Traditional Change

It’s billed as A Match Made in Heaven, a revered traditional Korean love story
carried down from a bygone age to be honored in this contemporary staging,
still with Hanbok costumes worn long ago, the kind you see in period Korean dramas,
those odd round-brimmed black hats rising a foot above a man’s face,
and women’s silken dresses with empire waistlines, billowing out
and down, covering feet hidden in white shoes for modesty’s sake,
bodies seeming to sweep across the floor as if they ride on air.

We gather, a crowd half of tourists, half of natives, many younger than I’d expect,
the smallish outdoor amphitheater filling up, the traditional stone seating
guaranteeing no one will drowse off while we watch this ancestral pageant
the way they loved and dressed, and the audience waits, holding our collective breath.

This story is of that type where boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and boy and girl,
despite all odds, in universal romantic bliss, come together at the end.
But the production is so stunningly modern, aided most by its use of technology,
that the same old story feels new again, or even as if it’s not an old story at all.

This is the way of Hanbok with the younger generation,
their tastes and appetites, while respecting the spirit of their traditions,
breathing new life into the old ways to keep them relevant,
the same way hula here in Hawai‘i evolves continually with the times.

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