World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Juli Kim

GENRE: Traditional
First appearance in SF EDF: 2016

Juli Kim works with devotion to spread awareness of Korean culture to the younger generation and to non-Korean ethnic groups. She taught Korean dance for La Cañada Preparatory School and Flintridge Preparatory School in Southern California, among many others. She has also collaborated with Dancecorp, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, the Latino Dance Project, and other dance companies to promote diversity. Her most notable work was the production of the Friendship Concert in memory of the Los Angeles riots, to raise scholarship money for inner-city children. She holds a Master’s Degree in Piano Performance from University of Southern California.


GENRE: Traditional
TITLE: Salpuri
CHOREOGRAPHER: Master Lim Mi Ja, Juli Kim

Photo by Mark Muntean

Juli Kim presents Salpuri, a traditional Korean dance listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. The dance expresses the sorrow of human relationships and separations, and an angst coming from unsatisfied desire. It is the most challenging form of Korean classical dance, and it depicts a traditional Korean woman of an ancient era. She moves with deep inhales and exhales of breath, beginning slowly and then gaining speed as her emotions rise, creating a mesmerizing intensity. Korean dance expresses life’s heavier aspects with an inner lightness as Korean dancers move continuously and yet often seem to remain still. Performances are meant to mirror the eternally revolving elements of darkness and light, yin and yang, fluidity and stillness. Performers lead each step with the heel, holding the body in check, creating a thousand fluid lines in their circular paths and turns.

“Sal” means “bad spirit” and “puri” means to “unwind,” and traditionally, salpuri was a dance of spiritual cleansing. It was a crucial part of Korean culture for five thousand years, beginning in shamanistic rituals and moving into the realms of court dance, folk, ritual, and modern dance. In the centuries-old indigenous practice of shamanism, a female shaman begins to remove the sal—a curse, or negative energy—by absorbing it into herself. Then, to banish the sal from her own psyche, she performs the salpuri dance. It is also a rite that brought peace to the spirits of the dead and led them to heaven, especially helping widows find peace after the death of their husbands.

During Korea’s Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), professional kisaeng entertainers developed the form and style, resulting in present-day salpuri, now frequently performed as an artistic expression. This choreography was handed down from unnamed master teachers to their selected students through several generations, and then taught to Juli Kim by Master Lim Mi Ja. The work has gone through modifications and was recently reconstructed by Juli. A small improvisational ensemble of percussion, strings, and a deeply sorrowful female voice accompanies the dance.

Back to top