that the group not only encourages Korean cultural learning abroad but also helps link the global Korean diaspora to its native culture so that they can reconnect with their heritage. The group acts like a cultural ambassador for the Republic of Korea.

Director Kim explained that The Scent of Ink is a story based on the traditional noblemen of Korea. For noblemen to be respected, they had to show aptitude in several areas, including reading and writing and artistic ability to draw and paint. According to Kim, The Scent of Ink Reflects this traditional history: “Ink appears a lot in literature and photographs to represent the nobleman culture built into the whole performance, so you can almost smell the fragrance of the nobility.”

The performance may be about the traditional Korean nobility, but that doesn’t mean it is an entirely traditional performance. Kim points out that steps have been taken to broaden the show’s appeal to an international audience. Perhaps most interestingly, more modern clothing is being used instead of entirely traditional Korean attire. In addition, Western orchestral instruments have been integrated with traditional Korean instruments to demonstrate the globalization of the act while still reflecting Korean traditions.

The play follows in six parts with four themes that are all represented in Sagunja, a traditional form of Korean painting, and the “four gentlemen” found within these paintings, the orchid, bamboo, chrysanthemum, and plum blossom, as well as the four seasons they each represent. Conversely, each one of the flowers also stands for a stage in the life of a Korean nobleman. For example, the chrysanthemum, which stands out even during the frost, shows itself to battle the adversity of the winter.

As the show marks 60 years of Canada-Korea relations, we asked Kim about the differences between Canada and the Republic of Korea and what commonalities he’s noticed. Kim said, “One thing we have in common that is significant was the Korean War. Canada was the third-largest deployment, and many Canadians gave up their lives to help Korea.” He went on to say, “We also shared the value of liberty too, as do Canadians, and for that involvement, we thank you.”

In addition to the Korean side of the commemoration, there will be a performance by renowned Canadian cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne, who will perform his Empty Space | Empty Time dance performance with the Ottawa Dance Directive and will also perform Arirang, a traditional Korean song recrafted into an arrangement of his own. The performance symbolizes Korea and Canada together, partnering for a future filled with years of friendship.

The Scent of Ink has become a global sensation for mixing Western music and modernity with Korean traditional instruments and dance. It regularly sells out wherever it is performed, and Tuesday night’s performance continues this trend.

While it is uncertain if the Korean National Dance Company will be back in Canada anytime soon, you can stay up-to-date on Korean Cultural Centre activities in Ottawa by following them on Facebook or visiting their website: https://canada.korean-culture.org.