- Salpuri-Chum, A Korean Dance for Expelling Evil Spirits: A Psychoanalytic Interpretation of its Artistic Characteristics by Eun-Joo Lee and Yong-Shin Kim
This slim volume is densely packed with information and analysis concerning Salpuri-Chum, a secular entertainment derived from a traditional shamanic ritual. The authors set out to discuss the nature of the dance form (its history, characteristics, and various styles) as well as its meaning and significance in relation to the "emotional dynamics of the Korean people" (p. 11), using Freudian psychoanalytic theory as an interpretive tool. Although its focus is clearly rather specialized, the book appears to be aimed at a more-or-less general audience, inviting the reader into the world of Salpuri-Chum and the spiritual and psychological traits of the Korean people. It should be of particular interest to Korean performance specialists and dance scholars. [End Page 290]
Salpuri-Chum is a stately solo performance accompanied by a traditional musical ensemble of percussion, zither, fiddle, flute, and voice. Most important is the drum, which drives the sinawi rhythm, a unique feature of this dance. Both music and dance are semiimprovisational; the music does not follow fixed notation and there is a close and responsive relationship between dancer and musicians. Performers wear traditional Korean dress (usually white) and use a long white cloth that derives from shamanistic practice. It is the particular use of sinawi rhythm that connects this notionally secular entertainment to shamanic ritual (Gut) still actively practiced in Korea today. The relationship between shamanic ritual and popular dance entertainment is traced historically to the Gwangdaes, travelling street entertainers (mostly male), and Gisang, female hostesses with skills in singing, playing music, and dancing. Both genres incorporated elements of shamanic movement into their performances.
The text begins with an interesting and helpful preface that sets out the rationale for the book and the organization of its argument. However, because each author represents a different speciality, the argument can seem somewhat disconnected. Eun-Joo Lee is a dancer, a "living human cultural treasure of Seoul Special City in the field of Salpuri-Chum," and her co-author is Professor Yong-Shin Kim, a specialist in psychoanalytic social and political theory. Thus, while the subtitle implies that the analysis will be a "psychoanalytic interpretation" of the dance, in fact the chapters on the dance and chapters on Freudian theory and psychoanalytic analysis of the Korean belief systems and national character are quite separate.
The authors trace the development of modern forms of Korean traditional dance, and Salpuri-Chum in particular, to the work of Han Sung-Jun (1874–1941), a Gwangdae performer who established the Institute of Chosun Music and Dance in the 1930s. The central part of the book is given over to analysis of the various styles of Salpuri-Chum performance, accompanied by biographical information and a series of black-and-white photographs of the work of important interpreters. It is unfortunate that most of the photographs are of poor quality, and that neither the photographs nor the movement analysis provides a very clear idea about what the dance actually looks like. While there is an exceptionally detailed description of costumes, the description of the dance itself is rather vague (Han Young-Sook style is "stable and noble" [p. 50], whereas Lee Mae-Bang style is "nimble and delicate" [p. 51]). Thus, although the work is undoubtedly comprehensible to those familiar with the form, the non-specialist is left very much in the dark. The author, Eun-Joo Lee, includes discussion of her own background, training, and style in her examination of "Other Styles of Salpuri-Chum [End Page 291] as Local Cultural Treasures" (chapter 6) and "Salpuri-Chum and Other Korean Traditional Dances" (chapter 7), but she does so in the third person and without acknowledging her own stake in the discussion, which seems disingenuous at best...