CHENG YU TUNG EAST ASIAN LIBRARY
The Meaning in Movement
Dance, Immigration and Multiculturalism
A Pamphlet for a Korean Court Music and Dance Program
While I am not a dancer, dance has always been a major part of my life. My brother is a dancer and as a result, I have become a dedicated audience member. Over time, dance has become one of my favourite art forms even though I have never had the opportunity to attend a Korean dance performance. Nevertheless, this pamphlet, as an object, is familiar to me. I have held ones just like this countless times and often kept those that hold sentimental value. This is why I was drawn to the pamphlet, “Korean Court Music and Dance from the National Classical Music Institute of Korea”. The pamphlet is intended to relay meaning from the performance to the viewer; however, today the pamphlet has an additional function: to provide insight into the greater historical context in which the performance took place.
On December 14, 1979, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto hosted Seoul’s National Classical Music Institute for one night of their first North American tour. The National Classical Music Institute is the successor of the Yi Dynasty Royal Conservatory, which has played a fundamental role in conserving Korea’s rich and long-standing tradition of court music and dance over the last five hundred years. In the 1970s, Toronto saw a large influx of Korean immigrants as well as the establishment of the Korean Studies program and Korean Collection in the Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library, both at University of Toronto. The dance performance, which was sponsored by the Foundation for Korean Studies at University of Toronto, represents the coming together of both the cultural and educational spheres of one of Toronto’s largest cultural groups today: the Korean community.
Front and back cover of a pamphlet for Korean court music and dance program. Source: Dr. Yu Collection, Korean Canadian Heritage Archives, East Asian Library, University of Toronto.
Korean-Canadian relations date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Canadian missionaries first travelled to Korea. This contact sparked the first wave of Korean immigrants to Canada. Canada came to the defense of South Korea on behalf of the United Nations during the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953, and participated in peace keeping missions once combat subsided. Korean immigration to Canada increased significantly following the opening of the Canadian Embassy in Seoul in 1971. The 1960s and 1970s experienced a meaningful shift in Canadian immigration policy by adopting multiculturalism as a national Canadian value. The Canadian government introduced measures to eliminate discrimination in the immigration process and to preserve the cultural freedom and identity of its immigrant population.
First inner page of a pamphlet for Korean court music and dance program. Source: Dr. Yu Collection, Korean Canadian Heritage Archives, East Asian Library, University of Toronto.
It is within this larger context of multiculturalism and increased immigration that the dance performance takes place. This performance can be seen as a cultural experience for the audience, some of whom may be encountering this aspect of Korean culture for the first time. The didactic dances recount tales from ancient Korean folklore dating back one thousand years.11 The pamphlet is essential in shaping the audience’s experience as it connects movement and myth.
Emilie Albert-Toth is a first year MMST student at University of Toronto. Originally from Montreal, Emilie graduated from Concordia University’s Liberal Arts College in 2014. In the two years she took off between her bachelors and masters, Emilie volunteered at the Montreal Art Centre and travelled throughout both Europe and South America. Viewing and experiencing art from around the world is what inspired her to pursue Museum Studies at University of Toronto.