Gosalpulli expresses truth of all living things and agony of man

홍기인 기자l승인2019.01.16l수정2019.01.16 11:04

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▲ Lee Hee-sook

Untangling 12 unfortunate events in life
Gosalpulli dance means untangling a grudge of the dead or untangling 12 unfortunate events in life. The dance follows the gutgeri rhythm, a tune of ritual, and is regarded as a creative and improvised performance art. The cloth used in the dance is a symbol to contain all things in nature and the dancer expresses agony of our lives through it. 

Gosalpulli dance was created by master dancer Lee Hee-sook and is her most famous work. It is a kind of the ssitkimgut, a ritual to clean the soul of the dead, and it uses the cloth to sooth the soul by putting it up and pulling it down. Lee started to spread the dance from Miryang to nationwide and built her fame during late 90s by appearing on numerous national memorial or ceremonial events.

From a weak girl to the Gosalpulli dancer master
Lee spent her childhood in poor health and suffered from undiagnosed illness when grew up. Nobody gave her clear answer what actually caused it. So it might be natural for her and the people around her to ascribe the cause to possession. 

She could not accept it at first but went to Pyochungsa Temple one day to seek an advice from the chief monk. Right in time, there happening the cheondo ritual on the garden. Watching closely, she was drawn by some mysterious power and hurried into the toilet to get the toilet roles and joined the dance in unconsciousness. 

“I’ve never learned dance before but I just danced whatever the movement was. Strangely, I felt my body had become as light as a feather and believe it or not I was relieved from that undiagnosed illness.” 

The incident ignited her to dance at wherever it was taken place and as time went by she was rather invited to join the festivals. “The reason I use the cloth came from the Ryu Gwan-sun hurrah event which made me feel as if Ryu was untangling her sadness and grudge among the throng. So I adopted the cloth as my tool to untangle the souls of the dead.”

Spreading Korean dance to the world
To spread beautiful Korean dance to the world more systematically, Lee established the Korea Gosalpulli Preservation Society. She also introduced ‘Gajisan Mountain Rice Rock Story’ and ‘Wakano Play’ in an effort to promote traditional Korean culture. 

“Even THE famous Gong Ok-jin found it hard to be listed as the Intangible Cultural Asset because her ‘byeongsin dance (deformed dance)’ was not ‘traditional’. But it was so creative. South Jeolla Province eventually recognized her as an Intangible Cultural Asset but the dance faced near extinction since there was no follow up. Establishing the Korea Gosalpulli Preservation Society started from this awareness.” 

Meanwhile, she has written three essays and is one of the Annual Spring Literary Contest winners. “I want to let the world know that Gosalpulli is a representative requiem dance of Korea. When time comes, I want to dance along various folk music of the world so that I can communicate with them and can share the beauty of Korean dance with them.” 


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