Choe Seung-hui and ensemble in The Story of Sado Castle, North Korea, 1956

From Corporeal Politics: Dancing East Asia by Katherine Mezur and Emily Wilcox, Editors

  • Asian Studies
  • Theater and Performance
  • Dance
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  • This video shows an excerpt from a color dance film made in 1956. This excerpt is taken from a recent documentary and has English subtitles and narration added onto the original film. The original credits in the film are shown in Korean. English subtitles read: “Produced in 1956 by D.P.R.K National Company; The Tale of Sado Fortress; Choreography by Choi Seunghee; Starring Choi Seunghee Dance Company; The Sword Dance.” As the credits show, traditional Korean wind and string instruments are played in the background. After the credits, the film cuts to an outdoor dance scene. A woman in a long red skirt performing a solo sword dance at the front and center. Beyond her, a semicircle of people is gathered around watching. Behind them are several billowing triangular flags of varying colors and designs along a castle wall. The women spins rapidly and deftly twirls the swords in front and behind her body, smiling at the camera. A high-pitched Korean horn plays in the background. The narrator states: “At the time, she was also creating dance dramas emphasizing group dances. The Story of Sadosŏng is one example. It was the first color film produced in North Korea, with Choe Seung-hui playing the lead role. The film featured Korean dances that she had created.” A man joins the women in the center, and they run in circles back to back. Then, they both clap and raise their arms, then join the large crowd in a lively group dance. People snake through the space in circling lines, first clapping and then holding hands. Then, they begin to clap and jump in unison, calling out and waving their hands above their heads. A group of people gathered on a veranda in the background overlooking the scene, and large red pillars of the castle are also visible behind them. The dancers are dressed in varied colors of everyday Korean costumes from an earlier historical era. Most are in long skirts or pants with belts of fabric tied around the waist. The high-pitched horn continues to play, creating a lively, energetic, and celebratory mood. The camera moves away until the dancers are partially obscured behind the branches of a tree filled with pink flower blossoms in the foreground.