Let's dance the 'Ganggangsullae'

Let's dance the 'Ganggangsullae'

YP junior reporter Janet Tam Ka-wing learned the steps and meaning of an ancient Korean dance at a workshop

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Korean dancers lead Hong Kong students through their paces in a performance of the Ganggangsullae.
Korean dancers lead Hong Kong students through their paces in a performance of the Ganggangsullae.
Photos: Leon Lee
The Chae Hyang Soon Dance Company recently performed their enchanting show of Korean traditional dance and music at the World Cultures Festival. Before their performance, the troupe held a backstage dance workshop for Hong Kong students in a large studio of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.

Chae Hyang-soon, who is the group's artistic director and a professor of dance at Chung-Ang University in Seoul, taught some traditional Korean dance steps and moves to a group of 30 students.

Young Post junior reporter Janet Tam Ka-wing participated in the workshop. Here she recounts her experiences.


The workshop taught me a lot about Korean folk culture and traditions. The troupe's dancers first explained to us the different parts and layers of the traditional Korean dresses they wore.

Then the dance class began.

As some male performers played live music for us, we began learning some basic Korean dance steps. Our teachers told us that we needed to focus on the lower part of our body. We needed to walk slowly and squat a little with every step, just as in traditional ceremonies.

The steps looked easy at first, but soon I started sweating from the exertion.

The second part of the workshop was much more relaxing as we learned to perform the Ganggangsullae, an ancient Korean rice harvest dance, in which people dance around in a circle.

Villagers once performed the Ganggangsullae to ask the gods for a bountiful harvest. The dance, which originated some 5,000 years ago, has since become an important cultural symbol of Korea.

In the old days, women performed this dance at night under a full moon during the Chuseok festival, or Mid-Autumn Festival, on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. To every line sung by a lead singer, dancers answered with the refrain "Ganggangsullae". Women sang of their harsh labours and hopes for a better future.

The dances could last until dawn.

The Ganggangsullae has been designated as an important part of Korean culture and placed on Unesco's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

During the workshop, we all held hands and formed a circle. Then we began dancing by rotating clockwise.

At certain points of the dance, we would all walk to the centre of the circle hand-in-hand and then move out again to re-form a circle.

As we danced, the song's tempo became faster and faster until we were twirling around while clapping our hands.

We all had great fun. By the end of the workshop, we were all exhausted from performing this uplifting dance.


Korean dancers dressed in traditional kimono-style costumes pose for a photograph with YP junior reporter Janet Tam Ka-wing.

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