Mi Young Kim has established herself as one of the leading figures in the Korean–Canadian cultural scene. She works as a dancer, choreographer and teacher; and founded the Korean Dance Studies Society of Canada in 1979.
Mi Young Kim was born in Seoul, Korea, and started learning traditional Korean dance since the age of 6 from Yunhak Kim. Yunhak Kim has been designated as a Korean National Cultural Treasure who helped transform traditional Korean dance to its present form for the professional stage. Mi Young Kim has won numerous first prizes in dance competitions in Korea and has performed extensively in Asia, Europe and North America.
Her earlier influences included Yunhak Kim, for her basic Korean dance and performance training; folk songs passed down from Jongsoo Kim, who had born talent and made amateur recordings in Korea; alongside experience in South East Asian dance. Under Yunhak Kim’s rigorous training program, Mi Young began preparing for a professional career at an exceptionally young age, at times, teaching other professionals while undergoing training herself.
Although her basic dance and drum training were from Yunhak Kim, Mi Young’s round drum skills were also influenced by Man Hyang Chu and her changgo and soljango beats were influenced by Seok Woon Yun. Mi Young Kim learned the kayageum (a 12–stringed instrument) from Keum Ryeon Sung; and studied folk songs accompanied with the kayageum under Okjin Kim, a master in this performing art and once invited by Yunhak Kim to play on stage. Mi Young Kim also learned Korean cultural lady’s etiquette through Okjin Kim and Ms. Lee, a woman who lived in Huakye Temple with assumed high–authority in the palace. Additional influences included two instructors from Japan, Sung Nam Lim and Woryng Lee, who taught Mi Young Kim ballet in Korea.
In 1997, Mi Young Kim began her annual stage performances showcasing her traditional and contemporary/creative choreography. These performances included: Dance of Soul (1997); We Are One! (1998); Millennium Cheer (1999); Shin Myung: Shaking the Spirits (2000); and Celebrating Choom 50 Years (2001). In 2002, Mi Young invited numerous guest artists to perform with her group in Dance as a Ritual. This initiated the SooRyu Dance Festival, becoming official in the following year with the performance, Symbiosis: A Harmony of Light and Sound (2003), at the Betty Oliphant Theatre. Other SooRyu Dance Festivals to follow included: Legendary Tales (2004); Roots Revitalized (2005); and Historic Story (2006) at the Premier Dance Theatre; and most recently, Eui–Sik Mu (2008) at the Enwave Theatre featuring the Bongwon Temple Monks from Okcheon Buddhist Music College (Seoul, Korea). Their demonstration of the Yeongsanjae Ceremony was truly a memorable experience for Canadian audiences.
In November 2004, Mi Young Kim premiered her choreographed, Hwang Jin Yee, based on an ancient Korean tale. The choreography featured Korean rap music and creative new costumes introducing young audiences to this exciting meld between contemporary music and traditional Korean dance. Similarly in 2006, a rap song paid tribute to the SooRyu poem, Holding Hand in Hand, and was featured in another choreographed piece by the Mi Young Kim Dance Company.
The Mi Young Kim Dance Company performs on a routine basis throughout the Greater Toronto Area and continues to make its mark on the International scene performing in Greece in 1995 for the International Folk Dance Festival, numerous times in Japan and Korea to name a few.
Mi Young Kim’s achievement in Canadian–Asian dance is widely recognized. In 1998, Mi Young Kim was awarded the title of Chief Artist in Cultural Area by the Korean Times Daily, and in 1999, the best award in Artistic Achievement by the Korea Central Daily. She has been appointed a dance committee member at the Toronto Arts Council for three years and has served as a member of the Community Folk Arts Council of Toronto.
In 2011, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford recognized Mi Young Kim’s 60–year contribution to dance with a Certificate of Acknowledgement. She also received the title of “Choreographer of the Year 2011” from Paula Citron of Globe and Mail in her annual wrap–up. Recently, she has been focusing her attention on teaching young Canadians and creating new works that will impact multicultural Canadian dance history.
Through the interpretation of Korean folk tales; the presentation of notable dance artists from Korea; and demonstration of traditional and contemporary Korean dance, Mi Young Kim hopes to encourage cultural exchange between Korea and Canada and promote a better understanding of Korean culture through dance.