While many sought the authentic Korean fare served before the show, other attendees at the Korean Culture Night 2008 on Thursday, March 27 eagerly anticipated the series of performances that followed, a colorful blend of traditional and pop Korean culture. Korean Culture Night resembled a Korean SING!, with students participating in a variety of dance and music performances.
Korean teacher Jisun Lee and Korean Outreach Committee Chair Robert Lee were the coordinators of this event. A lack of materials and money for the Korean class, which was developed by the Korean Outreach Committee, inspired Jisun Lee to invent Korean Culture Night or Norimahdang. The Korean Outreach Committee raised 9,000 dollars at Korean Culture Night 2007, all of which went to the World Languages department (mostly for the Korean class). The profits from Norimahdang 2008 haven’t been disclosed yet.
Unlike Korean Culture Night 2007 which was held at the Murray Kahn Theater, Norimahdang 2008 took place at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center at a cost of 7,000 dollars to the Korean Outreach Committee. The main reason for shifting the location was that “many people want their own culture night,” Jisun Lee said. Using the Murray Kahn Theater for Norimahdang would have required the school to do the same for other culture nights.
The Korean food was distributed by volunteering parents before the show in an terrace near the BMCC entrance. Though the food choices were more limited than those at Korean Culture Night 2007, more food was provided and people were able to have seconds or thirds—food quickly ran out at Korean Culture Night 2007. The beef and the kimchee were two of the most popular dishes. Admission to the dinner was also made free for this year’s Korean Culture Night, though admission to the performance still required a ticket that cost 5 dollars for students.
After the audience enthusiastically sang along to the United States and South Korean National Anthems, followed by a brief address by Principal Stanley Teitel, the show began. Norimahdang started off with a traditional Korean “mixed drums” performance, followed by the mystical mask dance. “I really liked the drums,” sophomore Jeff Zhang said. “But next year I won’t dare to sit too close because it nearly killed my ears.”
Colorfully dressed Korean girls with braided hair and traditional Korean dresses danced gracefully on stage during the Hand-in-Hand Circle Dance. When the Korean flag at the center of the stage accidentally fell down during the dance, the dancers remained calm and worked together to bring the flag back up, unknowingly emphasizing the cooperative meaning of the “hand-in-hand” dance.
There were also Taekwondo and Kumdo performances, both forms of traditional Korean martial art. The martial art performances were not as austere as the audience had expected. The performers’ blend of humor and martial arts—they hit each other with Kumdo sticks—had the audience roaring with laughter.
The second half of Norimahdang retained a Korean pop culture vibe, making it more appealing to the majority of the young audience. 90Pro, a group consisting of seniors Benjamin Oh, Dennis Oh and Mark Kim entered the stage in Korean pop outfits, stunning the audience with a rendition of “Good Life, Arirang.” Their deep and robust voices impressed the audience.
The Sophomore Hip Hop dancers also offered an astounding repertoire, coming the closest of any of the performances to imitating modern Korean pop culture. Not only were their moves influenced by Korean pop music videos, but their performance also expressed the same carefree and cheerful vibe. Sophomores Tiffany Kim, Rebecca Lee, Grace Ko and Soo Hyun Kim wore black and white from head to toe, joined by their male partners, sophomores Jihwan Kim, David Park, Bryant Hua and John Han. For the second part of the dance, the girls changed into off-shoulder shirts while the boys wore colorful “New York City” shirts.
Other highlights included the rhythmic and fun song “Red Go Together,” originally sung during the 2006 Fifa World Cup in Germany to cheer on the Korean team. The song was performed by sophomores Chong No, Brian Woo and David Park and the Senior Hip Hop dance crew, Pumpflow, consisting of seniors Andrew Kim, Deborah Moon, Hannah Kwak, Grace Park, Kevin Park and Youlen Sung. The Senior Hip Hop dance crew performed one of the night’s most impressive dances, their dance involving innovative mime-like moves.
“Tell Me,” another sophomore hip hop performance, also wowed the audience, especially when sophomore Jihwan Kim rapped during the dance. “I really liked the senior hip hop dance, but the sophomores did a great job with ‘Tell Me,’” sophomore Michael Chen said.
One of the most popular features of Norimahdang was the series of celebrity interviews. Since Robert Lee’s wife is a close friend of the owner of a large Korean entertainment company, he was able to have the company interview the celebrities in Korea for free.
“By the time Tablo appeared on screen, the estrogen levels in the audience spiked,” said Zhang, referring to the popular lead singer of South Korean hip hop group Epik High. Comments such as “Oh my god Tablo, I want your babies” were audible during the interviews. Other Korean bands such as Shinhwa were interviewed.
“We tried to include every genre and broaden offerings,” Robert Lee said. “That way it’s more appealing to the performers and audience. The goal is to have more students come.”
The pop culture portion of the Norimahdang seemed to be the real attraction for most audience members. “Everything was good, but if I was to watch it a second time, I’d probably only watch the hip hop,” Zhang said. The hip hop dances’ excellent choreography added greatly to Norimahdang’s pop culture appeal.
For now, the Korean Outreach Committee has only one plan for next year’s Korean Night: “bigger, better and raise more money,” Robert Lee said.