Traditional Performing Arts in Times of a Pandemic

‘Ogomu’ Traditional Performing Arts of Korea ⓒ Shutterstock/Jack Q.

The novel coronavirus fears have affected various sectors of the economy, politics, society, and culture. Notably, the cultural sector has been directly and substantially affected by the coronavirus crisis. Most of the public cultural facilities, including museums and art galleries, were temporarily shut down, and many cultural events and performances have been canceled or postponed due to the outbreak. The crisis has wreaked havoc on the performing arts industry. With measures taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus by preventing mass gatherings, concert halls, and theaters have been closed to help people avoid close contact with others.

The pandemic is also tough on traditional performing arts. It should be noted, however, how the performing arts community is trying to overcome this difficult time and use the crisis as an opportunity. They are looking for various ways to get through the health crisis. The National Gugak Center ( and the Seoul Donhwamun Traditional Theater (, for example, are streaming live performances without audiences via Naver TV and YouTube. And several classical music companies around the world, including the Paris National Opera and the Bolshoi Ballet, are trying to bond with fans, using advanced technologies, by, for example, sharing videos of dancers practicing within the confines of a studio.

Livestream performances provide audiences with virtual content they can partake in from home. Artists can have a live chat with viewers and be inspired to perform free improvisations, making audiences feel as if they were sitting in the front row. By using video technologies, online concerts offer audiences various views, unlike in-person theaters, where spectators can watch the stage from specific angles and distances. Livestream performances also enhance audience convenience. Viewers can enjoy great art while enjoying snacks and drinks from the comfort of their own homes. They can also talk to the people beside them and share their feelings with other audiences in real time while watching shows.

However, there are some downsides. Audiences might find it difficult to concentrate on a performance when they experience it via screens and speakers. And although the latest technologies are used to deliver high-quality images and sounds, there are still limitations in bringing the full force of actual performances. This situation raises doubts about whether live streams can appeal to audiences with the same intensity that they might have in physical theaters.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed many aspects of life. It has also led to noticeable changes in the performing arts. Although there are still varying opinions about the audience’s absence, which is one of the most fundamental elements of performances, the recent proliferation of live streams can be considered a significant leap forward and have shown the possibility of further development.

Livestreaming of traditional performances via online platforms is expected to play a significant role in lowering physical and emotional barriers and increasing accessibility to traditional culture, especially among young people who are more exposed to pop culture. Traditional performing arts will hopefully survive this crisis and come out of it stronger.