Jinjo Crew delivers a dose of Korean cool to Rīga

As you cannot fail to have noticed, Korea is cool at the moment. From K-Pop to Squid Game and Parasite, not to mention the growing popularity of its cuisine, Korean creativity is making its mark on world culture, often reinvigorating some tired western ways in the process.

That was certainly the case with the visit of Korean breakdance troupe Jinjo Crew to Rīga's historic VEF venue June 7 and 8. A two-part show staged by the Korean Embassy and the Korea Foundation consisted of a first half of music performed by Daehan Saram, a group founded in 1997 to modernize Korean classical music, and what was undoubtedly the main attraction for most of the audience, a second half showcasing the talents of Jinjo Crew, a breakdance collective regarded as one of the best in the world.

LSM attended and we should note that we got free tickets – but then so did everyone else as it was free of charge to attend.

Korean culture at VEF Rīga

The hall did fill up more for the second half, but those late arrivals really missed out. Daehan Saram's music varied from very formalised and minimal flute (including a beautiful interpretation of Raimonds Pauls' Latvian classic Million Roses, a well-known song in Korea) to driving drum and gong rhythms of hypnotic intensity.

But the arrival of a few dozen extra people in the auditorium brandishing cameras for livestream coverage signalled the imminent arrival of Jinjo Crew.

There is little point trying to describe the performance itself, which was an amazing mixture of dance, gymnastics, athletics, acting, mime, comedy and beatbox (courtesy of brilliant beatboxer, H-has). It's rare to hear a Latvian audience screaming – literally screaming, like Beatlemania – but it would be too easy to write this off as some kind of teeny-bop phenomenon.

Jinjo Crew amazed not just because of their astonishing breakdance routines but because they were somehow able to generate an intense, positive energy that completely filled the auditorium. It was something genuinely joyful, far removed from the narcissistic "Look at me" of a boy band or TV talent show. 

Nowhere was this better illustrated than during an audience participation section when a young girl was plucked from the audience to perform a few jumps and rolls with the crew. Being on stage in front of hundreds of people would be enough to intimidate anyone, but the care and encouragement she was shown by the members of the crew was beautiful to watch and they made sure she got some of the biggest cheers of a night she will never forget.

Jinjo Crew in Rīga

The grand finale saw all the elements of Korean culture joining on stage with musicians, acrobats, beatboxers and breakdancers showing that Koreans must be taught to butterfly kick while still in the cradle, because they could all do it.

It is rare to encounter so much positive energy in one place at one time, and in times like these it is more needed than ever. If the intention was to promote Korea in Latvia, it worked spectacularly because few countries can boast such effective ambassadors as Daehan Saram and Jinjo Crew.

Video of the Rīga performance is not yet available but if you'd like a taste of Jinjo Crew's abilities, you can watch the clip below.

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