Monday, September 27, 2010

Jang Yongil Teaches Bongsan Talchum Class

September 27th, 2010
I spent most of the day kicking myself for not making notes during the weekend as I tried to write my public blog and additional private thoughts related to my research. I processed photos to some extent- deleting the most obviously bad ones and processing a few far enough to stick up online. For example, just of the Goseong Ogwangdae performance (one hour, and very critical to my research) I had 593 images. That’s a lot to sift through. I also finalized my new “name card” design and emailed it to the printer, I can pick them up tomorrow afternoon. Pretty excited about that, honestly. I needed my card SO badly last weekend and was embarrassed that I hadn’t taken care of that yet (I still have my old card, but it doesn’t have most of the info from the new card, particularly it doesn’t have my phone number which I’ve had to scrawl on every card I give out). I also continued to struggle with the survey I want to give out next weekend at the festival, at least at two or three shows.

Research-wise 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum class was amazing. Instead of 김은주 Kim Eunju teaching us (and mind you, I LOVE her), we had 장용일 Jang Yongil. He’s a 전수교육조교 Jogyo (2nd ranked, below Human Treasure), and I’ve interviewed him extensively in the past, especially during my MA fieldwork. If I had known he was coming I would have stressed out about it, so I guess it’s good it was a surprise, but I wish I’d been able to practice in advance. I made many many new observations during his class. Every time we’d finish something he’d say “다 잘 하는데요…” “Everyone did a good job” and then he’d start picking up things to correct. He never let anything slide. He also didn’t single anyone out, he taught us all, made sure we all got it, then moved on. He also moved in order. People learn 4 and 7 first because they’re easier, but he just went 2,3,4,5,6,7,8 through all the monks. A lot more details I’ll skip since I’m probably the only one interested, but it was great, especially the way he taught us 8 very very slowly, and we all left feeling that we’d finally learned it. He also lectured us, “what are the four most important reasons why people did Bongsan Talchum?” he asked. I ventured one immediately and continued to engage as he talked, but mostly people were quiet as little church mice as he talked. Some confessed afterwards that they’d learned that but forgotten, others said they’d never known.

The four according to Jang Yongil:
1) 풍자/비평 (satire, social commentary, criticism of upper class (and monks), poking fun at those with more power, etc.)
2) 벽사의식무 (scaring away ghosts and bad spirits, or appeasing them, through the mask dance because the spirits must have caused any unexplainable unpredictable bad thing like a typhoon or an illness)
3) 소민생활 (depicting the life of the lower classes)
4) 처첩관계 (relations of the wife and the concubine, struggle between wife and mistress)

I asked what he thought of dance-ified Bongsan Talchum performances, and he said “Bongsan is not just for us, it’s for all Koreans. They can change it or do what they want with it.” Unspoken truth being that the Preservation Association is responsible for being the one place that does it the authentic way.

I finally got to know 지민 Jimin, a student who is sometimes absent. She is also preparing to enter The National University of the Arts, but she's applying to the drama department. She's in her early twenties, she said originally she didn't think about college and worked and saved some money now she wants to go to school. In Korea that's pretty unusual, most go straight to college and if they don't, it's cause they are retaking the Korean SATs so they can get into a more prestigious school.

I was so exhausted after practice, cause I kept trying to do everything so perfectly with Jang there. The French-Canadian had his last class. He video-taped and photographed without asking permission.

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