It was glorious weather yesterday for Kingston’s Korean Harvest Fest – almost too hot for some of the energetic Kpop dancers and the visiting professionals from Korea. The ice cream sellers were doing brisk trade, as of course were the Korean food stalls that were set up down one side of the historic market place.
The queue for the BBQ chicken extended across the street, so I chose the quieter stall with the ready-made bento boxes and sat by the river watching the boats go by, before returning to the market square for the various cookery demonstrations, Kpop performances and the main event – the appearance of The Move, a professional dance team from Korea specialising in community dance.
The six-strong team had been in town for a few days with their choreographer and had enlisted a few local volunteers to boost their numbers. The volunteers did well to get up to speed in the couple of days available. The extra numbers were needed because The Move’s signature piece, Red Umbrella, is a giant audience-participation event, and the larger the audience the more professionals you need to guide them in what they’re supposed to be doing.
Here are some edited excerpts from the performance. I love how, at the beginning, you can hear one audience member protesting that he’s too old for this sort of thing, but I think he ended up joining the other 99 members of the public in the parade regardless. People did pretty much everything it’s possible to do with an umbrella, and there were some lively solos and more closely-choreographed routines. And although the professionals were slick and entertaining, the show was stolen by a six-year-old boy whom I didn’t manage to catch on camera but who clearly has a future in dance ahead of him.
The Move did a repeat performance in The Scoop outside London City Hall today at 4pm, as part of Totally Thames 2019. Another great day for it.
The Kingston festival, organised by Korean British Cultural Exchange, had another special feature this year: a focus on kimchi-making that ties in with their Heritage Lottery funded Kimjang Project, in which kimchi recipes gathered from the Korean communities in the London area are being filmed and archived. There will be a community kimchi-making event in New Malden High Street in November. In Kingston yesterday, visitors could get a taster experience of kimchi-making at one of the stalls, watch Buddhist Chef Dae An demonstrate how to make various vegan kimchis and talk with representatives of the World Institute of Kimchi.
Of course, some of the most popular performances were by the talented singers and dancers inspired by the inexhaustible flood of pop and hip-hop that reaches us from Korea. It was quite difficult to get up close to the performers because of the enthusiastic throng of supporters. I did manage to get some video footage, but within 30 seconds of uploading it to YouTube I got an email saying that one of the big Korean entertainment companies were claiming copyright infringement, so I took it down again. You’ll therefore have to imagine the routines and vocals – or come to the UK K-pop finals in Kingston at the end of October (edit: or you can check out some of the links at the bottom of this post). The finalists, drawn from some of yesterday’s performers, were announced towards the end of the afternoon’s proceedings.
The afternoon was brought to a close by another community dance event led by The Move. The Ganggangsullae, a circle dance associated with Haenam and Jindo in the southwest of Jeolla Province, is Korea’s National Intangible Cultural Heritage item #8. Traditionally associated with Chuseok, it is also said to have been used by Yi Sun-sin to convince the Japanese naval forces that the Koreans had plenty of soldiers on land. It was a great way to bring everyone together at the end of the day.
Thanks to the organisers and volunteers for a fun event.
- An interview with festival organiser Justina Jang in Voice Mag
- YouTube videos of some of the performances: Team LoKo perform Shinee’s Replay | UJJN perform KARD’s Bomb Bomb | AZIZA perform GOT7’s Eclipse
- More pictures / videos available on the festival’s Facebook page