(L) Dancers perform sword dance; (R) Mi Young Kim performs creative court dance

Court Dances

Court dances, influenced by Confucianism, were traditionally performed at banquets hosted by the royal court for the privileged and take on two varying forms: Hyang–ak and Tang–ak. The first is indigenous Korean dance dating from ancient times where dancers recite an oral preface in the format of a classical song, and the latter differs by having a leader recite an oral preface on the side.

The best known Hyang–ak dances are: Ch’oyongmu dance, Mugo (drum dance), Hwagwanmu (flower crane dance), Keummu (the sword dance), and Chunaengmu (nightingale dance).

This video is from the 2001 Celebrating Choom performance and shows a group court dance with long sleeves.


Ch’oyongmu is a dance of exorcism where male dancers wear masks and costumes with blue, white, red, black and yellow to symbolize the east, west, south, north and the centre of the universe. Dancers occasionally alter their positions while flapping their sleeves and making full turns.


Mugo is performed by dancers before a large drum. Main dancers use sticks to beat the drum and secondary performers hold lotus flowers. All performers dance around the drum to depict butterflies flying around a central flower.


Hwagwanmu, or flower crane dance, consists of dancers wearing crane masks and costumes while executing movements that mimic a crane. The choreography usually depicts a group of cranes approaching a large lotus flower, and to their surprise, find a little fairy girl inside the flower.


Keummu, or sword dance, is performed by a group of female dancers holding a sword in each hand. The swords’ blades are connected by short wires to the handles, which produce a rattling noise as the dancers brandish them.


Chunaengmu, or nightingale dance, is a solo performed by a female dancer. The dancer is clothed in a brilliant yellow dress with sleeves of multi–coloured stripes and a flower crown adorning her head. She stands on a flower mattress and sings a song, revealing exhilarating elegance and beauty through graceful and gentle movements with her hands and feet while exhibiting her front, side and back.


Tang–ak originates from China, but underwent Koreanization over a long period of time. A popular Tang–ak dance is the Pogurak, or ball throwing dance, where female dancers throw a ball through a hole above a gate. If one misses, her face is painted black while a flower is presented to the one who succeeds.