Korean Music and Dance

The first significant wave of immigration to Canada from Korea began in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. At that time, Korean churches and Buddhist temples, language classes, and community associations were the centres of cultural activity; in addition to teaching Korean language, history, and culture, some of these organizations supplemented their core activities with Korean dance and drumming classes. Today, many organizations offer music and dance classes, and the recent proliferation of Korean festivals and events in larger urban centres has resulted in a variety of performances being offered through community groups.

In late 20th-century Korea, traditional performing arts were overshadowed by western art music and other western art forms; however, growing government support and public interest resulted in a resurgence in traditional cultural activities during the 1990s. Since the 1980s, Korean immigrants to Canada have included conservatory-trained musicians and dancers, some of whom left professional careers in Korea.

The challenges of establishing a new life in Canada, in addition to limited performing opportunities and their unfamiliarity with the Canadian arts industry have made it difficult for many of these artists to create and sustain their careers in Canada; however, the opportunities have grown with the community. Individuals and ensembles have made an artistic impact in the Toronto and Canadian arts scene. Korean performance series and festivals include those featured at the CanAsian International Dance Festival, Harbourfront Centre, The Royal Ontario Museum, The Music Gallery, Stratford Summer Music Festival, Algoma Fall Festival, Sunfest, and the Toronto Art Expo.

Teaching Korean music and dance has also expanded beyond the borders of the Korean diaspora; in 2003 York University and in 2006 the University of Toronto began offering courses in Korean drumming. In the fall of 2010 the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, named Korean musician and professor Dong-Won Kim as their artist-in-residence.

The Korean-Canadian Symphony Orchestra, based in Toronto, performed a series of concerts in 2001 and 2010 featuring traditional Korean instrumentalists. Titled East Meets West, the performances showcased works arranged for traditional Korean instruments and symphony orchestra. The music director of the Korean-Canadian Symphony Orchestra, Richard Lee, is also the resident conductor of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and an instructor and conductor at the University of Manitoba.

The National Centre for Korean Traditional Performing Arts staged a programme of Korean music and dance at the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto in 1998. Prestigious ensembles from Korea have also visited Canada. Kim Duk Soo and his ensemble, SamulNori, visited Toronto and performed at the Harbourfront Centre (1991), as part of World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD), and at the Hummingbird Centre (now the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts) (2004).

SeeWorld Music.