Korean traditions to take center stage in Beaverton this weekend
Fans flicked, drums beat and pumpkin pie was served after one of the last rehearsals before Oregon Korean Performing Arts hits the stage at Patricia Reser Center for the Arts this weekend.
All that was missing was the headpieces, and the audience.
The 20-person ensemble of Oregon Korean Performing Arts was perfecting the fan dance Wednesday, Oct. 26 — just one portion and one outfit of many that will be put on display at the "Beauty of Korea" grand performance the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts on Saturday, Oct. 29, two years after the group was forced to shutter throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The dancers and musicians aim to bring the culture and traditions of Korea to the main stage.
As the group practiced each piece, performer Doyeon Lim explained what is known of the history of the dances and songs, some of which date back 1,500 years: The fan dance demonstrates through motion the blooming flowers and flight of butterflies in the springtime, while the more ominous samul nori, with strong drums and gong beats, is meant to wish for good weather for crops.
Oregon Korean Performing Arts was founded in 2009. It has been featured at school events, parades, festivals and colleges campuses.
But, like many artistic and cultural endeavors, performances came to a halt when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down events and prohibited indoor gatherings.
"For two years, we couldn't do anything," Lim said. "It's been hard to advertise after COVID."
The outbreak of the pandemic and the associated unrest was especially hard on the members of the group. There was an uptick of hate crimes against Asian people across the nation, which wasn't lost on performers. That's one more reason the dancers aim to share their culture with a wider audience.
"The hate comes from feeling uncomfortable, and feeling uncomfortable comes from not knowing something well, and not knowing something well comes from a lack of education," Lim said.
After nearly a decade of zero hate crimes against Asian people reported in Oregon, the number began to jump.
Three years ago, 11 incidents were reported, eight of them being assaults. In 2020, the FBI's most recent data, three of the five hate crimes against Asian people reported were destruction of property, and one was an assault.
Lim has been writing the governor and even the president of the United States in the hopes of expanding access to Korean culture and language in schools and in holiday performances.
"Making the effort to eliminate Asian hate in a community is very necessary," Lim said.
With pandemic restrictions lifting, the group started practicing again last August, when students were able to return to school. It has since performed at five events from Seattle to Salem.
"The U.S. is a big quilt, and we all have beautiful pieces of our own," said board chair and performer Martha Han. "Part of the quilt is us, and we like to present it."
"Beauty of Korea," an exploration of hundreds of years of Korean traditional dance and music, opens at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, 12625 S.W. Crescent St. in Beaverton.
The program includes more than half a dozen dances, as well as traditional folk songs of Korea.
Tickets start at $24 at thereser.org.
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