Sunday, 20 September 2009

2009 Thames Festival: A Scoop of Korea

I attended “A Scoop of Korea” on a sunny day on Saturday the 12th of September 2009 at THE SCOOP-next to City Hall in London-as part of the annual Thames Festival.

This was the third year the Korean Cultural Centre had participated in the Thames Festival-a celebration of London and its river.

Five different aspects of Korean culture were on display.

A selection of traditional dances was the first. They were colourful, aesthetically pleasing and performed beautifully with subtle movement. Groups of dancers in traditional Korean dress-Hanbok-were reminiscent of iridescent butterflies fluttering in a gentle breeze. When the tempo got faster the colours seemed to become more magnificent.

Another group in simple white costumes were as graceful and a marked contrast.

Elegant solo dancers showed their individual skills in their performances.

The FAN DANCE was choreographed with wonderful precision-the pink peony blossom decorated fans added to the charm and spectacle- and was without doubt the favourite of the audience. This whole programme of dance was well received.

The next display couldn’t have been more different. It was a demonstration of TAEKWONDO-Korea’s national sport-performed by the Korean National Sports University Taekwondo Team. Apart from being thoroughly entertaining it highlighted the skills of a group of superb athletes who at times seemed to have wings on their heels.

The performance consisted of board breaking and acrobatic manoeuvres. There was also a bout between two participants which demonstrated the reality of competition. The concentration level of the team was quite intense with precision and timing to the fore. A great deal of skill and technique was displayed. All this was accompanied by stirring music to accentuate the speed and skill of the athletes.

All the members of the display team were superbly fit-and had to be-to be able to take part in such a gruelling exercise.

This particular segment was also extremely well received with gasps of astonishment and spontaneous applause breaking out when particular acrobatic feats were performed. The audience was enthralled and rightly so.

Yet another change of pace followed. Han-sik a Master Class in Korean cooking took centre place. This was the preparation of a Korean dish by the gracious and elegant Professor Sookja YOON who is the Director of the Institute of Traditional Korean Food.

As an aside I must tell you that I have known Professor for a while and without doubt she and the Institute are leaders in the promotion of Korean cuisine in Korea and around the world.

An interpreter and an assistant were on hand to explain the ingredients, their preparation, the history and the benefits of the particular dish. The audience then had the chance to sample what they had seen being prepared.

This demonstration was preceded by a mock procession of the Emperor of Korea.

A marquee of the Institute with other dishes was close at hand giving members of the public to taste different Korean food prepared.

The fourth event was a variety show. Monsters Theatres could be described as different, somewhat quirky and certainly entertaining. SOREA-recognised as the leading creative music group of Korea-showcased a performance that pioneers the new age of Korean music and performing arts with traditional Korean instruments being used with unique musical arrangements.

The performers-known as “Jammers” included in this show comedy (with audience participation) break dancing and Taekwondo. Together SOREA and the Jammers provided another aspect of Korean entertainment which the audience enjoyed.

Last but not least was the open air screening of “The Good, The Bad and The Weird” directed by KIM Ji-won. This film was inspired by Sergio Leone’s “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”. The wilderness in Manchuria was the venue of some of the breathtaking scenes.

The Korean Cultural Centre is to be complemented on the diversity of the programmes of the event. Certainly there was plenty to suit all tastes.

The Thames Festival 09 was over the weekend of the 12th and 13th of September with “A Scoop of Korea” on both days.

Korean culture and food was introduced for the first time to a great number of people not only with the performances but with meals available to be purchased.

I enjoyed the experience as it brought back memories of Korea.

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