GTU PhD Student


Dance of Condolence: Salpuri for the dead due to COVID-19 

This project is designed to remember the numerous people’s death due to the COVID-19 virus through a kind of Korean traditional dance, salpuri. Originally, salpuri was a ritualistic dance for a dead person in Korean shamanism to relieve their suppressed emotion, “Han". It contains two parts: 1) Deep grief and han of the human world, and 2) sublimation through the dancer’s movement with a piece of cloth. The main themes of Korean traditional dance are Jeong-jung-dong 정중동(靜中動)—a moment of movement within stillness—and Dong-jung-jeong 동중정(動中靜)—a moment of stillness within a movement. Salpuri is one of the most beautiful dances that express these two themes harmonically. In this dance, a dancer slowly moves to sad music with a piece of cloth that moves as if the emotion of the dancer, rather than the dancer, is controlling it.   

This dance video contains three parts: 1) the isolation and fear due to COVID-19, 2) the enlightening moment of transition from the selfishness to the compassion for the suffering of others, and 3) dancing salpuri for them and revelation of their han through this dance. The first scene is the deep ocean, which means my depressed status in shelter-in-place. For the first part of this video, I closed every door in the house and applied the dark filter to express my isolation in shelter-in-place, fear for the virus, and racism. I wore a black winter coat and mask to describe my psychological status at the first time when I stocked in the castle of selfishness. I should protect myself alone within a foreign country that never concerns about the student from another country. There is no medical system or test for my status even if I was infected with the virus, and the racism toward the Asian people was bitter reality everywhere I visited. However, I found dried flowers beside the window and in front of the Jesus’ picture, and these petals make me remind of the people who suffered and died due to COVID-19 virus: It was the turning point from the selfishness to altruism through the various opportunity that was offered by divine. I turned on the light, opened the doors, and took off the mask to describe my openness to the world that I forgot. The latter part of the video is my dance of condolence for the people outside of my castle of selfishness. I wore the white dress in this dance instead of traditional Korean cloth, Han-bok, to express the ripple effect of the coronavirus without borders of the country and the situation in which the whole world hurts. This idea was coming from the current exhibition of the Doug Adams Gallery, AFTER/LIFE. I realized that the white dress is a kind of worldwide symbol of the dead, and Mark Mitchell’s burial series in the exhibition also reflect this fact—the dancers who perform salpuri in Korea also wear a white Korean traditional cloth. The last scene is the dried flowers that I saw in the first part of the video to invite the audience to remember others who suffered from the COVID-19 virus. 

I want to comfort someone who is in their suffering and pain because of COVID-19 through this project. While preparing the video and dancing for the suffered people, I realized when we are doing something for others, we can be stronger than living only for ourselves. I hope whenever we remember and embody the suffering of the people through this video, there could be a sacred place where they experience the healing and empowering of God. 

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