TCHS Rampage

Temple City High School


February 12, 2018

Move to the beat of Park, Fong

kathleen (1)

A steady stream of rich and vibrant beats rumble from the head of a drum with every twitch of Senior Yehju Park’s wrist.
The quick cascade of the clear, short notes imitate the sound of rain. Continuous vibrations from the drum resonate in the air and her body, as Park closes her eyes and allows the rain’s rhythm to wash over her.
For nine years, Park has played the Korean drums. Shaped like an hourglass, the Jang-gu is the most widely used drum in traditional Korean music.
Park uses her right hand for a mallet that creates a deeper sound, and a thin stick for the left side of the drum for a high pitched tone that creates a harmony from the drum’s two heads.
Park believes that the Jang-gu is important to Korean culture because of the way it connects the community to the past.
“I feel a unity and a connection to my culture,” Park said. “I feel free and enjoy expressing my culture through clothing. I always think of being in a Korean historical drama and feel like a younger version of myself playing dress-up.”
When performing, Park wears traditional Korean clothing, with a black shirt with blue, yellow and red stripes on her arms.
She ties colored ribbons to her torso, complete with white pants. Park wears traditional black and white shoes, along with a colored headband. The white represents metal, blue is associated with wood, yellow with earth, red with fire and black with water.
“When I play the drums, I feel relieved of my stress and also really proud,” Park said. “I feel proud to be a Korean American and it is such an honor to represent my community through music. I really love playing because it feels like I am walking on air. I’m happy when I play the drums.”
Park’s passion for the Jang-gu comes from her family. Practicing the drums creates a special bond with her brother and close relatives, who also play.
Park first took lessons at a cultural center in Los Angeles in third grade and took off from there. She learned from her family and found tips on YouTube, building her own skills by practicing with pointers along the way.
She shared her special talents by marching in the Hollywood Christmas Parade and has performed for senior citizens during Thanksgiving.
Senior Kathleen Fong smiles brightly as she twirls her umbrella on stage among 16 women also clad in traditional Chinese clothing, gracefully staying in step with the unmistakable twang of the erhu, which is a two-stringed Chinese violin.
For ten years, Fong has accumulated experience with Chinese classical and folk dancing.
Although she has danced to Mongolian, Tibetan and contemporary styles, Fong is most familiar with the classical Chinese style of dance. Utilizing not only umbrellas, different styles of this cultural dance brings in props ranging from fans to swords.
Different regions of China have different styles of dancing as a way to celebrate and honor specific values and qualities of nature.
Some dances are gentle and lady-like, whereas others can be fierce and strong. Some dances are derived from Kung fu and are named after the moves. For example, the “fire-wind-wheel” dance is named after the arm movements which imitate these elements.
“When I dance these types of dances, I feel free and joyous,” Fong said. “When I’m practicing, I get a sense of focus; it’s difficult to explain but it feels like a driving force that causes me to work my hardest. When performing, I feel a blooming sensation because I get to share a special part of my culture with the audience.”
During the Lunar New Year, Fong and her dance studio, the Shin Dance Company, perform at several cultural events.
For classical Chinese dances, Fong mostly performs with adult women, whom she looks up to. They’ve danced at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse, Temple City Park and at the Haugh Theater in Citrus College.
Fong believes that Chinese dance is a celebration of traditional values through body movements.When they perform classical Chinese dances, most of the traditional clothing is loose and open-cuffed, which differs from Mongolian and Tibetan dance attire.
“I’m drawn to these types of cultural dances because they’re unique and allow me to get in touch more with my culture and its values,” Fong said. “Chinese dance has made me proud of my heritage and allowed me to share it with many other people. It has taught me self-discipline and shown me that there’s always room for improvement.”

About the Author

Michelle Zhang
Michelle Zhang is a staff writer that enjoys listening to music, eating, socializing with friends, and sleeping.



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