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Getting to Know Beena Keum: SK's "First Practicing Odissi Dancer"

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Keum Bee-na is the first Korean practicing the traditional Indian dance Odissi. Living in the dance's remote home state of Orissa in east India since early 2005, Keum now shares her story in a recently published book.

Keum's first encounter with Indian dance was Mira Nair's 1996 film "Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love," which she saw when she was a university student. "I was mesmerized at first sight, but there was no way to find out what that dance was. I felt a strong urge to go to India no matter what," Keum recalls.

Odissi is one of eight traditional Indian dances recognized by the Indian government and among the most famous together with Kathak and Bharat Natyam. It consists of rounded, circular movements. "It's erotic but subtle. Many people remember it as a belly dance, but there's no shaking of hips," Keum explains. In fact, the lower body remains almost fixed.

It was not easy to master. All Keum had was an image of the dance she saw in the film, and she had no idea what it was and where she could learn it. She went to India for the first time in January 2004 for five weeks. In October that year, she left to study at a Buddhist graduate school in Sri Lanka. During her six-month sojourn in Colombo, she learned that the dance she was looking for was from Orissa. She immediately packed her belongings and went there.

In February 2010, five years after she started learning Odissi, Keum's teacher allowed her to give her official debut performance there. Since then, she has been on stage almost every year in Korea, where she takes refuge from scorching heat of Orissa from April to June. She returns to India in early July.

"I plan to live in Bhubaneswar and continue to learn about the dance while touring for performances," she said. "I hope to perform in North and South America. There are so many things I want to do. I want to publish books on India and Orissa, and the Indian and Orissa languages."


Beena's Bio (as taken from her website)

Beena Keum has majored in French literature, comparative religious studies and philosophy from Sogang university, Seoul, South Korea. She had a special fascination for Hindu philosophy and Buddhism. One day while watching an Indian film, she was greatly motivated and mesmerized by an Indian dance style which was shown for a very short minute. After that she was frantically in search for the name of the dance for several years, but in vain. At last while studying in Colombo, Sri Lanka, she got to know the dance of the film was Odissi! In a week without delay she left for India carrying just one bag and three pieces of papers which had information about the contact addresses of Odissi Gurus. 

She believed that with learning Odissi technique, it was essential to understand the Hindu culture, lifestyle, and local language of Odissa. After reaching Konark Natya Mandap at Konark, Orissa, founded by Padmashree Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, she realized that it was a perfect place for that and started Odissi in April 2005. 

Presently living in Bhubaneswar, she has been taking classes from Great Master Guru Gangadhar Pradhan and his four senior disciples. Other than Odissi dance, she is also continuously practicing Odissi Song, Mardala (Odissi percussion), Sanskrit and Oriya language in order to have a deeper understanding and expression in Odissi. She had made up her mind to settle down in Orissa. For Beena, Korea is her fatherland and India her motherland. 

Notatble Performances:

- Konark Dance and Music Festival, Konark 
   (2006, Group)
- Posco-India, Bhubaneswar (2006, Duet)
- Hwagye Buddhism Temple, Seoul (2007, Solo)
- Mitsubishi-India, Bhubaneswar (2007, Trio)
- Bongam Buddhism Temple, Munkyung (2008, Solo)
- Haitai Crown, Seoul (2009, Solo)
- Beena Keum's Odissi Solo Show, Seoul (2009, Solo)

*Guru Bichitranand Swain, Guru Manoranjan Pradhan, Guru Lingaraj Swain, Guru Judhisthir Nayak




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This performance is 2+ years old.









Source: Chosun Ilbo, ArtBeena, Rediff

mad random, but i thought it was interesting. also, she's gorgeous. MODS: resize just the first pic, right?
Tags: overseas activities
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