A trolley, jolly Christmas

Tour: The mayor gets a dose of cheer and a dash of culture during visits to senior centers.

December 23, 2003|By Cyril T. Zaneski | Cyril T. Zaneski,SUN STAFF

Traditional Korean music and dance along with Christmas carols heralded the start of Mayor Martin O'Malley's annual holiday trolley tour last night at Greenmount Senior Center.

Swirling in costumes of brilliant blue, pink, green, yellow and gold, the senior center's dance troupe performed the flower crown dance to open a night of Christmas tree lightings at senior centers for O'Malley and an entourage of city officials and Patterson High School students.

O'Malley's "Christmas Sleigh Ride" was scheduled to light trees at Greenmount, Southwest Senior Center on South Calhoun Street and Sandtown-Winchester Senior Center on Baker Street.

Greenmount is the activity center for about 600 Korean-Americans. About 50 people attended the gathering with the mayor at the center's auditorium on East Federal Street.

In its 12th year, Greenmount offers classes in English, citizenship, physical fitness and computers, as well as traditional Korean dance and music for the region's growing Korean community.

Executive Director Kimo Nam told O'Malley that Koreans and Korean-Americans come from as far away as Washington for the center's programs.

Apart from a rendition of "Silent Night" by a trio traveling with O'Malley, the center's half-hour holiday program was thoroughly Korean. Even the "Believe" pins distributed by the mayor's staff bore the one-word message in Korean. The center's gift to O'Malley - a tea set - also fit the theme. "We hope your wife likes it," Nam said.

The dancers were the stars of the show. They opened and closed the program by performing long, slow dances to recorded traditional music.

The 10 women, who the center's directors said were in their 70s and 80s, wore long skirts and brightly colored tunics imported from Korea.

Korean dance is slow and graceful and emphasizes the head, shoulders and arms since the dancers' legs are hidden under long skirts.

In the fan dance, called buchaechum, the troupe swirled large, white silk fans edged with pink feathers. The dance features shifting geometric designs created by the fans.

"Your dancing was beautiful!" a smiling O'Malley said, as people who attended the program gathered around him for a series of group photographs next to the Christmas tree.

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