Sunday, January 2, 2011

Gem of South Korean heritage 'Choi Seung Hee'

A legendary Women

Choi was born into a yangban-class family in Seoul, Korea during the Japanese occupation, and was also known by the Japanese pronunciation of her name, Sai Shōki.[1] After graduating from Sookmyung High School at the age of fifteen, she went against her father's wishes to study under modern dancer Baku Ishii in Japan, where she distinguished herself as one of the most talented dancers. She developed her own modern dances inspired by Korean folk dances, which had been considered as lowly works. She was supported by Japanese intellectuals including Yasunari Kawabata, and corresponded with both Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso. She was also a vocalist, and made recordings at Taepyeong Records and Kirin Records (in Manchukuo) before making her 1936 album Garden of Italy at Columbia Records Japan.

After the start of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, she was sent on tour of the front lines by the Imperial Japanese Army for propaganda purposes and to raise troop morale.

After the end of World War II, she went to North Korea with her husband, who was an active supporter of the Workers' Party of Korea. She established a dance school and was given an official position within the North Korean administration. In 1951, she was asked to visit Beijing to perform for Chinese premier Zhou Enlai. However, in 1967, she was purged by the party, and disappeared from public view. However, on February 9, 2003, an official announcement was made that she had died in 1969, and a monument proclaiming her a "People's Actress". Issues surrounding her death remain undisclosed.

Choi is recognized as one of the world's finest performers from the first half of the 20th century. She has also taught as a professor at a performing arts university in China, 1951-1952. In 1999, the dancer was named one of the top 20 artists to shine upon Korea by the Korean Association of Art Critics

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